1 Gang Reduction and Youth Development Panorama CityMission GRYD by dfgh4bnmu

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									                            Gang Reduction and Youth Development
                        Panorama City/Mission GRYD Needs Assessment
                                        Final Report

Introduction

In April of 2008, Mayor Villaraigosa announced the expansion of the Gang Reduction and Youth
Development (GRYD) strategy from seven existing GRYD zones to 12 zones. Based on the assessments
conducted at the beginning of the year, the Mayor’s GRYD Office requested in April that the Advancement
Project (AP) conduct the needs assessment in the Panorama City/Mission GRYD zone. AP agreed to
conduct this and the Watts/Southeast GRYD zone assessments with funding from The California
Endowment.

In July, The California Endowment finalized the scope of work and the proposed timeline of July 1st to
September 22nd. AP requested and received a one-week extension on the final due date with a new
submission date of September 26th.

In addition to the general constraints associated with the short timeline, AP experienced some challenges
unique to the Panorama City/Mission GRYD zone:

    •   With the construction of many new school facilities in the Panorama City area, many of the local
        schools transitioned to a traditional calendar. The assessment timeline coincided with summer break
        and the beginning of the school year, causing significant delays and in some cases complete inability
        to reach the appropriate LAUSD school administrators and teachers.

    •   Although the demographic profile of the GRYD zone shows a small number Asian and Asian
        American and African American residents in the area, the growing presence of both populations in
        the GRYD was supported by anecdotal evidence. Due to the short timeframe, AP conducted only a
        limited scan of the needs of these communities and the gaps in services available.

    •   While it would have been ideal to receive the general demographic, crime and resource maps before
        initiating the community focus groups and interviews in order to tailor the questions to derive more
        specific information and to guide outreach, the timeline required us to conduct the activities
        simultaneously rather than build upon findings from one component to the next.

    •   Surveys were conducted among a “convenient sampling” of respondents rather than a random
        sampling, potentially excluding other community perspectives. Some surveys were simply distributed
        rather than administered, resulting in many incomplete responses.

    •   Due to the limited timeline, there were a few outstanding interviews at the conclusion of the
        assessment including with the Community Redevelopment Agency, Service Planning Area 2 council,
        housing rights organizations and other issue-based groups.

    •   AP relied heavily on the GRYD Program Manager’s outreach capacity to determine focus group and
        interview participants. Although we had a high degree of confidence in the Program Manager’s
        knowledge and network in the area, follow-up activities to validate the leadership capacity of those
        reached and to reach other informal networks could not be completed.

The limitations listed above do not put into question the basic findings described in this report. Most of the
listed items can and should be follow-up activities conducted by the GRYD staff as the initiative moves


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forward. Specifically, expanded interviews, community-engaged mapping through CPTED1 and service
capacity surveys will be ongoing assessment activities that will also assist in relationship building within the
community, a key component of establishing core, community-based leadership capacity that will sustain the
violence reduction and gang reduction activities in the long run.

Background

Advancement Project Los Angeles (AP) was formed in 1998 by civil rights lawyers from the NAACP Legal
Defense Fund and the private bar, and is led by three co-directors, Connie Rice, Molly Munger and Steve
English. AP is an innovative civil rights and policy “action tank” that identifies, creates and promotes new
strategies for achieving inclusion and equity. We primarily focus on reforming large public systems and other
institutions that broadly impact society and particularly affect LA’s poor communities. We work in
partnership with grassroots and community-mobilizing organizations to ensure low-income and underserved
community residents have the information they need to engage public officials on vital issues. Our current
work focuses on three areas:

    •    Education: ensuring adequate school facilities and other resources for low income children
    •    Urban Peace: achieving a basic level of safety in all Los Angeles communities
    •    Healthy City: supporting data driven policy making and community mobilization

Our shorthand way of describing our mission is simply “making LA work,” by which we mean making LA
work for the poor and underserved. Under this mission, the Urban Peace initiative strives to achieve a basic
level of safety for children, youth and families of Los Angeles, particularly those residing in the lowest
income, highest risk areas by addressing the conditions that spawn gangs and violence.

Methodology

Throughout the contract period, AP conducted research that focused on gangs and youth violence, developed
a mapping and data analysis of the area, and gathered ground level community input to assess the needs of
the Panorama City/Mission GRYD. A community profile was developed based on an examination of
community history and an analysis of key demographics through information gathered and synthesized by
AP’s Healthy City Project. Demographic information included maps and charts (See Appendix 3).

Over 250 surveys were distributed and collected by community-based organizations (CBOs) and residents to
provide a quantitative analysis of residents’ perceptions of gang activity and community safety (See Appendix
4). Working with the Mayor’s GRYD Office and CBOs on scheduling, AP conducted 10 focus groups and
18 interviews (See Appendix 1).

The focus groups and interviews generated community level input that informed the assessment of the
Panorama City/Mission GRYD. Information gathered was used to build the assessment through the analysis
of community infrastructure and GRYD area gangs. In an analysis of community infrastructure, the
following themes emerged: 1) community, 2) schools, 3) parks, 4) housing and economic development, 5)
law enforcement, and 6) community-based and civic-based institutions (See Appendix 2).

An assessment of local gangs yielded the following topics areas: 1) active gangs, 2) gang crime and violent
crime, 3) characteristics of gang activity, 4) recruitment, 5) why youth join gangs, and 6) gang intervention

1 The CPTED methodology looks at the design and management of building structures, streets, residential homes,

vacant lots, open spaces, businesses, etc. to try to reduce opportunities for criminal activity. It also encourages
cooperation and partnership among different groups, including police, citizens, elected officials, business owners, and
government departments to problem-solve and make improvements.


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efforts. AP also contracted with a gang intervention consultant to provide a community-level assessment of
gang activity, including gang dynamics and community violence levels.




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Community Profile and Findings

The Panorama City/Mission Gang Reduction and Youth Development zone covers 1.55 square miles and
encompasses approximately 50,000 residents. The GRYD is about 18 miles northwest of downtown Los
Angeles, and is geographically bounded by Plummer and Rayen Streets to the north, the 405 Freeway to the
west, Van Nuys Boulevard and Wakefield Avenue to the east, and Roscoe Boulevard to the south. The
GRYD is comprised of seven reporting districts in the Valley Bureau’s Mission Division. The majority of the
GRYD lies within the jurisdiction of Los Angeles City Council District 7, with a small portion in District 6.
On the County level, the GRYD is part of Supervisorial District 3 and County Service Planning Area 2.

Community History

As part of the geographically vast region of the San Fernando Valley2 in northwest Los Angeles, the
Panorama City/Mission GRYD and its surrounding areas have a distinct history formed by the region’s
ongoing economic and demographic changes.

During the late nineteenth century, the San Fernando Valley was considered a rural extension of Los Angeles
and a haven for families that wanted to experience a rural lifestyle yet remain within close proximity of a large
city. Consisting mostly of sparse settlements, ranches and farmland, the completion of the Southern Pacific
Railroad and Pacific Electric Railway extensions into the Valley made the region more accessible by the early
twentieth century. As a result, manufacturing industries moved into the region, transforming the rural
landscape into a more industrial, urban area. These manufacturing industries — primarily aerospace and
automobile — in addition to the burgeoning motion picture industry, drove the economic engine of the
Valley and much of the population growth throughout the region.

The aerospace industry in particular became a defining presence in the region, attracting thousands of
workers to the Valley with the opening of the Lockheed-Vega Aircraft factory in Burbank in 1928. During
World War II, the region became a “pivotal point for growth of the Valley’s defense industry,” with
Lockheed-Vega employing over 90,000 workers.3 As this industry continued to grow, however, there was
insufficient housing for the massive influx of workers.

