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Bum rap on gang intervention?

March 12, 2008 |  1:21 pm


More than one reader has taken me to task for a comment by Paul White in my column about gang-intervention strategies, and I think their criticism is fair.

White, who runs the West Valley Leadership Academy and tries to steer kids out of trouble, had said he thought Communities in Schools and Homeboys relied too heavily on work by ex-gang members. White called the agencies “gang clubhouses.”

White is entitled to his opinion, and anybody who thinks they’ve got answers is worth listening to if it helps stop the bloodshed. But I know a little about both operations White criticized, and I should have said in the column that I know them to do good work. In fact, it’s likely that both Communities in Schools and Homeboys deal with more hard-core gang members than does White, so what works for him might not necessarily work for others.

One reader, whom I know to be very active in gang-intervention, defended both Communities in Schools and Homeboys. Of the latter, she said: “It directs hundreds of young people a year into employment in their own businesses and in the community. Are there often lots of ex-gang members in the same place? Yes, of course, but there aren’t many other people on the front line showing them a way out of a destructive life.”

Read Steve Lopez's recent columns.