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Bill would create standards for gang intervention workers

August 10, 2009 |  3:15 pm

Civic leaders announced on Monday the filing of a federal bill that would create national standards and accountability measures for gang intervention workers, marking another step in the dicey effort to professionalize the emerging and controversial field of work.

Rep. Diane Watson (D-Los Angeles) brought the measure to Congress. She said she will ask Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) to sponsor a companion measure in the Senate.

The bill is the first federal legislation aimed at regulating gang-intervention workers, who act as liaisons between law enforcement and communities. Police and intervention workers have a long history of distrust, but police have come to rely on intervention to augment traditional crime suppression strategies, particularly in monitoring street gossip and in preventing retaliatory violence.

Watson’s bill would require intervention agencies to follow a host of standards. It spells out, for instance, the services the federal government expects intervention agencies to deliver, such as street mediation and crisis response at schools. It also seeks to hold intervention agencies accountable by using “evidence-based” accounting of gang-related violence, the numbers of young people who have been routed into job development programs and other measures.

The standards would apply to intervention agencies seeking direct federal funding or local government agencies seeking federal funding for contracted intervention services.

Watson made the announcement at the headquarters of Communities in Schools, a North Hills youth center. She appeared alongside Los Angeles City Councilman Tony Cardenas; Watson named the bill after Cardenas, who sponsored a similar local measure adopted by the City Council in 2008.

Cardenas said that being the “gang capital of the world,” as Los Angeles is sometimes called, comes with the responsibility to provide “answers and solutions.”

“We gave the world the Crips and the Bloods,” Watson said. “Now it is time we take a leadership role and change the tremendous influence gangs have had on young people and the entire society.”

For more information about gang intervention and the city's struggle to professionalize the field, read the Times series Promise and Peril in South L.A.

-- Scott Gold