As World War II drew to a close, the Valley as a whole began to benefit from manufacturing and defense
industries during the post-war economic boom.4 Capitalizing on the manufacturing industries’ need for an
accessible workforce, the construction of “Kaiser homes” turned Panorama City into the first planned suburb
with tract homes and a commercial center in the postwar Valley.5 During the 1950s, the General Motors
(GM) Chevrolet assembly plant, located south of the GRYD on Van Nuys Boulevard, became the economic
anchor of the community, supplying thousands of jobs. In addition to the GM plant, the Carnation Research
Lab opened on Van Nuys Boulevard, and the Joseph Schlitz brewery opened on Woodman Avenue. The
urban landscape continued to change with the addition of many of the region’s freeways, including the
completion of the 405 Interstate/San Diego Freeway in early 1960s.

After decades of rapid economic and population growth, Panorama City along with other valley suburbs
began to develop and solidify its identity as a region of white, working and middle-class homeowners
throughout the 1950s and 1960s. As white-only housing covenants that were commonplace in the Valley,


2 The San Fernando Valley today consists of 345 square miles that is separated from the Los Angeles basin by the Santa
Monica Mountains. Wikipedia: San Fernando Valley.
3 “Factories Fueled Growth of Valley,” San Fernando Business Journal, October 27, 2003.
4 Lockheed-Martin’s Skunk Works plant in Burbank produced many principal aircraft designs for the Cold War.

“Factories Fueled Growth of Valley,” San Fernando Business Journal, October 27, 2003.
5 Kevin Roderick, The San Fernando Valley: America’s Suburb, 2001.




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including Panorama City, were outlawed, white homeowners “defended their planned communities and
housing tracts against encroachment of blacks” as white residents sought to distinguish “the Valley” from
“the City.”6 During the late 1970s, white families who were threatened by the school district’s desegregation
plan organized against the proposed busing policy as they sought to protect the Valley’s demographic
homogeneity and sense of separateness from Los Angeles.7 Although it failed, this effort, in addition to a
strong homeowners’ organizing effort against soaring property taxes that led to the passage of Proposition 13
in 1978, contributed to the Valley’s distinct political identity.

During the 1980s, with integration imminent and a weakening economy, there were significant demographic
shifts in the Panorama City area as longtime residents began to leave their starter homes. Panorama City and
its surrounding areas suffered the loss of relatively high-paying manufacturing jobs, leading to the demise of
the Panorama City business district as “[m]any stores that catered to white, middle-class consumers moved or
closed.”8 Membership-based civic organizations and community associations, including the Chamber of
Commerce, also left the area.9 Simultaneously, large, relatively affordable, multi-unit apartment complexes
were built throughout the GRYD, predominantly attracting Latino and Filipino immigrant families.

By 1990, what was left of the region’s aerospace industry was gone with the departure of Lockheed-Martin
from nearby Burbank. The biggest economic blow to Panorama City and its surrounding communities was
the closure of the General Motors’ plant in 1992, taking many of its “good-paying union jobs” and signaling
the end of the area’s distinct manufacturing working class identity.10 Perceptions of Panorama City and its
surrounding communities had changed drastically since its postwar “clean-cut image as a defining American
suburb.”11 The notorious 1991 LAPD police beating of Rodney King occurred in the Lake View Terrace
area of the Valley. Although the subsequent civil unrest of 1992 was primarily concentrated in South Los
Angeles, areas of the Valley including Panorama City, Sepulveda (North Hills) and Pacoima, sustained
property damages as well, underscoring the racial tensions and deteriorating socio-economic conditions in the
area.12

By the mid-1990s, the issue of immigration and its impact on the Valley’s infrastructure was central as many
Valley residents passionately supported Proposition 187 (1994) to bar undocumented immigrants from
attending schools and accessing public services. The debate surrounding this initiative highlighted the
tensions caused by the changing demographics in the region. Although most of the initiative’s provisions
were ruled unconstitutional in 1998, the issue of immigration continued to dominate during the Valley’s
secession movement of the late 1990s. Even though Valley residents generally favored secession, Los
Angeles City voters rejected secession in 2002.13

Despite the economic decline of the Panorama City area caused by the diminished manufacturing and
commercial base, there have been concerted development efforts intended to boost the local economy. Van
Nuys Boulevard has reemerged as the commercial center of the area with the 1995 opening of the “The
Plant” shopping center and movie theatres on the former GM site, and the arrival of Wal-Mart in the
Panorama Mall in 1998. In addition, La Curacao retail chain in the Panorama Mall and nearby Plaza del Valle
commercial center on Van Nuys Boulevard attempt to create a distinct Latino shopping experience for the

6 Josh Sides, L.A. City Limits: African American Los Angeles from the Great Depression to the Present, University of

California Press, 2004, pp. 103-104.
7 Kevin Roderick, The San Fernando Valley: America’s Suburb, 2001, p.185.
8 David Colker, “Building a ‘Future’ in 1948 – A riddle and a single house launched ‘American Way of Life’ in Panorama

City,” Los Angeles Times, September 4, 1999.
9 Ibid.
10 Ibid.
11 Kevin Roderick, The San Fernando Valley: America’s Suburb, 2001.
12 Ibid.
13 Ibid.




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area’s primarily Latino residents. Similarly, the Little Manila commercial center located on Roscoe and Van
Nuys Boulevards caters to the significant Filipino community that primarily resides in the easternmost
portion of the GRYD and surrounding area.

Ongoing redevelopment activities have attempted to improve the existing commercial and residential
infrastructure of Panorama City and its surrounding neighborhoods. As a result of damage caused by the
1994 Northridge earthquake,14 the CRA developed a five-year implementation plan (2005-2009) to facilitate
the ongoing recovery of the Council District 7 project area through economic development, affordable
housing, and various community improvement projects.15 In 2003, an Urban Design Assistance Team
(UDAT) proposed a plan to create distinct town centers along Panorama City’s commercial corridor through
streetscape improvement and mixed-use commercial and residential developments.16 Currently, Council
District 7, the Community Redevelopment Agency and other community stakeholders are engaged in an
effort to stabilize the North Hills area through the creation of housing opportunities.


The Panorama City/Mission GRYD Today

Straddling Panorama City17 on the east and North Hills to the west, the Panorama City/Mission GRYD is a
highly dense, predominantly Latino immigrant and working-class community with approximately 50,000
residents. Described by residents as a transient and overcrowded community, the GRYD contains a large
concentration of apartment buildings covering much of the landscape in the western half of the GRYD to the
405 Freeway. The GRYD also contains a number of narrow alleys that run between apartment complexes,
and are difficult to navigate and generally obstructed from the public’s view. The eastern and northern
sections of the GRYD primarily consist of single family homes, including some small gated communities
north of Rayen Street. The 405 Freeway serves as a symbolic marker between the GRYD and its surrounding
working class communities to its east and the traditionally more affluent communities located west of the 405.

