By Michael Karpman
More than five years ago, NLC's Institute for Youth, Education and Families (YEF) and the National Council on Crime and Delinquency formed a first-of-its-kind network of 13 major California cities charged with identifying strategies for reducing gang violence.
With an impressive record of accomplishments and a commitment to continue their efforts, representatives of these cities gathered in Santa Rosa, Calif., on August 8-9 to develop plans for sustaining the California Cities Gang Prevention Network.
Mayor Ernesto Olivares and Chief of Police Tom Schwedhelm welcomed network members to Santa Rosa, the latest city to develop a comprehensive, long-term gang reduction strategy using a mix of prevention, intervention, enforcement and reentry practices. Over the last several years, mayors and police chiefs in each of the 13 cities have led collaborations of law enforcement, education, social services, nonprofits, and neighborhood residents to craft similar data-driven plans for their communities. Several cities have experienced substantial declines in gang-related violent crime and homicide since they began implementing their comprehensive plans (for example, see the commentary by Salinas Police Chief Kelly McMillin and Network Director John Calhoun).
Municipal officials can find lessons learned from the network in a comprehensive toolkit, six issue-focused municipal action guides, and other resources available on the YEF Institute and network websites. The network has also been a key player in state and federal policy discussions, sharing municipal and community perspectives to inform the six-city National Forum on Youth Violence Prevention as well as California's "realignment" plans, which devolve many state corrections, probation and parole responsibilities to county governments. Federal and state leaders have heard the network's call to establish and preserve flexible funding to support local plans that are comprehensive, multidisciplinary, and evidence-based, and the need for balanced approaches that incorporate prevention and intervention.
The California Endowment and California Wellness Foundation generously supported the network over the last five years. At the Santa Rosa meeting, city officials affirmed their commitment to sustain the network, and discussed strategic goals and directions for the future, potential operating structures, site-level needs and policy concerns. A steering committee of city team leads will continue to correspond by phone and produce a draft plan by December. There was a consensus among meeting participants to maintain a vital statewide network, continue sharing useful programs and best practices, and recommend additional policy changes at the local, state and federal levels.
Details: To learn more about the California Cities Gang Prevention Network, visit www.ccgpn.org.