On November 18, 2012, the Los Angeles Times ran a two-part article in the local section about a young man, Davien Graham, who in 2008 was the victim of a gang shooting in an unincorporated area of Los Angeles County adjacent to Monrovia. The article included video and an interactive map about all of the violence that occurred in the region from 2006 to 2008.
Davien was the victim of gang violence between two gangs that operated in the City of Monrovia and the unincorporated county areas adjacent to Monrovia and Duarte. The LA Times article recounted his experience of being the victim of gang violence and of the subsequent trial where he testified against the suspect. Davien showed strong character throughout his ordeal, as he moved forward with his life and assisted Sheriff's investigators with the investigation and prosecution of the case. The suspect, a Monrovia Nuevo Varrio gang member, was convicted of attempted murder earlier this year.
Although the LA Times highlighted Davien's ordeal, it left the reader with no understanding of the concerted efforts and the tremendous strides the community has made in reducing gang violence in our region.
These changes were accomplished through the cooperative efforts of the community members, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, the Monrovia Police Department, the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office and city leaders from Monrovia, Duarte and the County of Los Angeles.
The collaborative efforts of everyone in our community have resulted in unprecedented reductions in gang violence in our area. From 2008 to 2011, we have seen a 64% decrease in gang crime in the City of Monrovia. The unincorporated county areas of Monrovia and Duarte have also seen significant reductions in gang crime.
Innovative and Collaborative Strategies Created to Reduce Gang Violence
Monrovia / Duarte Gang Task Force
In 2007, gang violence had escalated between three gangs that operated in the unincorporated areas around Monrovia and Duarte, the City of Duarte, and the City of Monrovia. Two of the gangs are primarily Hispanic: Duarte Eastside and Monrovia Nuevo Varrio. The third gang is primarily an African-American gang, the DuRoc Crips. The violence was primarily between the DuRoc Crips and the two Hispanic gangs. In an effort to confront this increase in violence, the community members from all three jurisdictions came together in an unprecedented collaborative effort to reduce gang violence and stop the gangs from recruiting more children into their ranks.
We came up with a three-part strategy to reduce the gang violence that included prevention, intervention, and suppression. The Monrovia Police Department came up with an innovative crime suppression strategy to immediately stop the violence. In collaboration with 18 of our surrounding San Gabriel Valley police agencies, we were able to provide extensive gang enforcement in the area. These 18 agencies each provided officers to this region over a period of several months, while investigators worked diligently to get these violent gang members in custody. The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department provided additional gang units to work the area and the California Highway Patrol provided a team of 18 officers to provide extra patrol in the area, too.
All of these resources working together as a Monrovia/Duarte Gang Task Force were able to immediately stop the gang violence. In the first 18 months, the task force was able to take over 40 violent gang members out of our community and successfully prosecute them for their crimes.
The City of Monrovia and the County of Los Angeles, with the help of Supervisor Michael Antonovich, worked together to obtain a civil gang injunction against the Monrovia Nuevo Varrio and DuRoc Crip gangs. The Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office was instrumental in helping us obtain the gang injunction and trained Monrovia police officers and sheriff's deputies in the enforcement of the injunction. This gang injunction has been a significant tool to help reduce gang violence in the City of Monrovia and the unincorporated county areas.
Community Leaders and the Monrovia Area Partnership
Prior to the increase in violence, community members from Monrovia who lived in the affected areas had become local neighborhood leaders as part of a new program called the Monrovia Area Partnership (MAP). MAP leaders were instrumental in their neighborhoods to bring neighbors together, working on solutions to help stem the violence. They went door-to-door in their neighborhoods talking to residents to dispel any rumors and providing them facts about crimes that were occurring. They were also a big part of the organization of several peace rallies that occurred in Duarte and Monrovia.
Community church leaders were also instrumental in reducing fear and violence. They hosted several community meetings to provide information to our citizens about resources available to individuals who would like to get out of the gang lifestyle and information on the gang injunction. Community leaders from the City of Duarte and the City of Monrovia came together and created the Community Mediation Team (CMT). The CMT met regularly to discuss strategies to reduce the violence, dispel rumors and bring all the resources of the community together to help at-risk youth.
Supervisor Antonovich was instrumental in having this area designated as one of four trial sites for Los Angeles County's gang violence reduction efforts. This program resulted in a number of prevention and intervention programs and resources being dedicated to our community. Many meetings were held to obtain feedback from the residents on ways to reduce gang violence and prevent youth in our community from joining gangs. All of the resources available to our community were identified through these meetings. A Los Angeles County probation officer was assigned to work as a coordinator for our area. This officer was also instrumental in obtaining funding for additional prevention programs.
At-Risk Youth Programs
The Monrovia Police Department created three innovative programs aimed at intervening in the lives of at-risk youth and preventing youth from going down the wrong path.
Chaplains for At-Risk Youth
The Chaplains for At-Risk Youth program utilized Monrovia Police Department chaplains to help families of children who were at risk of joining a gang. When police officers would encounter or identify a child who was at risk, they would give this information to a police chaplain, who would then contact the child and their parents. Many times the parents were unaware of their child's at-risk behavior. However, chaplains were able to direct parents to resources in the community for counseling, substance abuse, after school care and tutoring. Many families welcomed the help from the chaplain, where they may not have been so open to help from a police officer.
Monrovia Anti-Gang Intervention Committee (MAGIC)
In collaboration with the Monrovia Unified School District, we created the Monrovia Anti-Gang Intervention Committee (MAGIC). MAGIC consisted of school counselors, police chaplains, and gang officers. This committee identifies at-risk youth in the schools and works collaboratively to provide resources to the families of these at-risk youth.
Formative Years Project
The Formative Years Project is a parenting program aimed at parents and children in the first through third grade-children still young enough to listen to advice from parents, teachers and police officers. Police officers provide training for the parents and the children to keep them safe and help prevent them from going down the wrong path. Teens from local youth groups and school leadership groups help mentor these young children and work with officers as positive role models for these kids.
In our community, these three innovative programs have been instrumental in preventing kids from joining gangs and they continue to help us to intervene with kids who we identify that are at risk. In 2010, the Monrovia Police Department won an international community policing award from the International Association of Chiefs of Police for these programs. In 2011, the Monrovia Police Department won the James Q. Wilson Award from the California Regional Community Policing Institute for our Project Safe Neighborhoods, which included these intervention programs and our gang task force efforts.
Parks After Dark
Two summer programs to provide activities for youth at parks in the affected areas were created. In the unincorporated county area of Pamela Park, the County of Los Angeles provided the Parks After Dark program. This program was instrumental in providing a safe place for youth to come together with positive activities on weekend evenings. In the City of Monrovia, a YMCA program offered positive activities for youth in Library Park on Friday evenings.
The County of Los Angeles also funded the Y-Life Project, a gang violence reduction initiative. Intervention workers receive formalized training to work with youth probationers and local gang members to help them find jobs, get education, receive substance abuse counseling and direct them to resources helping them get away from a gang lifestyle.
These are just some of the many programs that are available in our community that have helped reduce gang violence and provide positive alternatives to joining a gang. The collaborative efforts of everyone in our community have resulted in unprecedented reductions in gang violence in our area.
These results could not have been realized without the collaborative efforts of everyone in this community, particularly people like Davien Graham who stood up and did the right thing, helping law enforcement and prosecutors prevent gang members from victimizing others in our community.