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GANG WATCH : Surrender? No Way

Youth gangs have a long, sad and frustrating history in Los Angeles, and the frustration is especially high these days in East L.A.

The area’s Los Angeles County supervisor, Gloria Molina, has been publicly criticizing Hope in Youth, an innovative anti-gang effort spawned by local churches, because she feels it has not made enough progress against the gangs that have plagued that part of town since the 1940s. Hope in Youth’s organizers, which in addition to Eastside church groups include some in South-Central Los Angeles and the San Fernando and San Gabriel valleys, claim their ambitious effort has not been given enough time to work.

The ongoing debate comes to a key junction today when the Board of Supervisors will be asked to vote $350,000 in emergency funding for Hope in Youth to keep the agency in full operation while it awaits additional anti-gang funds from the federal government.

The supervisors should approve that money. For Molina and her colleagues to do anything else would amount to a vote of no confidence in Hope in Youth--a severe setback to an effort that everyone knew from the start would, of necessity, be slow and difficult. You don’t root out generations of gangs in a few months.

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Some of Molina’s criticism of Hope in Youth is cogent and constructive, and once new funding is voted, she can act to make any improvements she thinks are necessary. However, she and other political leaders must not give up on Hope in Youth. That would be like throwing up their hands in helplessness and surrendering to the gangs.


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