Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Police Chief Charlie Beck say the city’s youth programs helped reduce gang-related crimes by 15 percent last year.
"I estimated that I’ve stood over a thousand dead young men killed by gang violence," said Beck, recalling the bloody 1980s and '90s.
Civil rights activist Connie Rice, long a critic of the LAPD, now helps the department work with former gang members and neighborhood leaders to reduce crime. Rice says that the collaboration has played a key role in reducing gang crime.
"This is an extraordinary effort," Rice extolled, "where everyone gets in the boat and rows in a comprehensive, wraparound community-driven effort."
The Mayor's Office of Gang Reduction and Youth Development helped 22-year-old Jesse Monarrez stay out of a gang by hiring him to mentor kids during the summer. He works in the place he grew up — the Ramona Garden Housing project on L.A.'s east side.
When asked what about the program kept him out of a gang, Monarrez said it was "just the little things."
“Waking up in the morning and going to work," Monarrez said. "Brushing my teeth. Taking a shower. Not that I didn’t do that... It just gave me a set schedule and time."
Villaraigosa says he’d like to expand the Summer Night Lights program, but can’t because of the city's budget deficit.