The Gang Violence Reduction Project (GVRP) was initiated in November of 1976 in response to gang related violence and homicides within the 7.48 square miles of unincorporated area of East Los Angeles. In 1976, there were approximately 18 known Maravilla street gangs in the project’s targeted area, of which about 10 were involved in heavy feuding with each other and with gangs outside the target area. In the two years prior to the full operation of the Project (1975-1976), there were 30 gang related homicides in the area. GVRP’s purpose was to mediate feuds among gangs and create interaction with targeted neighborhoods in an effort to decrease violence in the area. The Project operated under the direction of the California Youth Authority and was funded by State and Federal grant monies.
In 1976, GVRP focused on negotiating antagonisms among the 8 prominent street gangs in the area. GVRP was unique to any other program because it utilized former gang members who were indigenous to the area. They held a personal stake in the area. Its problems were their problems, and it was in their best interest to solve them. GVRP implemented a service model which used former gang members to work with active gang members within their own neighborhoods to de-escalate tensions among rival street gangs. GVRP demonstrated that individuals will invest in what is relevant to them.
The total number of homicides, in which GVRP targeted gangs were suspect, remained at a lower level through the 1977-1979 and 1983-1984 periods than they were in the 1974-1976 period. In 1988, the Gang Violence Reduction Project reached a milestone. For the first time in the history of the unincorporated area of East Los Angeles there were no gang related homicides. The implication of these trends is that GVRP was able to reduce rivalries among the East Los Angeles gangs during the years it was in operation. GVRP proved to be an effective gang intervention model that saved lives by significantly lowering gang related homicides within its targeted areas in decades.
The Project ended in 2002, due to State budget cuts. Supervisor Hilda Solis must take the gang problem in East Los Angeles seriously. She must put forth greater effort to protect the lives of residents in the community by implementing a proven gang intervention program in the area. With gang violence returning to the community, there currently is no gang intervention program in the area to continue the efforts of GVRP since 2002.
The purpose of this article is to remind community leaders and residents of the longstanding history of success the GVRP had, in deescalating terror among rival criminal street gangs within the unincorporated area of East Los Angeles. Moreover, at a time when gang related violence and homicide rates are rapidly rising in surrounding cities, community leaders and residents are looking for answers. The GVRP serves as a means to empower other communities, as it set precedence among community based interventions aimed at reducing gang violence and homicides.
It is time to revisit the work of GVRP in unincorporated East L.A. and exploit it’s phenomenal success. As we do, we are reminded that we must never forget the accomplishments of those individuals who were committed to a more peaceable community. Looking towards the future plans of the East L.A. community, we must challenge our leaders to preserve and protect this unique legacy to ensure that gang related violence and homicides never reach the rates of the 70’s and 80’s.
A native of East Los Angeles, Dan Almaraz has 40 years of experience working in gang violence reduction and intervention related programs. He is currently employed by Soledad Enrichment Action (SEA) as a Community Intervention Worker (CIW).Posted - Copyright © 2022 Eastern Group Publications, Inc.