Gang Reduction Program (Los Angeles, California)

Program Goals

The U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP)–funded Gang Reduction Program (GRP) was a targeted multiyear (2003-08) initiative to reduce crime and violence associated with youth street gangs in a select group of cities throughout the United States. The initiative facilitated collaborations among federal agencies, local stakeholders, and communities to create a comprehensive, integrated, and coordinated program, which included primary prevention, secondary prevention, intervention, and gang suppression strategies. The GRP was designed to address individual needs and risk as well as communitywide issues. For a visual depiction of the GRP Framework, please see Cahill and Hayeslip (2010).

Program Theory

The GRP integrated the Spergel model of gang interventions (also known as the OJJDP Comprehensive Gang Model), parts of Project Safe Neighborhoods, and other OJJDP–funded programs to form a comprehensive approach to gang reduction. According to the Spergel model, gang problems result from the interaction of sociological, demographic, economic, and cultural factors along with social instability and lack of economic opportunity. The model focuses on assessing youth needs and providing them with individualized support services and suppression/control by involving their families, local organizations, and communities (Cahill et al. 2008). Target Population GRP communities were smaller (2 to 5 square miles on average), with strong citizen involvement and substantial gang activity and crime. The final sites were selected at OJJDP’s discretion. The Boyle Heights neighborhood in East Los Angeles (LA), California, was selected for its long history of gang violence. A petition was also filed by the LA Chief of Police and U.S. Attorney’s office with OJJDP for support in addressing the city’s gang violence problem. This area of LA has approximately 2,000 documented and suspected gang members belonging to four major gangs, and is patrolled by the LA Police Department (LAPD) Hollenbeck Division.

Services Provided

The LA GRP implemented alternative programs for at-risk youth and families; provided social, educational, and behavioral interventions; and implemented programs to reduce gang crime in the target area. Each of the services provided were categorized by one of three programming types: Prevention, Intervention/Reentry, and Suppression.

Prevention services included:

  • Assistance in setting academic goals and encouraging higher education
  • Academic enrichment and homework assistance
  • College preparation and awareness
  • Leadership development and skills
  • Crime and violence prevention
  • Abstinence education
  • Art as a means of expressing oneself
  • Prenatal and infancy education, planning, and referrals
  • Mentoring
  • Case management

Intervention/Reentry services included:

  • After-school sports and recreation
  • Case management
  • Teen Court for first-time juvenile offenders
  • Mentoring
  • A client referral system

Suppression services included:

  • Coordinated resources in high-crime areas
  • Presence of law enforcement
  • Community outreach
  • Gang injunctions (restraining orders against gang members to prohibit them from engaging in gang activity)
  • Graduated sanctions

All programs funded by the LA GRP had access to a client tracking system called the Integrated Services and Information System (ISIS). This ISIS interface allowed service providers to see a client’s service history and demographic information such as criminal history, education level and goals, career aspirations, employment information, and referrals to outside agencies. ISIS also included a risk assessment tool, which evaluated a client’s risk within the domains of delinquency, education, family, peers, and substance abuse.

Through a partnership with an existing multiagency law enforcement collaborative called the Community Law Enforcement and Recovery Program (CLEAR), the LA GRP’s suppression component coordinated resources for reducing violent gang crime in the target area. CLEAR was federally funded in 1996 under the Anti-Gang Initiative and targeted downtown LA. The program expanded to the Boyle Heights area in 2003 and shared the same boundaries as the LA GRP target area. LAPD gang officers established a presence in the community and participated in Community Impact Team meetings with select target areas citizens. The City Attorney prosecuted misdemeanor offenses, while the District Attorney prosecuted felony cases. Prosecutors were assigned to a case that they then handled from initial filing to final court disposition. Parole and probation officers worked closely with the LAPD to share information on gang members and gang activity through jail intelligence. The CLEAR Operations Team consisted of representatives from each participating agency and met regularly to address gang activity and enforcement.

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Study 1

Cahill and colleagues (2008) used a quasi-experimental design to analyze the preliminary impact of the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention’s Gang Reduction Program (GRP) on gang-related crime in Los Angeles (LA), California.

The study areas included:

  • The target area, a 2-square-mile section of the southeasternmost corner of Boyles Heights in East LA, with 25,441 residents. The target area was 97 percent Hispanic and 50 percent male. Thirty-two percent lived below the poverty level.
  • The comparison area, a section northwest of the target area, with 24,454 residents. This area was selected for its similar crime rates and demographic characteristics to the target area. The comparison area was 89 percent Hispanic and 52 percent male. Thirty-six percent lived below the poverty level.
  • The displacement areas, including the section adjacent to the northern edge of the target area, with 18,073 residents, chosen because of its socioeconomic similarity to the target area, and a section west of the target area, chosen because of its vulnerability to crime. The displacement areas were 94 percent Hispanic and 49 percent male. Thirty-one percent lived below the poverty level.

