In light of the recent surge of gang-related shootings that have claimed a number of innocent lives, finding a solution to Los Angeles gang problem is a monumental task.
Jeff Carr, a minister and the mayors director of gang reduction and youth development, is stepping up to the challenge.
Carr, who assumed the newly created position in August, is gearing up to target gang infested communities in an effort to reduce the number of shootings and fatalities.
The general homicide rate is upIm talking about gang-related violent crime, Carr acknowledged.
My primary responsibility and biggest challenge is to figure out how the city will attack this (gang) problem and chart a new course or direction and make sure that plan is implemented, said Carr.
Carr realizes that combating and curtailing gang activity will be no easy task. I had some idea that this job was going to be a challenge, said Carr. People told me that since I was a minister, it was probably a good thing because I was going to need a lot of faith. I certainly pray on a regular basis, usually on my way to work.
The recent gang shootings that have occurred in the city are very tragic, said Carr. I think whats been especially challenging is when a six-year-old boy, a 13-year-old child, and a 17-year-old football star all lose their lives, even though they had no connection to gangs.
Carr said that in the past, the gang problem has been attacked from a law enforcement perspective but admits it will take a collaborative effort between police, community, churches, politicians and gang intervention groups to quell gang violence. I think the law enforcement community is saying that we cant arrest our way out of this problem–that they cant do it alone, observed Carr.
With $1.2 million dollars in the pipeline earmarked for gang prevention, Carr said his office has already targeted eight neighborhoods considered the highest for gang activity.
Weve targeted the geographic neighborhoods where there is the highest related violent crime in the city, said Carr, who added that his office has conducted needs assessments in those communities to determine where the greatest needs are.
I think curtailing gang activity requires a three-pronged strategy of prevention, intervention, and suppression. We have to invest in our young people to prevent them from joining gangs. I think we need to provide reasonable alternatives to kids who find themselves currently involved in gangs and to ensure that they have an option to get out of the gang if they want to.
Pausing, he added, Unfortunately, those who want to continue to perpetuate violence are going to be arrested so that we can get them off the street.
Carr, who was once the executive director of a community center, said that he regularly talks to gang members. They talk about needing employment opportunities and other options to stay out of that lifestyle.
Asked what he feels attracts young people to gangs, Carr said, Lack of parental oversight, failing in school, or being exposed to high levels of violence. There are also negative peer relationships, divorces within the family , or maybe someone in their family was killed. There are many things that can impact a kid.
Carr applauded City Controller Laura Chicks recent eye-opening audit on gangs, acknowledging that she has helped pinpoint many areas in gang prevention that could be improved. I think Chick and I agree that there should be consolidation, coordination and accountability. There are a lot of issues and details that need to be looked at. We need to work with the city council regarding suggestions in the audit. The mayor is also committed to working with the council.
Carr also praised civil rights attorney Connie Rice, who released a report focusing on the citys efforts at gang prevention. To Rices credit, she rang the bell on this issue a year ago, acknowledged Carr. Her report was a call to action for the city to do things differently. One of the things her report called for is to hire a single person to be accountable to the mayor and focus on the gang issue. I think the mayor responded to that, said Carr, whose position was created after Rices report was released.
Carr said, We have to invest in our young people to prevent them from joining gangs. I think we need to provide reasonable alternatives for kids who find themselves currently involved in gangs to ensure that they have an option to get out if they want to.