Located in a sprawling commercial area, the Panorama City/Mission GRYD experiences heavy commuter
traffic along its main thoroughfares of Van Nuys, Roscoe and Sepulveda Boulevards. Coupled with the
significant pedestrian traffic attributed to the multiple retail centers located along Van Nuys Boulevard, there
is a visible effect on the GRYD’s physical environment with the presence of graffiti, overflowing trash cans,
and discarded bulky items as common sights. As a historically industrial area, parts of the GRYD contain
empty lots and vacant buildings. In addition, Sepulveda Boulevard, long known for its adult entertainment
industry, prostitution and “open-air” drug market, attracts many outsiders, contributing to the GRYD’s image
as a transient area.18

Despite the area’s transient nature, GRYD residents have a strong sense of community, as they most often
cited each other as one of the strongest assets in the area. Throughout this assessment, all major community

14 The Northridge earthquake that struck on January 17, 1994 ranks as one of the costliest natural disasters in U.S.
history with an estimated $12.5 billion in damage and 72 deaths. The Panorama City GRYD, just seven miles from the
quake’s epicenter in Reseda, sustained significant property damages. Six Valley hospitals closed as a result of extensive
structural damages including Kaiser Panorama City (http://www.cityofla.org/LAFD/eq.htm).
15 “Earthquake Disaster Assistance Project Area for Portions of Council District 7: 5-year Implementation Plan,” The

Community Redevelopment Agency, April 19, 2007.
16 “Staging a Northeast Valley Revival,” San Fernando Valley Business Journal, January 20, 2003.
17 Panorama City’s boundaries extend to Plummer Street in the north, Saticoy Street and the railroad tracks to the south ,

Woodman Avenue to the east and Sepulveda Boulevard to the west. North Hills’ boundaries extend to Lassen Street to
the north, Roscoe Boulevard to the south, Sepulveda Boulevard to the east and between Balboa Boulevard and
Hayvenhurst Avenue to the west.
18 In an effort address this negative association, residents lobbied and succeeded in renaming the Sepulveda community

to North Hills in 1992.


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stakeholders expressed a strong commitment to addressing the conditions that sustain gangs and violence in
the Panorama City area.

Defining the Zone

To formulate a neighborhood-based, comprehensive public health strategy to reduce gangs and violence in
the Panorama City/Mission GRYD, it was important for us to understand the ecology and history of the
zone. Questions included how the zone was defined, the history of the neighborhoods in the zone, how the
zone might compare with the surrounding areas particularly in terms of gangs and violence, whether there
were historical, ethnic, and/or social neighborhoods that might overlap with the zone, and what assets were
present in the zone.

AP routinely utilized the map of the Panorama City/Mission GRYD provided by the Mayor’s GRYD Office
during the community focus groups and interviews. Reviewing the boundaries of the Panorama City/Mission
GRYD generated much commentary from residents, youth, law enforcement, school personnel, and
community and business leaders. At first glance, many conflated the GRYD’s boundaries with the larger
Panorama City area. Due to the shape of the 91402 zip code and the Panorama City Neighborhood Council
boundaries, Panorama City is often referred to as the “Witch’s Hat” and many believed that the GRYD
boundaries reflected that same area.

“You can’t say Panorama City without dealing with Blythe Street.” – Community Leader

Community residents, school officials, and law enforcement consistently agreed that the GRYD’s boundaries
should include the historically blighted community surrounding the area’s most notorious gang — Blythe
Street. Although crime has significantly decreased in the Blythe Street community as the result of a targeted
suppression effort and the institution of the Blythe Street gang injunction in 1993, residents and community
leaders cited the gang’s continued presence and impact on the community. As one school representative
noted, the focus “should be on where gangs live, not where they do crime. Where they live is where they
recruit.” In addition, there was the common perception between service providers, school personnel, law
enforcement and residents that the GRYD boundaries excluded the most active gang hot spot which they
identified to be the area immediately surrounding Sepulveda Middle School, north of Rayen Street. During
the afterschool hours students become particularly vulnerable as they must navigate through multiple gang
territories. Strong consideration should be given to redrawing the boundaries to include these areas.




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  Violent Gang-Related Crime, Panorama City - Mission GRYD Zone by Block Group, 2007
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                                                                               Nordhoff St
  North Hills
                                                                                                                                                                                                                Number of Violent Gang-

                                                                                                                                                                                               for
                                                                                                                                                                                                   d   St       Related Crimes by Quantile
                                                                                                                                                                                             an
                                                                                                                                                                                          Br
    Woodley Ave




                                                                                                                                                                                                                        0
                              Haskell Ave




                                            405
                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1-2

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        3-5
                                                                                          Panorama City                                     Roscoe Blvd                                                                 6 - 33

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Panorama City GRYD Zone

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        One Mile Radius
                                                                                                           Van Nuys Blvd




                                                                                                                                                                                                                According to the LAPD, the Panorama
Van Nuys Airport
                                                                                                                                                                                                   Satico
                                                                                                                                                                                                         y St   City - Mission GRYD Zone suffered 60
           Saticoy St
                                                                                                                                                                                                                violent gang-related crimes in 2007.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                The minimum number of such crimes
                                                         Sepulveda Blvd




                                                                                                                                                                                                                in a Panorama City Block Group was 1,
                            Miles                                                                                                                                                                               while the maximum was 15 crimes.
            0      0.25   0.5
                    Sherman Way                                              Sherman Way

                                                  Map created by Healthy City, August 2008. Geographic data from Navteq, 2007. Violent Gang-Related Crime
                                                   data classified by quantile, by U.S. Census Block Group from the LAPD, 2007. LAPD Mean = 3, Standard
                                                    Deviation = 4. Gang Reduction and Youth Development Zone compiled from LAPD Reporting Districts.
Demographics

Analyzing demographic data is necessary to contextualize the structured environment in which gangs and
violence exist and are allowed to flourish. In order to understand the GRYD’s needs, resources and service
gaps, we relied on demographic data generated by Healthy City to help identify subpopulations within the
GRYD that are at high risk of gang involvement and in need of targeted prevention and intervention
strategies. The Panorama City/Mission GRYD suffers from pronounced adverse socio-economic conditions
relative to other areas in the City and County. Research indicates that many of these conditions strongly
correlate to the presence of gangs and youth violence. Given the GRYD’s high concentration of recent
immigrant families, low educational attainment, unemployment, poverty and other socio-economic indicators,
young Latino families and their children stand out as a population in greatest need.

The following is a summary of the demographic data obtained by Healthy City using Claritas 2007 estimates.19

Socio-Economic Environment

Current race and ethnicity data for the Panorama City/Mission GRYD reflects the area’s demographic trends
over the last few decades. In 1990, the GRYD’s population was 54% Latino, 24% non-Hispanic white, 11%
African American, and 8% Asian and Asian American. By 2007, the Latino population comprised 85% of the
GRYD’s approximately 50,000 total residents. Non-Hispanic whites represented 6% of the population,
followed by Asians and Asian Americans at 5% and African Americans at 4%. Although both the Asian and
Asian American and African American populations in the GRYD were well below the City and County
averages, residents and service providers noted the growing presence of these groups in the GRYD.

The area’s rapid demographic shift is reflected in the Panorama City/Mission GRYD’s population density as
it consists of a relatively young population. In 2007, the GRYD’s population was nearly 50,000, averaging
roughly 32,000 residents per square mile. The GRYD is also home to a large percentage of children and
youth, with nearly 4 out of every 10 residents being under the age of 18 in 2007. In contrast, seniors over the
age of 60 comprised only 6% of the GRYD’s population.

Major research on gangs and community structure has consistently highlighted poverty and declining income
levels as factors contributing to the concentration of violent crime. In 2007, the GRYD had a
disproportionately large percentage of low-income residents when compared to the City and County. Forty-
two percent of households earned less than $35,000 per year, while the City and County averages were 31%
and 25%, respectively. Families represented 81% of all GRYD households and experienced a high level of
poverty in 2007 with 29% of families living at or below the poverty line — nearly double the County average
of 15%.

Unemployment exacerbates existing socio-economic conditions that contribute to violence in the community.
Unemployment was moderate to high in the Panorama City/Mission GRYD zone, with an average
unemployment rate of 10%. It is important to note that this unemployment figure does not reflect the
informal economy which likely constitutes a significant amount of economic activity in the GRYD area.

