LA. BRIDGES PROGRAM
The L.A. Bridges Program is a multi-phased, community-driven gang prevention and intervention effort established in 1997 by the City of Los Angeles by the Ad Hoc Committee on Gangs and Juvenile Justice. The L.A. Bridges Program is a collaborative partnership comprised of schools, community organizations, law enforcement agencies, students and parents operated by the Los Angeles Community Development Department. The program works by enriching the lives of middle school aged youth —10 to 14 years of age; strengthening their families and promoting community action to empower their neighborhoods.
In 1999, the L.A. Bridges Program received the only national award which recognizes citizen groups, organizations and individuals who are actively involved in juvenile and criminal justice issues—the prestigious New American Community Award from the National Council on Crime and Delinquency.
L.A. Bridges Partners
Partners involved with the program include community-based organizations; the Los Angeles Unified School District; the Los Angeles City Commission for Children, Youth and Their Families; the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice Planning; the Los Angeles Police Department and other law enforcement agencies; and the Los Angeles Community Development Department.
Targeting middle school students, the L.A. Bridges Program engages community groups, individuals and institutions to keep youth out of gangs, maintain safe neighborhoods and empower residents to improve the quality of their lives. There are more than 5,400 students involved in the program at 27 different schools.
The prevention component of the L.A. Bridges Program includes:
• Structured programs coordinated by community-based organizations that engage youth and keep them away from gang activity;
• Case management targeting the highest at-risk youth and their families that includes counseling, mentoring, parenting classes, employment opportunities and skills training;
• After-school activities including tutoring, organized sports and recreation activities, art programs and field trips.
The intervention component is designed to maintain safe and peaceful neighborhoods. It involves community-based partners working directly with local gang leaders to assist with conflict resolution, provide information and referral services, crisis intervention to diffuse potentially troubling or violent situations. Intervention also includes developing peace treaties between gangs, creating sports opportunities for rival gangs to get to know one another as individuals rather than gang members and providing employment opportunities for current and former gang members.
This component works directly with neighborhoods to empower residents to take control of their communities. Activities include neighborhood clean up campaigns, beautification projects, picnics, health fairs and employment fairs among others. Neighborhood Advocacy Councils (NACs) share information, ideas, successes, goals and interests to strengthen families and promote neighborhood safety. NACs meet quarterly and are comprised of program partners including parents, students, community-based organizations and program service providers, LAPD, clergy, gang intervention teams and residents.
Smaller NAC committees meet monthly and address issues in smaller geographic areas. These committees are charged with the development and implementation of local safety plans for local neighborhoods.
L.A. Bridges Successes
A recent independent evaluation of the LA Bridges program by Vital Research, LLC, made the following findings based on the program:
• Property crimes, crimes against persons and substance abuse crimes decreased at L.A. Bridges schools;
• Alcohol and drug use decreased by 66% among L.A. Bridges youth;
• L.A. Bridges students achieved increased SAT scores for reading, math and language;
• L.A. Bridges school suspensions decreased along with a 72% decrease in arrests and a 66% decrease in probation cases;
• Association with criminal and gang peers decreased by 48% and gang identification decreased by 70% among L.A. Bridges core youth; and
• L.A. Bridges families reported a 33% decrease in abuse and neglect in the home with a 67% decrease in runaways.
For more information about the L.A. Bridges Program, contact Director Anna Ortega at the Los Angeles Community Development Department at (213) 485-0183.