Oct 7, 2009

"Its not about the gang, it's about the rest of the neighborhood"

By: Christopher WatlerUpper Manhattan Reentry Task Force Coordinator

I am blogging this week from the National Community Prosecution Conference in Los Angeles, sponsored by the National District Attorney's Association and the Center for Court Innovation.

The title quote came from Assistant U.S Attorney for the Central District of California, Chistopher Brunwin, as he described his approach to collaboration. AUSA Brunwin was joined by Kevin Gilligan of the Los Angeles City Attorney's Office and a representative of the LAPD.

The take down of a major local gang was the main example discussed. For years, the Drew Street gang terrorized local residents through a range of alleged criminal activity, including narcotics trafficking, murder, and extortion. Local residents lived in fear and police patrols were routinely subject to objects being thrown at them. The effort to address this problem included a range of federal and local law enforcement stakeholders led by the Los Angeles HIDTA (High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area).

The strategy involved coordinated surveillance, arrests of major players, sweeps by probation and parole, city public works addressing community conditions like graffiti, demolition of the gang's main house, increased code enforcement, and meetings with community stakeholders. As a result of this effort crime is down and community residents are again able to utilize public spaces without fear, according Brunwin.

A handout provided by Kevin Gilligan of the LA City Attorney's Office highlights key elements of effective prosecutor-led collaborations. They include:

1. Defining the target area or problem using data -- e.g. crime data, resident feedback, etc. Use baseline data to set goals and measure success.

2. Clearly defining the goals. This can include: arrest of key crime actors, crime reduction goals, improved community conditions, reductions in calls for service, and surveys of community perceptions of crime.

3. Based on how success is defined, selecting partners that share your goals and are willing to work with you. Look for partners that have the expertise, skills, and tools you need. Understand what each partner needs to show success in their area.

4. Developing a clear timeline and identifing resource needs. What information can be shared? How much time is needed by each agency to do their part? What data will be collected and how? Pay close attention to sequencing of activities.

5. Developing a strategy with the community to maintain success. Create opportunities for community gatherings and appropriate uses of public spaces.

6. Spread the word and share the credit. Have a press strategy. Make sure each partner’s contribution is recognized.