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Public Safety / 2013

Young people want to feel safe too

Idea submitted in the My LA2050 Maker Challenge by Los Angeles Communities Advocating for Unity, Social Justice and Action, Inc.

"Fear is very real in the lives of children from hard places. In fact, fear often ‘bullies’ our children into much of their misbehavior. As a result, it is critical that parents of children from hard places approach fear and fear-driven behaviors with compassion, insight and wisdom." - Dr. Karyn Purvis Youth do not feel safe anymore in the streets or anywhere outside of their community. Often times they do not feel safe in their community. One of the key issues is the distrust between youth and law enforcement. The contacts between the two entities are often negative or for enforcement purposes only leaving our youth feeling disfranchised not just by gangs, bullies, or antagonists, but by the very system designed to protect them. Oftentimes, this negative interaction stays with youth and they lose faith in law enforcement. Whether the reasoning is correct or not, a greater trust must be forged by youth and public safety and that includes increased education for both entities. Youth must be empowered, educated, and entertained as they seek to learn about law enforcement and the role it can and should play in their lives. Furthermore, a bridge must be established with law enforcement where they embrace the youth of Los Angeles as a resource. Our program will seek to educate the youth through education and the use of interactive software designed empower youth on their rights, as well promote discourse with law enforcement agencies. This program will encourage youth to become involved in youth advisory councils that are in place in their communities and help in the design of a community youth program that LA CAUSA is designing to encourage peer leadership to reduce crime, increase accountability, increase communication between the public and law enforcement entities including parents, peers, community, police, sheriffs, city and district attorneys, and the courts. The program will teach youth the law and increase their understanding of its role in their lives, how to react to law enforcement contacts, the criminal justice system process so that the youth understands how it can help them, and finally to become vocal members of the community to increase community participation in a restorative justice program that LA CAUSA YouthBuild is creating. It has been proven through many different studies that a restorative justice model will work in any community it is instituted. This program sets the foundation of young leaders as being active not passive participants in this program and allows them to work with leadership at all levels of promotion and become the stakeholders themselves in this process. The outcomes should lead to lower recidivism rates for all violators who participate in a rj program, but in this cycle show lower negative contacts with law enforcement for all serviced youth and increased participation in the development of a rj program. This would have the youth as stakeholders go to these entities and serve as co-sponsors of program development and implementation. The outcome is reduced crime, increased trust between our youth and law enforcement, and increased youth participation in crime reduction strategies.

What are some of your organization’s most important achievements to date?

LA CAUSA YouthBuild is regarded as the organization that transformed the perception that the lives of the youth it serves from a deficit based perspective (identifying the things they lack such as income, healthy food, education, employment) to an asset based population (passionate, conceptual thinkers, willing, and determined) that can overcome the challenges of life. It’s asset based thinking model has been adopted nationally by YouthBuild USA and many other programs. LA CAUSA has empowered young leaders since 2005, allowing them the opportunity to go to post secondary education, start their own non-profits, and become gainfully employed in a variety of jobs whereas, as new students in LA CAUSA they were young adults with no high school diplomas and limited job skills. We have served thousands of youth over a very limited time. The organization was recognized by former Secretary of Labor of the Western United States opening of the United We Serve initiative of volunteerism by President Obama in 2010. LA CAUSA has long focused on empowering our youth to volunteer as an AmeriCorps designated site and countless projects to “green” East LA and build gardens and healthy eating and living opportunities. With that our organization continues to be progressive and promote challenging learning models including a mental toughness curriculum designed to prepare our youth for the world outside of our walls. Recognized as one of unincorporated East Los Angeles’s only youth services group. The opportunities and resources in the community are relatively limited while showing significant positive outcomes.

Please identify any partners or collaborators who will work with you on this project.

This program will initially seek to involve the youth of LA CAUSA, Strategies for Youth (, the Los Angeles Police Department, Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department, LA Probation, and courts to run these classes. We will then outreach to other YouthBuild programs, and local entities with youth programs. It will be an all inclusive program. They will participate in trainings, and meetings, eventually becoming stakeholders in the development of the restorative justice program that LA CAUSA is working on.

Please explain how you will evaluate your project. How will you measure success?

Success on this project will be measured on a pre and post survey basis. It will deal with officer knowledge base and youth knowledge base. Furthermore, a follow-up will be attempted with our youth alumni who receive this service to see the impact of the trainings will have on their meetings. The restorative justice program will be a much longer term program which will be an evidence based project with a longer timeline. The initial conception and stakeholder development will occur in this program. The goal of this program will be to measure the fear level and distrust which will also be done via surveys ,ensuring activeness and openness to dealing with law enforcement and different location in Los Angeles.

How will your project benefit Los Angeles?

Los Angeles is a big city. It is a safe city. But, our city doesn’t feel safe to any of our youth and many adults. This misperception could arguably create more unhappiness than we really need. The fear of regions that have been infamously labeled such as “South Central”, and “East LA” characterize the perception of fear people have for areas they have never really visited or experienced. Furthermore, controversies such as the Rodney King Beating and human rights violation charges in the Sheriff’s department only further the perception that Los Angeles is a dangerous uninhabitable city. When in reality much has changed while the perception of these agencies has not. The research project by SORIN MATEI, SANDRA J. BALL-ROKEACH, and JACK LINCHUAN QIU, titled, “Fear and Misperception of Los Angeles Urban Space: A Spatial-Statistical Study of Communication-Shaped Mental Maps.” Statistically analyzed how heightened and unsafe our populace feels even though crime has dropped to 1950 levels. Part of the fear is of law enforcement by youth. They do not see law enforcement as a support system, rather they see them as “the system” which is designed to take them from their families, harm them, and carry weapons. The dialogue has disappeared and youth no longer actively participate in the community policing relationship.
This project will teach youth the law so they understand the logic and perception that law enforcement must walk within while investigating crimes. Furthermore, they will be actively exposed to law enforcement so the fear of the unknown will be reduced. RJ means less administrative and criminal justice costs. Officers will be able to patrol more rather than be involved in administrative protocols involving youth, the courts will have reduced responsibility, public trust will increase and community policing with be promoted. Furthermore, it reduces incarceration of youth which saves $200,000 per youth in the system. This program will save literally millions with just the initial investment of $100,000 to help our community. Using Strategies For Youth’s Model of juvenile justice Jeopardy and Policing the Teen brain LA CAUSA is poised to empower youth and law enforcement. Eventually engaging them in dialogue on a level that is frank, intimate, and respectful. Youth and law enforcement alike will learn to empathize and communicate, role play and discourse together. Society as a whole in Los Angeles will benefit.

What would success look like in the year 2050 regarding your indicator?

Crime will always exist in a city in which their are inequity and human beings. What can be changed is the level of trust between the public and law enforcement. Use of law enforcement as a resource for safety and open communication indicate a happier more trusting public. LA CAUSA seeks to have it’s young leaders become stewards of change in a community that has been voiceless. In a community with many immigrants, fear of the system has led to victimization and our young people can be the generation that starts the cycle of change from protesting to advocating for improved relationships. Youth will not be so easily incarcerated. Intervention and prevention models will be used and effective in the lives of youth reducing recidivism. Officers will have more of the community identified as advocates and voices of their patrol that they can rely on for support and dialogue. It is not always to agree, but rather to dialogue in a trusting manner so that consensus and understanding can be maintained. Only in this way will the community truly be the eyes and ears of law enforcement to reduce crime, promote safety, and reduce fear.