The Hot Zone Approach to Battling Gang Violence

April 2, 2009

4:30pm - 6:30pm

Santa Monica


Connie Rice, Rev. Jeff Carr, Malcolm Klein, Charlie Beck, Ray Bercini, Father Gregory Boyle, Brian Center



Connie Rice describes a successful anti-gang strategy as one that results in children being safe "from home to school to back home."
Los Angeles is the gang capital of the world. From the San Fernando Valley to South Central, hundreds of people lose their lives each year as a result of gang violence. The Los Angeles Police Department alone handles more than 6,000 gang-related crimes a year. Gangs control activity on the streets and from within prison walls.

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.


  • Connie Rice, Co-Director, Advancement Project
  • Rev. Jeff Carr, Director of Gang Reduction and Youth Development Programs, City of Los Angeles
  • Malcolm Klein, Emeritus Professor and former Director of the Social Science Research Institute, University of Southern California
  • Charlie Beck, Chief of Detectives, Los Angeles Police Department
  • Ray Bercini, Gang Intervention Unit, Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department
  • Father Gregory Boyle, Founder and Executive Director, Homeboy Industries
  • Brian Center, Executive Director, A Better LA


  • Richard Sandler, Maron & Sandler