With mixed feelings, I commend you on your articles profiling the 18th Street gang and its influence in Los Angeles (Nov. 17-19). My concern is that these young people are pointing with pride at their ability to cause the kind of interest that puts them on the front page of The Times.
While I can only speak for my own organization, a collaboration that represents over 65 citywide entities, I believe there are many worthwhile and proven programs in the community that attempt to break this cycle.
Prevention needs to begin earlier than age 12. Gov. Pete Wilson's mentoring initiative, President Clinton's national service programs, local organizations (the Los Angeles Conservation Corps, Bresee Youth, Korean Youth and Community Center, to name a few) provide a variety of activities that can "recruit" young people into productive lives.
Building Up Los Angeles
* While I agree the series regarding the 18th Street gang was important to the degree that other com- munities throughout Los Angeles can better understand problems residents of Pico-Union deal with daily, I think it just as important that they understand the tremendous amount of positive activity in that same community.
* The weekend your article ran we organized the Pico-Union Community Pride Day, in which more than 300 local residents took part in cleanup and beautification along Pico Boulevard. The first such cleanup, earlier in the year, drew nearly as many residents.
* Two weeks ago, more than 400 young people attended the Field of Dreams soccer field in Pico-Union to "kick off" a new soccer league.
* The Youth Fair Chance program, which provides job training for at-risk youth as well as not-at-risk youth, is located directly across the street from the Field of Dreams.
* Within the past five years, quality, state-of-the-art schools including Gratts and Esperanza elementary schools have been constructed in Pico-Union, giving local youth real chances to succeed and providing a real sense of community for those neighborhoods.
* Belmont High School today houses the "Exploring Modern Tech" laboratory, which specializes in providing its students with state of the art technology, preparing them for jobs.
* Washington Boulevard Business Watch works with the Rampart Division of the LAPD in securing resources for the area.
* The AmeriCorps Safe Haven program operates out of Angelican Lutheran Church and assists area youth with tutoring, computer classes, leadership development and recreational programs.
* Pico-Union Teen Post offers child care, among other services, for the working parents of the area.
We are working arduously to provide opportunities for Pico-Union residents and have met with significant success in many cases. The residents of Pico-Union care about their neighborhoods as much as anyone else. It is a community that is building its people and we as a city need to continue to provide those resources, because gang prevention entails much more than suppression through law enforcement. It takes a community that cares.
L.A. City Council