Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Ex-Gang Members & Police

Though this partnership—reported by National Public Radio—is very worthwhile, until it becomes professionalized, and institutionalized within the teaching of the Church, the major reason for crime reduction will remain broken-windows policing and three-strikes sentencing, resulting in full prisons and less street crime, as the sidewalk merchant (comment highlighted) in the excerpt below understands.

“From New York to Los Angeles, murders and other violent crimes are at a 50-year low. In Los Angeles, that's partly because police and ex-gang members are working together to make the streets safer.

“In 1990, people wouldn't dare stand in the alleyways of 77th Street in South Central L.A. Down the street, there's a police station. Even so, there used to be drive-by shootings. Area residents say they used to hide their children in the bathtubs at night to avoid the stray bullets.

"It was very scary," says Lorna Hawkins, who lost two sons to gang violence in 1988 and 1992. "Bullets fly through these houses and these windows like they were nothing, because these people don't know how to shoot. Little coward, baby-shooter killers. When the sun was going down, everybody better be somewhere in the dark, hiding. That was what it was like. It was hell."

“Today, it's a different story, Hawkins says. "They say the streets haven't been this safe for 50 years."

“Former Gang Members Intervene

“For decades, safe isn't a word that would have described much of L.A. In the 1980s, at the height of the crack epidemic, the city's murder rate sometimes approached 1,000 per year. Last year, it was 314. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa says violent crime is down by nearly 11 percent.

"I used to shine shoes on 7th and Broadway, and I can tell you, there was a time when L.A. was this safe, but that time was in the 1950s," he says.

“They calm rumors. They also create peace. They broker peace between feuding factions. They also mentor and try to remove gang members from the life of violence.

“Today on 7th and Broadway, the shoeshine boys have been replaced by sidewalk merchants like Jesus Sevala, who sells cold sodas and telephone calling cards. He says he doesn't see too many robberies these days. Sevala says the neighborhood is safer because many of the old troublemakers are locked up.

“Gang violence is still a problem, but Los Angeles' new police chief, Charlie Beck, says former gang members turned interventionists are helping put a dent in crime.”