Given the high concentration of families in the area, the low level of educational attainment among adults in
the GRYD becomes a significant challenge affecting parents’ capacity to support their children’s educational
outcomes. In 2007, 61% of the adults age 25 and over did not have high school diplomas, almost double the
City’s average of 34% and the County’s average of 31%. About one in every three adults age 25 and over had
not completed the ninth grade, which may be due to the high concentration of immigrants in the area. Low

19 See Appendix 3. Note: The GRYD map boundaries of Healthy City, based on Census Block Groups, are slightly
larger than the actual GRYD boundaries.


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educational attainment, compounded by low income levels and high unemployment, highlights the necessity
of a comprehensive family support network to promote the educational and economic development of
families in the GRYD.


Community Institutional Infrastructure

The Panorama City/Mission GRYD’s infrastructure consists primarily of local schools, parks, churches, an
active commercial corridor, and community and civic organizations that reflect the GRYD’s past and present.
Most notably, there are multiple City and civic efforts underway to address some of the area’s most endemic
problems, including gangs, housing, and quality of life issues.

Notwithstanding these efforts, many of the GRYD’s key institutions continue to face challenges in engaging
with the area’s primarily immigrant families. These institutions need to make a concerted effort to outreach,
engage and collaborate with GRYD families that are most impacted by gangs and violence, and empower
residents with the necessary tools and support to address these issues in an effective and sustainable way.

       A. Schools

“Schools are in the center of the community, so they should be engaged as part of an overall strategy.” – Law Enforcement

Across all sectors, community leaders, youth, parents, law enforcement and schools shared overwhelming
consensus that any gang reduction strategy must include the area’s local schools. The Panorama City GRYD
includes within its boundaries four Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) schools: Langdon, Noble,
and Panorama City Elementary Schools and the Rosa Parks Learning Center. As part of LAUSD Local
District 1, the GRYD is within the attendance boundaries of two high schools (Monroe and Panorama) and
two middle schools (Sepulveda and Vista).20 A small portion of the southeast corner of the GRYD overlaps
with the attendance area of Fulton College Preparatory, which serves grades 6 through 12. In addition to
LAUSD schools, the GRYD is also home to the Soledad Enrichment Action (S.E.A.) North Hills Charter
High School. Most notably, the recent construction of Vista Middle School in 2004, and Panorama High
School in 2006, south of the GRYD, has infused new energy into the area, as many residents cited the new
facilities as growing community assets.

“It’s getting more intense for kids now that it’s a traditional calendar. It’s going to be more crowded and more violent too because
different gangs are going to be together.” – Youth

While the opening of these new schools has been able to relieve overcrowding at both Monroe High and
Sepulveda Middle School, the transition to a traditional calendar has exacerbated many of the ongoing gang
rivalries both on and off campus. As Monroe High School switched to a traditional calendar at the beginning
of this 2008 school year, there have been fights on and off campus and continued safety concerns as a result
of the area’s four major gangs converging on Monroe’s campus at the same time. In the past, school officials
had separated rival gang members by staggering their attendance through the multi-track system in an effort
to minimize conflicts at Monroe. In anticipation of the calendar change, both the school and law
enforcement bolstered security on and around campus during the first weeks of school. Despite this
proactive effort, community leaders and residents have noted the continuing volatility of the school and the
high potential for escalating violence. As such, school personnel acknowledged that each gang is vying for
control within the school, prompting some to draw comparisons to a prison yard.



20   See Appendix 5.


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“I feel bad for guys who have to walk home.” – Youth

As there are more students walking home during the afterschool hours, both youth and school personnel
cited the issue of safety along commonly traveled school routes. The issue is relevant for all students in the
area who often have to cross multiple gang territories and, in many cases, take circuitous routes just to avoid
getting stopped by gang members. Sepulveda and Vista Middle Schools, two schools that are a mere 1.5
miles apart, have both drawn increasing attention around student safety issues. School personnel were aware
of multiple instances where a large group of Sepulveda Middle School students walked toward Vista Middle
School wielding metal bars and bats during a shortened school day. As many of these incidents occur near
Roscoe Boulevard, some school personnel expressed frustration with the LAPD’s delayed response as a result
of jurisdictional separation of the Mission and Van Nuys Police Divisions along Roscoe Boulevard.

“Kids have nothing to do so they stay afterschool. I’m torn because we want them to have fun, but then you have problems with
some (gangs) trying to take advantage.” – School Personnel

Among youth, accessibility of school facilities during afterschool hours and on weekends was a commonly
cited need. In schools such as Vista Middle School that have had a skating area, students are eager to use
school property for recreational uses and many afterschool programs have waiting lists. In other schools,
however, like Panorama High School, some personnel noted that students rarely sign up for afterschool
recreational activities, and that those who do come are from outside the area. All school personnel
recognized that any afterschool activities provided on their campuses would need to be supervised, given the
ubiquitous gang presence. While some schools, notably Langdon Elementary which resides in the heart of
the Langdon Street gang territory, expressed a desire to open up facilities for community use, lack of school
personnel to supervise these activities remains a significant barrier to implementation.

“There’s a need to deal with parents… they come in asking for help but what can I do?” – School Personnel

For many of the area’s residents, especially immigrant families who are unfamiliar with the education system,
public schools can be overwhelming. As one school administrator stated, “I know the lack of information
about the system itself intimidates them.” Among both parents and school personnel, sustained parent
engagement was recognized as a significant challenge. While school personnel cited their parent centers as
the main site for parent engagement, many acknowledged that their programs and classes were attended by
the same 10 to 15 parents. Active parents expressed frustration with the lack of participation among parents
in general, but also acknowledged that many parents work, and are therefore unable to participate in or
benefit from the schools’ programs. Nevertheless, both parents and school personnel agreed that schools
need to outreach to parents through educational programs that were culturally appropriate and accessible at
night and on weekends.

“We need to change the culture of violence and place no limits to how we work with kids who need the most help.” – School
Administrator

After families and the police, community residents ranked schools as the third most important institution in
strengthening the safety of a community, highlighting the community’s desire for schools to take greater
ownership in effectively ensuring the safety of their children.21 As such, Local District 1 has taken the lead on
coordinating around school safety issues through its Monroe/Panorama School Safety Collaborative. This
monthly collaboration of local school administrators and personnel, law enforcement, service providers and
others works with outside agencies to tackle the area’s safety concerns with targeted solutions.
Acknowledging that gang-affiliated youth attend the area’s schools, Local District 1 and school personnel
expressed a desire to collaborate with local service providers in offering students prevention and intervention

21   See Appendix 4.


                                                            11
services, including Safe Passages. Given the Local District’s numerous priorities, any successful partnership
must be reciprocal in order to ensure accountability and maximize resources.

    B. Parks

There are three parks within the Panorama City/Mission GRYD Zone: Sepulveda Recreation Center, North
Hills Community Park and Tobias Avenue Park. Sepulveda Recreation Center is the largest of the three
parks in the GRYD with two indoor gyms, a community room, a seasonal swimming pool, a baseball
diamond, two basketball courts, tennis courts and a children’s play area. The Recreation Center hosts
afterschool programs and youth enrichment activities, and serves as an LAPD Stop-In Center. The North
Hills Community Park, a few blocks west of the Sepulveda Recreation Center, features three basketball courts
and junior sized soccer fields, and a children’s play area. Located in the northern part of the GRYD and
wedged between apartment complexes, the Tobias Avenue Park is the area’s new small pocket park that
features basketball courts and a children’s play area.

“We have two nice parks, but they’re a hub of alcohol, drugs and homelessness because they’re underutilized.” – Community
Leader

Very seldom were parks identified as community assets by youth residing in the GRYD area. Although some
of the parks, most notably Sepulveda Recreation Center, are being utilized by families and adults, the majority
hesitate to use the parks because of safety concerns. Most residents stated that the parks are closed, empty,
or avoided altogether because of the presence of drugs, alcohol, homelessness and gang activity. Youth in
particular avoided many parks as each park is claimed by different gangs. When asked about parks, one
GRYD youth quickly replied, “I stay away from those. That’s where all the recruiting goes on.”

