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Mayor Villaraigosa names Guillermo Cespedes gang czar

September 8, 2009 | 10:41 am

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa announced today that Guillermo Cespedes, the director of the mayor's renowned Summer Night Lights program to reduce gang violence, will serve as the city’s new director of Gang Reduction and Youth Development.

The naming of Cespedes is the latest in a series of staff changes in Villaraigosa’s office as he begins his second term. In late August Villaraigosa announced the departures of his longtime chief of staff Robin Kramer and his Deputy Chief of Staff Dan Grunfeld.

Cespedes will replace the Rev. Jeff Carr, who was recently elevated to chief of staff. The mayor also has hired a new chief deputy mayor, Jay Carson, former press secretary and advisor to Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, who will oversee the mayor’s initiatives on job creation, transportation, education and the environment.

Aides to the mayor have credited Cespedes with designing and implementing the Summer Night Lights program, an initiative in its second year in some of the city’s most crime-ridden areas that keeps the lights on until midnight four nights a week at 16 city recreation areas around Los Angeles.

Cespedes helped direct anti-gang programs during the summers of 2002 and 2003 in Baldwin Village, an area with some of the highest crime rates in the city. The program in the neighborhood’s Jim Gilliam Recreation Center later became part of the foundation for Summer Night Lights.

-- Maeve Reston at City Hall