The Grabby Gang

Despite the best efforts of local law enforcement, gang violence remains a tragic fact of life in Los Angeles. As a result, some members of the Board of Supervisors want to reorganize local anti-gang programs, particularly the county's Youth Gang Services Project. Trying to fix something that isn't broke, however, could make matters worse.

Youth Gang Services is always an easy target for budget-cutting and reorganization. The program was hounded by controversy when first established four years ago, largely because the street workers whom it hires to intervene in gang wars and other potentially violent situations come from gang backgrounds themselves. But it is far better managed now, and it works.

Despite being a stepchild among the many anti-gang efforts run by the Sheriff's Department and other police and youth agencies, Youth Gang Services has helped reduce violence in the parts of the county where it has been given time to work. Even for areas where new gangs have sprung up, the project's main office in East Los Angeles provides a base for coordinating all efforts being made to keep abreast of the problem.

Among proposals being discussed by the county supervisors is a plan to break up Youth Gang Services and redistribute its money and resources among the five members of the county board. That would destroy what Youth Gang Services does best--coordinating a variety of well-meaning efforts. Worse, it could turn a vitally important program into nothing more than a source of political patronage. There probably are ways to improve local anti-gang efforts, but turning an innovative program over to the Gang of Five is not one of them.

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