With assistance from the Los Angeles Police Department Information Technology Department (LAPD–ITD), researchers obtained reported crime incidents, arrests, and calls-for-service records for all offense types in order to assess the impact of the Community Law Enforcement and Recovery Program (CLEAR) on crime in the target area. Researchers audited the LAPD Hollenbeck Gang Unit’s incident files in order to include a comprehensive record of gang incidents. Measures included calls for shots fired, calls for vandalism, serious violence incidents, gang-related incidents, and gang-related serious violence incidents. The number of gang-related incidents is the most direct measure of effectiveness for CLEAR. A time-series analysis was used to assess changes in volume and seriousness of criminal activity in each study area. Monthly time series were created for each study area from January 2002 through December 2006. Researchers considered intervention points from September 2003 through February 2004.

The researchers also examined education outcomes to assess the success of the LA GRP’s prevention and intervention services in academic achievement, increased attendance, and decreased disruptive behavior resulting in disciplinary action. Academic records were not collected for participants, thus academic achievement could not be measured. School-level data were collected for four schools in the target area (Dena Elementary School, Sunrise Elementary School, Stevenson Middle School, and Roosevelt High School) and three schools outside of the target area (Hammel Elementary School, Belvedere Middle School, and Garfield High School), which served as control schools. Control schools were not from the comparison area but were selected because of similarities in total enrollment, racial composition, percentage of students eligible for the Free/Reduced Lunch program, and percentage of students who were English learners. Data were collected from the official Web site of the Los Angeles School District for 1 year prior to LA GRP implementation (2002–2003) and 1 year after implementation (2006–2007).

Researchers expected to collect outcome information on the domains of community, corrections, crime, education, and health; however, they were not able to obtain measures in community, corrections, and health.


Study 1

Although Cahill and colleagues (2008) reported significant decreases in the number of calls reporting shots fired and in gang-related incidents in the target area, no significant differences were found for calls to report vandalism, serious violence incidents, and gang-related serious violence incidents. In addition, for measures of crime, the findings below suggest the Community Law Enforcement and Recovery Program (CLEAR) did not displace gang crime into the surrounding area. Furthermore, changes in the education outcomes cannot be correlated to the Los Angeles Gang Reduction Program (LA GRP)’s prevention and intervention services, as no significance levels were reported.

Calls, Shots Fired

A significant decrease of 8.23 calls per month to report shots fired was observed in the target area starting February 2004. Conversely, there were no significant differences in the comparison and displacement areas, although they both noted decreases in calls per month: 1.79 calls starting December 2003, and 0.90 calls starting February 2004, respectively.

Calls, Vandalism

There were no significant differences in the number of calls per month to report vandalism in any of the study areas. A slight increase in calls per month was observed in the target area (0.62 starting January 2004) and comparison area (0.55 starting February 2004), while a small decrease was observed in the displacement area (0.25 starting November 2003).

Incidents, Serious Violence

There were no significant differences in the number of incidents per month of serious violence in any of the study areas. Both the target and comparison areas saw nonsignificant decreases in incidents. The target area saw a decrease of 12.65 incidents per month starting October 2003. The comparison area saw a decrease of 6.42 incidents per month also starting October 2003. The displacement area saw a nonsignificant increase of 3.36 incidents per month starting February 2004.

Incidents, Gang-Related

The target area saw a significant decrease of 6.78 gang-related incidents per month starting February 2004, while the comparison area saw a nonsignificant decrease of 2.91 incidents per month starting November 2003. Alternatively the displacement area saw a nonsignificant increase of 2.28 incidents per month starting January 2004.

Incidents, Gang-Related Serious Violence

Although nonsignificant decreases in the number of gang-related serious violence incidents were reported in the target and displacement areas, researchers reported a significant decrease in similar incidents in the comparison area. The target area had a decrease of 8.71 incidents per month starting December 2003, and the displacement area had a decrease of 1.76 incidents per month starting September 2003. However, starting September 2003, the comparison area saw a significant decrease of 5.37 incidents per month. Based on the evidence reported, it is unknown if CLEAR had a direct effect on gang-related serious violence incidents.

Increased Attendance

Attendance levels for the target and comparison elementary, middle, and high schools remained unchanged over the study period.

Decreased Disruptive Behavior Resulting in Disciplinary Action

Due to the small number of students served, the short intervention period, and the data reported, it is unclear if LA GRP services had a direct effect on this outcome. Although very small changes were noted by researchers, suspension rates of the elementary schools remained stable between the 2002–2003 and 2006–2007 school years. There were no expulsion referrals for any of the elementary schools in either school year. The suspension rate (per 100 students) at Stevenson Middle School (target school) in the 2002–2003 school year (25.68) was 62.4 percent lower than that of Belvedere Middle School (comparison school) during the same time (41.13). But by 2006–2007, Stevenson’s suspension rate of 26.28 was almost twice that of Belvedere’s rate of 16.13. Both middle schools experienced a change in expulsion referrals. Stevenson’s referrals decreased from 1 to 0, while Belvedere’s referrals decreased from 5 to 2.

The target area high school, Roosevelt High School, saw a greater decline in suspensions than the comparison high school, Garfield High School. Roosevelt’s suspension rate dropped from 23.23 in the 2002–2003 school year to 14.31 in the 2006–2007 school year, while Garfield’s rate only dropped from 17.71 to 12.37. Conversely, both high schools experienced an increase in expulsion referrals. Roosevelt saw an increase of referrals from 1 in the 2002–2003 school year to 6 in the 2006–2007 school year. During the same time periods, Garfield’s referrals increased from 5 to 10.