The feature below is in response to this article published on Dec. 27 in the LA Times.
Crime continues to drop in Los Angeles, and while researchers continue to look for an agreed-upon reason, we can all acknowledge that a shift has occurred.
A new hope exists in L.A.
For the 10th straight year, overall crime decreased in Los Angeles in 2012, further cementing the fact that a transition has taken place. Old ways of life have departed; new ways have come. A change in thinking and a transformation in problem-solving methods have paved the way for such historic numbers.
So many factors have contributed to this positive upswing. It is very encouraging to think that exactly a decade after we started A Better LA, a collaborative foundation aimed at suppressing the negative influences of inner-city gangs, crime continues to fall in Los Angeles. While it could be merely coincidental, we’d like to think that the past 10 years’ worth of efforts of all involved in the foundation have made a tremendously positive impact on the city.
And perhaps the best thing about it all is that the stats point to an even more encouraging future for Los Angeles. Homicides have dropped about 40 percent since 2003. From 2011 to 2012, gang-related crime dropped 10 percent and violent crime decreased 8 percent. While it wasn’t positive news across all categories of crime, the overall numbers have been resoundingly heartening.
A Better LA was birthed in the fall of 2002. I was listening to the radio while driving to work from the South Bay to USC. Every morning during the week of the USC-Notre Dame game that year, news radio told of young people being killed in gang-related incidents from the previous night — in the very communities through which I drove each morning. By the end of the week, 11 people had been killed in gang-related incidents in South Los Angeles.
It was that week when I decided I had to do something. I immediately called my late friend, longtime mentor and renowned civic leader Lou Tice at the Pacific Institute in Seattle. Within months, thoughts and discussions turned into the official start of A Better LA, a foundation that we’d like to think has played an instrumental role in saving lives, transforming communities and providing a new language of hope over the last 10 years.
The key component of the whole mission has revolved around employing intervention workers in each community. Instead of pouring money into external efforts, we’ve built parks, reached out into schools and, most importantly, empowered members of the community to be intervention workers. The model is revolutionary because many of the intervention workers are reformed gang members — people who are the respected leaders of their communities who can then pilot drastic movements of positive change.
It’s a proven model that has defied what many said was impossible, and it’s a model that has garnered great interest from other cities across the nation, including Seattle where A Better Seattle is already in its second year.
A Better LA has had an impact because, like the football teams I’ve coached, people from all areas have set aside differences and joined together to do something special. Sheriff Lee Baca, LAPD Chief Charlie Beck, former LAPD Chief William Bratton, expert intervention trainer Aquil Basheer, civic leaders, elected officials, corporations, intervention workers and many others deserve all the gratitude and appreciation in the world for their consistent support and faith in this movement.
So regardless of who or what should get the credit for the continued decrease in crime in L.A. over the past 10 years, it’s clear that a sustainable shift has taken place. It’s been an honor to be a part of this extraordinary change.
And even though the crime stats provide great encouragement, we still have a long ways to go toward making our communities completely peaceful and safe.
But we have a hopeful outlook. We are heading in the right direction. And for that we can be so thankful, and so encouraged, as we continue to march onward.
• Pete Carroll, head coach of the Seattle Seahawks and former head coach at USC, is the co-founder of A Better LA and A Better Seattle and remains heavily involved in both foundations.
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