Reacting to warnings that as many as 50 peace treaties worked out among Los Angeles-area gangs could be at stake, the county Board of Supervisors on Tuesday increased spending for a controversial community program to curb street violence.
The 3-2 vote to pump $250,000 more into the Community Youth Gang Services Project was greeted by loud applause from program workers and parents, some of whom testified in favor of the program.
Project director Steve Valdivia said afterward that the additional money would rescue three teams of street workers who regularly meet with gang members in an effort to halt violence. Valdivia said that he had targeted teams in Altadena, Norwalk and South-Central Los Angeles for elimination if the funds had not been approved.
In testimony before the board and later to reporters, Valdivia said there currently are “between 48 and 50" peace treaties among various gangs that have been worked out as a result of the gang services program and related efforts. Those pacts might have been jeopardized without the new money, he said, because the project would have “lost credibility” in the community and among the gangs.
Valdivia said that with the money, as many as 25 more treaties could be hammered out. Valdivia said the funds bring the county’s portion of the gang program’s budget to $1.2 million.
Under the previously approved county allocation of $954,000, Valdivia said, the project “had enough to keep it alive, but not effective.”
Board Chairman Ed Edelman proposed the additional money for the program, which he helped form in 1981. The youth gang project is patterned after a similar effort in Philadelphia and came in response to a rising level of gang violence throughout the county.
Since its formation, the project has withstood attempts by county budget officials to eliminate financing. This year, Chief Administrative Officer James C. Hankla, citing fiscal constraints, recommended against requests for $1.6 million.
Edelman, successful in the past in fending off efforts to scrap the program, failed in recent budget hearings to gain support for the $1.6 million requested by project officials. The board’s conservative majority was willing to approve $954,000 for the gang services effort, but Edelman voted against that amount, saying it was not enough.
On Tuesday, however, Supervisor Michael Antonovich dropped his earlier opposition and--with Edelman and Supervisor Kenneth Hahn--formed the necessary majority to gain the additional money. Hahn urged the two opponents of the request--Supervisors Deane Dana and Pete Schabarum--to look on the request as an economy move, arguing--half facetiously--that for every gang-related killing the program helped stop, it would result in one less county-financed trip by the coroner.
Dana and Schabarum, however, contended that the county cannot afford to help underwrite the program. In addition, Dana argued that Los Angeles was not paying its fair share of the program’s budget although most of the gang activity occurs within the city limits.
Los Angeles has agreed to pay $835,000, compared to the county’s $1.2-million portion. One of the conditions placed on the additional financing is that the county attempt to persuade the city to allocate an equal share for the project or face a corresponding reduction in services.