“At the park here, we need more activities for youth. We need more resources than are here.” – Parent

In addition to the underuse of parks due to the lack of safety, many residents and people who work in the
GRYD noted the inadequate supply of recreational facilities to fulfill the area’s immense need. While some
service providers and city workers have observed parks being utilized to their full capacity, they also noted the
presence of “a lot of adults and not enough kids in the dirt,” as one law enforcement officer stated. Others
cited that the need for City permits to control the use of the parks’ limited basketball courts and soccer fields
to prioritize usage by local youth. Overall, there was consensus on the lack of supervised afterschool and
weekend programming, and of recreational space, given the area’s high density and high concentration of
youth.

Many community leaders and service providers cited the success of the City’s Summer Night Lights program
at the Hubert H. Humphrey Recreation Center in the neighboring Pacoima/Foothill GRYD, and strongly
believed that a similar program located at the Sepulveda Recreation Center would not only encourage park
usage, but would be a valuable community-building activity for the area’s youth and families. As one
community leader and park worker said, “We’re missing a golden opportunity in Recreation and Parks. The
priority needs to be the family.”

    C. Housing and Economic Development

The Panorama City/Mission GRYD is among the most densely populated areas in the Valley with 32,000
residents per square mile. Since its industrial, working-class beginnings, the area’s image has drastically
changed to a dense, renter-occupied, low-income immigrant community. The trend of increasing density
coupled with the lack of open space and City services have contributed to the perception of the GRYD’s
physical environment as somewhat deteriorated. One business owner noted, however, the area “is not
necessarily blighted, but challenged, and on its way up.”


                                                             12
“In these buildings, no one wants to live here – we live here because of the low rent.” – Parent

The GRYD zone today serves as a “first-stop” gateway community for recent immigrant families in the
Valley who are attracted to the area by the relatively cheap rent and the existence of flexible apartment
managers who allow multiple families to dwell in one unit. The housing stock in the GRYD consists mainly
of dense patches of large apartment structures built from the 1950s through the 1980s, and dispersed
throughout the GRYD. In addition, in the southeast corner of the GYRD, there are tracts of the original
1950s “Kaiser homes,” located immediately east of Van Nuys boulevard. Also worth mentioning is the
existence of large homes and a small gated community immediately northwest of the GRYD zone around
Plummer Elementary School.

The sense of community in the GRYD is less tied to physical location because of the area’s transient nature.
Eighty-one percent of the GRYD’s housing units were occupied by renters in 2000. Of the approximately
13,000 housing units in the GRYD, around 60% are located in structures with 20 units or more. The GRYD
also experiences high residential turnover with nearly eight out of 10 households in the GYRD (both renters
and owners) having moved into the current housing units within the past decade. Service providers and
residents claim that those who move out of units typically stay within the same general area. Some service
providers noted that that these large apartment structures are predominantly occupied by Latino families
while the area’s single-unit houses are occupied by families of other racial and ethnic identities (mostly non-
Hispanic white and Asian), sometimes with two or more families sharing the mortgage of a home.

“They’re too close together with five apartments on one block… we need more privacy, more space.” – Youth

All GRYD residents highlighted the strains of overcrowded living conditions and its impact on the quality of
life for the area’s families, especially its youth. Many youth, parents and service providers in the area
repeatedly stressed the need for space for the area’s children and youth as a deterrent from being in the street.
Many youth resort to hanging out in front of their apartment buildings or alleys, increasing their exposure to
drugs and negative peer networks. Another common need expressed by residents is increased building safety
within and outside apartment buildings due to drug activity and the threats posed by the presence of gang
members. Some residents noted that if they were to raise safety issues to the attention of their apartment
managers, they would be targeted for eviction. Some families appreciate the flexibility of managers in
allowing multiple families to live in a unit. Others have noted, however, the burden caused by strict building
rules imposed by managers, such as no children running or yelling within apartment premises, which forces
children and youth to find space outside. As one gang-involved youth stated, “All we have is the streets and
the buildings. And Langdon. That’s about it.”

Despite the area’s density, residents often cited the close proximity of retail centers as strong community
assets. Sometimes called a bargain shopper’s paradise, the traditional Panorama City “commercial corridor”
that runs from north to south along Van Nuys Boulevard features the Panorama Mall, anchored by a
multilevel Wal-Mart; the Plant, which includes a Home Depot Center, Mann Theaters, Ross and other smaller
retail stores; and the Valley Indoor Swap Meet. Shopping centers and businesses that cater to the area’s
various ethnic groups include Plaza Del Valle, an open-air plaza reminiscent of community plazas in Mexico
City with over 100 vendor spaces, La Curacao, a large electronics retailer, and the “Little Manila” restaurant
clusters across from the Panorama Mall. The relatively large scale and success of these businesses highlights
the rapidly changing demographics of the area and the increasing purchasing power of the area’s residents.

“Businesses are coming to Panorama City – the Plant, the movie theater… There’s a business community.” – Community
Leader




                                                                13
Currently, the CRA is guiding the formation of a Business Improvement District (BID) near the Panorama
Mall that will complement and maintain streetscape improvement efforts.22 CRA is also planning the
redevelopment of the vacated Montgomery Ward site, located on the corner of Roscoe Boulevard and Tobias
Street, into a mixed-use residential development. Other notable housing construction projects include
affordable housing by A Community of Friends and recently completed affordable single-family homes, the
North Hills Villas, developed by the Los Angeles Neighborhood Housing Services.23 Other efforts underway
include long-term plans to promote housing opportunities and ensure community stability of the North Hills
Safer Cities Initiative (SCI) area, which encompasses the majority of the GRYD zone.24

“What’s the economic development plan? Residents can’t live off Starbucks and Wal-Mart in this area.” – Law
Enforcement

Even though the area’s commercial base continues to grow, many residents and community leaders stressed
the need for living-wage jobs for the area’s residents. Many still discuss the economic shock that reverberated
through the community caused by the closure of the GM plant in 1992 and the loss of its union jobs.
Despite the increased availability of jobs following the opening of the Plant and other retail centers, that has
not replaced the manufacturing union jobs that once drove the area’s economy.25

“There’s a spirit of cooperation within local businesses that probably needs to be refined a little bit, but the willingness is there.” –
Business Owner

There is an active and collegial business community in the area that has expressed the desire to improve safety
in the GRYD area. Notably, some of the businesses and property owners along the commercial corridor
were eager about the possibility to collaborate and coordinate with community leaders, schools, and service
providers to host events that support community-building efforts.

