Today, for the first time, those who fight gang violence are coordinating their efforts. They have broadened their approach to focus not just on suppression, but on holistic neighborhood interventions.
This "hot zone" strategy engages cops and gang intervention officers, religious leaders and teachers, all working hand-in-hand on everything from reducing school dropout rates to finding jobs for gang members so they can leave the streets behind.
These innovators are making progress, but we need to do much more. We need to address the financial cost of the violence. We need to understand the size of the criminal economy and how to provide alternative work options to would-be gang members. We need to make our schools safe havens, and change the culture in our communities so it becomes cool to say "no" to gangs. We need the creative community to become engaged so urban youth are encouraged to spread anti-violence messages in lieu of tagging.
Fortunately, there are models that work. Education helps keep youth out of gangs, while A Better LA and other local organizations provide alternative activities. The gold standard is Homeboy Industries in Downtown Los Angeles, which provides valuable training and work experience for gang members through its cafe, bakery and other businesses. We must figure out how to scale up these efforts and win this fight.
This Forum brought together leading experts in street gangs to talk about the hot zone approach and other strategies for reducing gang violence. They explained why doing so is critical to all members of society, especially in our current economic crisis.