Gun violence continues to plague the city of Compton. Despite the collaborative efforts put forth by Mayor Aja Brown, gun violence continues to spiral out of control. Residents have taken to social media to vent frustrations about the uptick in shootings, two occurring this past Saturday, and place the blame squarely on the shoulders of the mayor. Is their anger misguided?
In a recently published op-ed, Mayor Aja Brown acknowledges the issues she inherited after taking office in July 2013.
I came into office with a $43 million deficit, spiked murder rate, failed infrastructure, dilapidated parks, unemployment rate double the state and triple the national average, zero budget for youth programs, a school district with a 57% graduation rate and a small staff…
The mayor got straight to work and within 45 days after being sworn in, she appeared at a press conference, to announce plans to address the gang violence in the city.
According to a staff report, an “extraordinary” news conference took place August 29, 2013, with then Sheriff Lee Baca and Mayor Aja Brown, both describing the spike in gang related homicides. The following month, the city would submit an application for the California Gang Reduction, Intervention and Prevention (CALGRIP) grant, to create programs to give the city’s youth more to do than join a gang. Awardees are required to match the amount received.
The city of Compton was awarded $250,000 and would also have to put up $250,000 totaling $500,000. The grant would run from January 1, 2014 through December 31, 2015.
The city would be required to implement the Summer and Family Components of the G.R.E.A.T. Program at city parks and the Youth Activities League while Compton Unified would implement the elementary and middle school components. The G.R.E.A.T. program was already operating in Compton Unified. The grant would cover salaries, benefits, supplies, training and data collection support.
The collaborative partnership included: the city, Compton Unified, the Sheriff’s department, County of Los Angeles: District Attorney and Probation and the Youth Athletic League.
The idea was to bring more officers into the classrooms to create more positive dialogue with the youth, in those critical years when joining a gang becomes an option. This program was designed to be a deterrent. Other early intervention programs would be funded to ensure that the city’s youth would be served, despite the city’s deficit.
We have yet to hear any data on how many students were outreached to and how many took advantage of the programs offered. Nor has any mention been made of CUSD’s efforts to bring more officers into the classrooms.
The mayor assembled a committee with a long history of understanding the turmoil in the city and all signed on committed to ensure the success of the program.
Advisory Committee members, listed on the CALGRIP documents, who guide and ensure accountability of the program are: Mayor Aja Brown, former city manager Harold Duffey, Councilwoman Janna Zurita, Compton School Board President Satra Zurita, CUSD Superintendent Darin Brawley, DA Jackie Lacey, Captain Leonard McCray, Lt. Jerry Cummings and former Chief Probation officer Jerry Powers.
The mayor’s city council colleagues delayed voting to match the funds, to ensure continuity of services and she was put in a position to seek funds from outside sources, to fund the programs, they were legally required to provide. The council accepted the $250,000 during the February 2014 council meeting, and it wasn’t until late the next year, that the matching funds were approved.
It is time for more synergy between the leadership of both the city council and school board, since they are on the front lines of dealing with these issues troubling our youth. The school board is in a unique position to provide a more intimate and controlled environment for the youth to have the opportunity to interact with the deputies who patrol their streets.
There is concern as to whether the city and school board are working in unison, to meet the deliverables of the grant.
Several public records requests initiated by this blog to Compton Unified Superintendent Darin Brawley, about the G.R.E.A.T. program and its implementation, have gone unanswered.
The mayor also brought in the Violence Reduction Network composed of the ATF, DEA, FBI and Sheriff’s, working together, yet crime continues to rise in the city of nearly 100,000 residents.
Despite the efforts of the mayor to bring in resources, as a starting point, it has not been well received, by all parties brought to the table.
How will the conditions in the city change, if the city’s leaders can’t come together, for the common goal of providing services to the very residents who elected them, to address and more importantly, solve these problems?
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The City Council, consisting of the Mayor and four Councilpersons, are responsible for the protection of the citizens of Compton. But they refuse to provide adequate law enforcement for those citizens. Compton has 100,000 residents, but also has 10,000 known gang members. 10% of our population. The cities contract with LASD only provides for 79 deputies to patrol the streets of Compton. And those 79 deputies are divided into shifts, days off, sick days, desk duty days, and sick days, etc. Just maybe, we may have 25 deputies on the streets of Compton at any given time. With this few deputies all they can do is ‘react’ after something has happened. And our city manager, Roger Haley, wants to ‘negotiate’ to lower the cost of the contract which would reduce the numbers and services of deputies. But with 100 or more deputies (standard recommendations), they just may be able to be ‘proactive’ to provide “Community Policing” which has been proven to reduce crime in cities where “Community Policing” takes place. I spent more than two years as a volunteer with LASD Compton Station and I know first hand how they work. They are drastically understaffed for a city the size and with the problems of Compton. I would urge the citizens to demand more deputies be put on the streets of Compton.
Communication and synergy is needed. It’s true that the Compton USD and the City are independent of each other..but they can and should take joint responsibility for things such as truancy, dropouts and youth activities simply due to the fact that all off these things can be related to crime. What’s good for the school district should be good for the city and vice versa. They should be advocates for one another. If they must be rivals…be a team of rivals, always ending with what’s best for the city.
As for crime, I can’t fault the Mayor on effort. Many plans and programs were offered up or put in place, but others in the city dragged their feet including some councilmembers and former city managers. But the Mayor can be faulted for not seeking consensus beforehand and sometimes blindsiding her colleagues. Crime has increased since the Violence Reduction Network was introduced. That team includes FBI, DEA, ATF,Sheriffs and US Marshalls. There is no way that should happen. Why did they want in to Compton? Why did we let them in (at a time when the Mayor was saying crime was down)? Being a better communicator as opposed to “correcting” people all the time would help. Getting to know the community is the “more” she can do. Many feel disrespected and there are many who won’t give her the chance to disrespect us again.