     D. Law Enforcement

The Los Angeles Police Department’s Mission Division is the law enforcement agency in the GRYD.
Opened in 2005, the Mission Division was constructed to relieve neighboring Foothill and Devonshire Police
Divisions given the area’s rapid population growth. In 2009, the area’s Division boundaries will change once
more with Mission Division’s southern boundary extending further south past Roscoe Boulevard to the
railroad tracks. The Gang Impact Team is currently the primary responder to gang activity in the area. At the
time of this assessment, the Community Law Enforcement and Recovery (CLEAR) unit was not yet
operational. LAPD will need to determine how to staff the new CLEAR unit in addition to the Safer Cities
Initiative as well as the Gang Impact Team.26

22
   In 2003, plans were underway by the Los Angeles Planning Commission to regenerate the corridor by remodeling
stores, regulating the design of structures to have more window space, and creating streetscape improvements with green
belts, shade trees and kiosks to encourage more foot traffic (Wendy Thermos, “Reviving Promise of Panorama City,”
Los Angeles Times, September 8, 2004). UDAT proposed the creation of town centers along the corridor that included a
“landscaped traffic circle, artist lofts, new senior housing, a convention center, a performing arts center and a hotel”
(Maggie Barnett, “It’s not about the past; it’s about potential.,” Los Angeles Times, April 25, 2004). Although never
implemented, this plan sparked interest among businesses and community leaders to redevelop the area to improve the
community’s image.
23 John Kaliski, “North Hills Safer Cities Initiative Area Housing Opportunities Workshop Findings and

Recommendations,” Urban Studios Report, September 17, 2008.
24 Ibid.
25 Drumming up high anticipation from some of the area’s residents is a $52 million Gruma Mission Foods tortilla and

chip plant expected to open soon and hire about 350 workers. Marla Dickerson and Jerry Hirsch, “Investment money
pours in from Mexico,” Los Angeles Times, May 5, 2007.
26 Previously, the area hosted a CLEAR site that was recovered in 2004.




                                                                  14
Mission Division implemented a Safer Cities Initiative (SCI) in an area that overlaps with the GRYD zone but
is not identical.27 With 50 officers deployed in a rather small area, the approach is to saturate the area with
visible law enforcement presence. Individual teams of officers focus on specific issues (i.e. gang, parking
violations, street vending etc.) in an effort to improve the overall quality of life in the area. Officers, however,
raised the concern that SCI can easily become a temporary “Band-Aid” solution if funding is discontinued.
Without a more long-term strategy to improve the conditions in the neighborhood, law enforcement efforts,
such as SCI, alone could not have a sustainable impact.

Efforts are also underway to strengthen the Division’s relationship with the community as a whole. For
example, Project Amigo was initiated to open a communication channel between parents and officers and to
facilitate information-sharing. The involvement of a Spanish-speaking officer seems to have improved trust
over time. However, at the time of this report, the officer had left and a new officer, who does not speak
Spanish, was transitioning into the position. Although some parents expressed trepidation about this change,
they were willing to invest more time into developing a relationship with the new officer.

The case of Project Amigo speaks to many of the residents’ underlying concerns about the persistent
disconnect between the Mission Division and the community, as was acknowledged by both the Division
leadership and officers. The language barrier was one of the reasons behind this disconnect as was the
frequently changing personnel. The issue of the language barrier, however, can be addressed relatively easily
through improved outreach using Spanish-speaking officers, as was demonstrated by the initial success of
Project Amigo.

A more challenging barrier is the perception within the community that officers routinely stop residents to
check identification, impounding their vehicles when no identification is produced, and that they work with
Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to deport undocumented immigrants. Officers also spoke
about the residents’ complaints that too many citations are given and that these citations are a significant
financial burden on the GRYD’s working class families. Despite the Division leadership’s repeated efforts to
assure the community of their intentions to work with the community, mistrust remains high and is often
cited as the reason residents are unwilling to report crime or cooperate with investigations.

Mission Division has a history of collaboration with multiple partners, for example the pilot program with the
Los Angeles County Probation Department. In addition, the area has several gang injunctions in place
including the Blythe Street and Langdon Street injunctions. The City Attorney previously had a School
Prosecutor program at Panorama High School, just south of the GRYD zone. Given the experience of
various agencies in this area and the existing relationships, operationalization of the new CLEAR team poses
minimal challenges. As the new CLEAR team is established, the City Attorney’s office identified the need for
coordination between juvenile and adult criminal justice processes and a comprehensive reentry strategy that
does not rely solely on law enforcement to reduce the high rate of recidivism among youth.

One area in need of improvement is the Mission Division’s relationship with gang intervention workers.
While the leadership of both the Mission Division and the gang intervention agency have invested a great deal
of time and resources in building a partnership, this sense of collaboration was not operational at the ground
level. Many officers were unclear on the role of hardcore gang intervention and cited incidents where they
felt that the gang intervention staff worked at cross-purposes rather than in cooperation with law
enforcement. Officers stressed the need for accountability and “checks and balances” to document the
impact of hardcore gang intervention on reducing violence. Building upon the existing strong relationship at


27The boundaries for the Safer Cities Initiative are Nordoff Street to the north, Roscoe Avenue to the south, Van Nuys
Boulevard to the east and the 405 Freeway to the west.


                                                         15
the leadership level, more training and a clear communication protocol between gang intervention workers
and officers that protects the independence of both are needed.

       E. Community and Civic Based Organizations

“It’s our duty to support these families.” – Community Leader

“What is missing is unity. We need to help one another.” – Parent

In the Panorama City/Mission GRYD, there exists a heightened awareness of the area’s gang dynamics,
tensions and impact on the GRYD community as a whole. Across all sectors, there was a general acceptance
that something has to be done to address the growing pervasiveness of the area’s gangs. Most, if not all,
community-based and civic organizations interviewed throughout this assessment recognized that they have a
key and critical role to play in addressing the environmental, societal, family, and individual level risk factors
that sustain gangs and violence in the GRYD.

Currently, there are a number of collaborative efforts taking place in the GRYD area. Most notably, the
recently-established Panorama City Neighborhood Council has made the issue of gangs a top priority. This
past summer, the Neighborhood Council organized a gang summit with the goal of outreaching to and
creating a database of the area’s prevention, intervention, suppression and reentry services in an effort to
enhance collaboration. With the presence of community, civic and City leaders and overall high turnout, the
gang summit exceeded the expectations of many and prominently illustrated the potential the Panorama City
Neighborhood Council has as a convener of key stakeholders around this issue.

Other examples of City and civic collaboration include Council District 7’s efforts to promote local leadership
among community residents through the “Madres/Comadres” program modeled after similar efforts that rely
on mothers and other respected woman to organize around issues that affect their community.28 At the
regional level, the San Fernando Valley Coalition on Gangs has also played a key role as the convener of
multiple community and government stakeholders since 2001. The Coalition is an example of a broad
interagency and multi-jurisdictional partnership that a gang reduction strategy would need to tap into.

“CBOs have tracked different segments of the population. We need to get together and talk about our different programs.” –
Community Leader

The Panorama City/Mission GRYD and its surrounding area is home to many well-established and
comprehensive community-based organizations (CBOs). Many of the major organizations believe in a
holistic approach where residents can receive multiple types of services or referrals. The most prevalent
services in the GRYD area are health-related, including mental health and substance abuse services. There is
only one service provider in the GRYD that specifically targets gang-involved youth and their families. In
addition to these organizations, there is an active civic and faith-based volunteer community in the GRYD.

“We need to embrace and create a community around the child. These issues are not insular — they affect parents and children
simultaneously.” – Service Provider

Community-based organizations agreed that any effort to address gangs in the GRYD would need to be
centered on the family as a whole: “You got to treat the family. You got to bridge programs together.” Most
CBOs, however, recognized that they lacked the capacity to fully service families whose needs often exceeded
the agency’s scope. Despite this realization, most CBOs were not working with each other to build a
continuum of services that is robust enough to match the area’s need. Some agencies attributed this to a lack

28   Tony Castro, “Alarcon, LAPD Vow to Make Gang-Plagued Residents Safer,” Daily News, July 27, 2007.


                                                            16
of awareness and information about other programs. In addition, some GRYD agencies serve specific target
populations through County referrals, thus limiting the community’s access to all the services they offer.
While a variety of programs exist within the GRYD area, there is a lack of coordination and collaboration
among prevention and intervention service providers. As one community leader stated, “Just because you
have a program, doesn’t mean people are going to cooperate,” indicating the need for relationship
development across all sectors.

