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Mayor’s Gang Reduction Program Praised for Progress, but Criticized for Wasting Money

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Photo by andysternberg via LAist Featured Photos on Flickr

Photo by andysternberg via LAist Featured Photos on Flickr
The Mayor's Office of Gang Reduction and Youth Development(GRYD) received some gentle criticism from the Los Angeles City Controller Wendy Greuel after an audit was released suggesting the program needed more oversight and evaluation.

The audit did acknowledge how the mayor’s gang prevention program has seen a 10.7 percent decrease in crime and did a fairly good job in implementing the 109 recommendations from the Greuel's last audit. The GRYD program implemented 52 percent of the recommendations, partially implemented 47 percent, and has left one recommendation completely untouched.

The Mayor issued a statement in response to the audit expressing pride in their success in reducing crime and applying the Controller’s suggestions.

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“Greuel’s findings show significant progress on one of our most important initiatives - we’ve radically changed the way City Hall fights gang violence, implemented all but 1-out-of-109 blueprint recommendations and the best news, gang related crime is down.” Said Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.

Guillermo Cespedes, the Deputy Mayor for the Gang Reduction and Youth Development (GRYD) program also mentioned success in the Mayor's Summer Night Lights (SNL) gang prevention program.

"The GRYD Summer Night Lights Program has expanded from 8 sites in 2008, to 16 in 2009, to 24 sites in 2010." Said Cespedes, "We are encouraged by the fact that during the critical summer period of July 4th to Labor Day weekend, we have been able to reduce gang related violence by 18% in the summer of 08, and by 11% in the summer of 09. "

But the audit wasn’t all praise, and in fact was mostly a critique.

“Overall, I believe GRYD is on the right path and has laid a solid foundation for the future,” said Greuel, in charge of evaluating City programs such as GRYD. “However, it’s unacceptable that a year later GRYD and it’s contractor have wasted $525,000 in taxpayer funds and have yet to complete an evaluation of GRYD’s effectiveness.”

GRYD hired evaluation company Urban Institute, who was paid $525,000 to follow the programs efforts and provide effective and tangible evaluation. Greuel however, found that absolutely no evaluation has been provided thus far and they told Greuel the evaluation would not be ready for another 18 to 24 months.

After Greuel’s not so subtle nudge, the office of the mayor responded by promising to release the first set of many evaluations in the next 30 days.

The Mayor’s statement made it seem that this timing had been the plan all along, suggesting this happens to be the perfect time to focus on evaluation.

"Now is the time to take that next step in evaluating exactly what programs and what services are causing the drop in gang violence.” Said Mayor Villaraigosa, “The Urban Institute has been monitoring our efforts for over a year and within the next 30 days will be releasing the first of many reports evaluating our progress.”

Greuel’s audit was harsh but only out of a realization that everyday that passes means another child potentially falling into the gangs the City tries so hard to terminate.

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“We cannot let another day go by, and another child slide by without doing everything we can to rid our City of the plague of gang violence,” said Greuel.

Previously on LAist
- Gang Crime Reduction Program, Summer Night Lights, Expands to 24 Parks