“I do my best to help my kids. But I feel like there is more to learn.” – Parent

GRYD parents cited an overwhelming need for information on community resources. The need for parent
education was a constant theme across all parent focus groups. While many GRYD parents took
responsibility for their children’s outcomes, they also cited the need for parenting classes that can help them
prevent their children from joining gangs. Residents strongly believed that families were one of the key
institutions responsible for improving safety in the GRYD, yet were cited as being ineffective in doing so.29
As one parent of a gang-involved youth shared, “You can’t leave it to police and churches. Parents need to
know kids’ friends, but it’s hard. Sometimes a parent notices too late.” Service providers that work directly
with parents also noted the need for parents to be equal partners in seeking solutions for their families’ issues:
“Ask the family what they think is going to help, because sometimes we tell them what to do when they have
a simple solution.”

“Youth need more programs. Diversion activities, like boxing. They need things to distract them.” – Youth

Among youth, the most common needs echoed throughout this assessment were programming spaces with
adequate supervision that offer an alternative to the streets. Youth cited afterschool and other recreational
and youth programming as crucial in deterring gang involvement. One youth shared that “this program
helped me change from being a bad kid to a more calmed down kid” while another youth stated that youth
programs “make you think about something else and not the streets.” As such, the most commonly-cited
needs among residents and service providers involved primary prevention activities including afterschool,
recreational and youth development programs.

“You can’t stop the cycle of violence with an $8.50 an hour job and a pamphlet.” – Law Enforcement

Among reentry service providers and law enforcement agencies, there was resounding consensus on the need
for a streamlined, coordinated community reintegration plan that proactively identifies resources for youth
and adult probationers and parolees. School administrators in particular noted the high number of probation
youth at Monroe High School and the lack of school-based reentry programs, sometimes resulting in youth
being “OTed” – opportunity transferred – out of the school due to safety concerns that were occasionally
unsubstantiated. As probationers end up dropping out of school, many are unable to find an accessible
alternative school due to safety issues concerning rival gangs. Many of these youth dropout of school
altogether and the need to secure employment becomes crucial. 30

“The key is follow-up.” – Law Enforcement

Law enforcement entities noted the importance of securing and maintaining a job as key to preventing
recidivism among the area’s probation and parole youth and adults. Some challenges to successfully
reintegrating into society included educational barriers, substance abuse, as well as underlying mental health
issues: “Often times, many of these individuals have experienced PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder).

29 See Appendix 4
30 In 2006, Monroe High School had the second highest number of probation youth within a LAUSD high school
attendance boundary with 56 youth.


                                                              17
They’ve seen their brother being killed; more see someone killed than see someone they know graduate.”
Some service providers attributed untreated mental health issues as the underlying cause of substance abuse
and violent activity. While some stated that mental health services were available to GRYD residents, service
providers noted the stigma – being perceived as “crazy” – attached to receiving mental health services. In
addition, one service provider observed that the mental health system can be intimidating, highlighting the
need for the reentry service providers to advocate for their clients.

    F. Informal Infrastructure

As many immigrant communities continue to settle and grow within the GRYD, they have formed an
informal infrastructure that permeates the area’s densest areas. Through church groups, soccer leagues, street
vending and other social networking activities, many marginalized undocumented residents have formed their
own support systems, as they are unable or afraid to engage the area’s formal institutional infrastructure.

Residents expressed the need for informational and recreational activities targeted to families at the
community level, including ESL classes, health fairs, and sports programs as a way to bridge the gap between
themselves and the formal institutions. Many of the GRYD area’s organizations have found ways to service
this population through fundraising activities and other grants. Nevertheless, many service providers cited
the multiple barriers in their funding streams to be able to adequately service the existing undocumented
population.

In addition to service barriers, many residents noted the barriers to legal employment causing them to seek
alternative sources of income, including street vending. Countless times, the issue of street vending became a
point of contention and frustration among residents who believed the City’s confiscation of their wares was
unjustifiable. Compounded by the widespread belief that LAPD works directly with ICE to target
immigrants, many of the GRYDs residents refuse to call the police, resulting in the underreporting of crime.
Many community-based institutions that have garnered the trust of the community work diligently to build
and rebuild collaborative, working relationships between residents and the GRYD’s institutional
infrastructure.




                                                     18
Gangs

“Gang involvement is a cry for community and belonging.” – Service Provider

Gangs affect the quality of life for all the residents in the GRYD. Local infrastructures, such as schools,
parks and housing, are all disrupted by the presence and activities of gangs, which limit their capacity to
address the conditions that may nurture and sustain gangs. In considering gang crime and violence, quality of
life issues often become the focal point for residents. GRYD residents repeatedly cited the presence of drug
activity, public drunkenness and prostitution – sometimes more often than gang activity – as significant safety
concerns as they walked throughout the GRYD’s busiest thoroughfares and narrow streets. In addition,
many called attention to the environmental structures that attract illicit activity, including rows of apartment
buildings, vacant lots, and dead-end streets caused by the 405 Freeway and the Pacoima Wash. Families who
live in the GRYD’s densest areas, perceive crime to be high, as they witness the same crimes occurring within
the same block on a daily basis. While the per capita crime rate may be low, the experience of community
residents in areas with high concentrations of crime provides the context in which the GRYD’s gangs
operate.

LAPD estimates that there are at least seven active gangs within the Mission Division.31 Specifically, the
Panorama City/Mission GRYD contains at least four gangs, which are predominantly Latino. Two areas of
the GRYD fall under existing gang injunctions for two gangs — Blythe Street (injunction enacted in 1993),
and Langdon Street (1999) – - whose territories include areas inside and outside the GRYD.

Active Gangs

One of the first street gangs to form in the surrounding GRYD area is Blythe Street, whose territory lies
mostly outside the GRYD south of Roscoe Boulevard. As a result of the injunction, however, the GRYD
witnesses Blythe Street activity as the injunction has pushed crime northward. The Blythe Street gang, which
is believed to have started in the late-1970s, is considered one of the oldest gangs in the area.

The North Hills area is home to two local rival gangs — Columbus and Langdon Street gangs. These gangs
split from a former gang called the Sepulvedas, or SEPAs, in the early 1980s. The Langdon Street gang
formed near the apartment buildings on Langdon and Rayen Streets. Columbus Street originated around
Nordoff Street and Roscoe Boulevard. The fourth major street gang located in the GRYD, Vincent Town,
emerged in the 1990s and originated from the town of San Vincente, in the Mexican state of Nayarit. While
Vincent Town used to have close associations with Columbus Street, the two have since become rivals in the
last few years.

In addition to the traditional gangs, a few other gangs have a noticeable presence immediately outside the
GRYD. The TJ Locos formed in the 1980s and have a low-key presence around Orion Street south of
Roscoe Boulevard. In addition, since 2003, there has been an influx of “transitional” gang members, who
claim membership in gangs that are outside of the area, as far away as South Los Angeles, and have relocated
to the area due to the existence of affordable housing and/or parole regulations.

The aforementioned gangs are predominantly Latino, which reflects the racial/ethnic composition of the
area. In recent years, there has been an increased Latino presence, particularly from Central America, in the
area east of the 405 freeway. Gangs such as Columbus, Langdon and TJ Locos have recently included
members from Honduras, Guatemala and other Central American countries. In addition, Liggett Street gang
has both African American and Latino members.


31   See Appendix 7.


                                                          19
                     Table 1: Active Gangs in the Panorama City/Mission GRYD

                                      Gangs                          Members

                                Blythe Street (BST)                      273

                               Langdon Street (LST)                      210

                              Columbus Street (CST)                      218

                                  Vincent Town                           115

                                      Source: LAPD Mission Division


Gang Crime and Violent Crime

According to the 2007 LAPD data, about 25% of the 215 gang crimes reported in the GRYD were violent
crimes.32 Violent crimes include homicide, robbery and aggravated assault but do not include rape. Violent
crimes are also concentrated in the GRYD (particularly in the southeast corner) with 293 violent crimes
occurring within the GRYD zone in 2007. The majority of violent crimes (51%) within the GRYD in 2007
occurred between the hours of 4:00 p.m. and 12:00 a.m. In the previous two years, these hours have had the
largest number of reported violent crimes. In 2007, the GRYD suffered three homicides; one of which was
gang-related.

Young residents in the Panorama City GRYD constitute a significant proportion of violent crime victims.
About 45% of the victims of violent crime, in which the age of the victims was available, were under the age
of 25. Gang-related crime victimization increased for all age groups between 2005 and 2007, most notably
for people under age 18. Property crime also increased for youth, though the number of property crime
victims decreased in older age groups. Violent crime increased substantially for people over age 45, while such
crime decreased for people between the ages of 18 and 34.

The Panorama City/Mission GRYD zone suffered over 900 property crimes in 2007. These crimes were
concentrated in the southeast corner of the zone and in areas south of it. Property crimes include burglary,
grand theft auto, burglary/theft from vehicle, grand theft person and other theft. In terms of crime trends,
property crime fell between 2005 and 2006, but then rose again in 2007. Violent crime rate remained
relatively steady with 2007 having the lowest number of reported violence crimes in the previous two years.

While gang crime, violent crime and property crime are concentrated and relatively high in the Panorama
City/Mission GRYD, LAPD statistics may not provide a complete picture of the full extent of those
activities. Given the area’s significant immigrant population, there may be a community tendency to
underreport crimes due to fear of deportation, mistrust of LAPD, and/or a fear of gang retaliation.




32 One Panorama City Block Group—south of Parthenia Street and between Sepulveda Blvd and Norwich Ave—had 10

times the LAPD Block Group average for gang-related crimes. Overall, Block Groups in the GRYD zone averaged 27
gang crimes (more than five times the LAPD Block Group mean).


                                                      20
Characteristics of Gang Activity

Robberies, burglaries, grand theft auto, aggravated assault, and drug sales are the most commonly cited gang-
related crimes within the GRYD. Gangs in the GRYD and surrounding areas are heavily involved in the sale
of narcotics. With the area known as an open-air drug market, gangs are increasingly involved in a significant
proportion of the total drug sales and purchases in the area, according to LAPD. Methamphetamine, cocaine
and marijuana are significant sources of revenue for many of the area’s gangs, according to local service
providers. In addition, there are a significant number of drug sales and purchases that are conducted by non-
gang-involved individuals and gangs from outside the GRYD area.

The activities of gangs in this area are shifting in large part due to gang injunctions. Consequently, many
gangs, most notably Blythe Street, have expanded their activities, including recruitment, to areas outside of
their traditional territories. In addition, increased gang suppression has led to the incarceration of many gang
leaders, which may be responsible for much of the reported volatility and violence of younger gang members
as they try to fill the leadership vacuum. Disputes over gang territories, particularly between Langdon Street
and Columbus Street, have been most frequently cited as the cause of much of the recent gang violence in the
GRYD.

Recruitment

The age of gang joining is reportedly becoming increasingly younger with youth as early as elementary school
identifying with a gang. As one school personnel said, “Elementary schools… that’s where the need is and
that’s where recruiting takes place.” The pervasiveness of gangs in the GRYD and the aggressiveness of gang
recruitment are some of the major reasons for joining a gang. As one gang-involved youth shared, “Crews
recruit and you have no choice but to join or else you get rushed in… you can’t avoid them so might as well
join them.” Some service providers have noted a positive correlation between the high arrest and
incarceration of gang members around the GRYD and the use of more elevated, aggressive recruitment
tactics to backfill their membership. In addition, some noted that young females are being recruited to entice
young males into joining gangs. Drugs are also commonly used as methods of “enticement.”

Tagging Crews

The emergence and evolution of tagging crews are frequently mentioned by service providers and law
enforcement. These “tag bangers” range from ages 10 to 15, and are involved in drug-related activities and
are becoming increasingly violent and in some cases, more violent than traditional gangs. While some of
these tag bangers are affiliated with local gangs that offer protection and a direct pipeline into gangs, other
crews lack allegiance to a single gang. Some of these tag bangers are “hood hoppers” who jump from one
gang to another. In certain cases, tagging crews that gain notoriety and become visible enough to be targeted
by law enforcement would change their gang moniker or switch affiliations. One aggressive tagging crew
identified by law enforcement is “Stomp on Haters,” which gathers in the Tobias Avenue Park area.

Factors for Gang Involvement

“If a kid wants to join a gang, he’ll join a gang. If he wants to go to school and follow his dreams, he will.” – Gang-involved
Youth

“Can’t go to North Hills or Sepulveda parks; can’t go to Langdon Elementary because we’re gang members. So, what are we
supposed to do?” – Gang-involved Youth

According to parent, youth and service provider focus groups, many factors have been identified as
contributing factors for youth gang involvement. The most commonly identified were the following:


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         Safety/Protection (“Have your back”)
         A sense of belonging
         Economic gain/support family
         Seeking respect/status
         Pervasiveness of local gang culture (“Where you live”)
         Lack of family cohesion
         Family/sibling gang involvement
         Boredom

Safety and protection from chronic victimization were seen as important factors that lead to gang
involvement. Also, the lack of financial resources and the need to supplement family income coupled with
the ready access to drugs were also major factors that pulled individuals to gang involvement. In addition, the
lack of family cohesion and lack of supervision are significant risk factors that increase the likelihood for gang
joining. Some youth mentioned sibling or other family involvement in gangs as reasons for gang joining.
Youth commonly expressed a strong need for belonging to affirm their self-esteem and status and to gain
recognition among their peers. This may push youth to seek negative peer networks, particularly in the
absence of robust support systems and positive alternatives to gang activities. As one youth stated, “when
you don’t fit in, your options are very limited.”

Gang Intervention

“If we don’t have an answer, we find it for them.” – Gang Intervention Worker

As the existing Bridges II contractor in the Valley, Communities in Schools has built up a capacity to conduct
gang intervention in the GRYD and its surrounding areas. In addition to hardcore gang intervention,
Communities in Schools provides prevention and reentry services for current and former gang members and
their families. The establishment of the “Yellow Tape Protocol” with local law enforcement is the first step
in building a collaborative effort among multiple stakeholders. Many institutions, however, including law
enforcement and schools, did not fully understand the purpose and methods that gang intervention
practitioners utilize, and called for the need for increased accountability. While other gang intervention
efforts are informally taking place in the GRYD area, we were not able to contact them in time for this
assessment.




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Summary of Needs, Resources, and Gaps

During the assessment process, the Advancement Project partnered with a community-based organization to
gather surveys among Latino residents in the area. A few days after the survey was administered, the
residents encountered a driver’s license check point, routinely conducted by LAPD Safer City Initiative
officers throughout the GRYD zone. The residents approached the community-based organization with
questions whether the driver’s license check point had targeted them specifically because of their answers to
the survey. Although the organization’s leadership assured the residents that the surveys had not yet been
turned in and that their answers would in no way lead to individual targeting by police officers, residents left
still skeptical about what had happened.

As with many other areas in the City of Los Angeles where there is a large concentration of immigrant
families, many of whom are undocumented, the Panorama City/Mission GRYD zone includes both a formal
and an informal infrastructure. While the formal structure, which includes law enforcement, schools, service
providers, City and County providers and businesses, is mindful of the need to outreach to the families in the
area, language and cultural barriers as well as the lack of information and fear of deportation impede access
for many residents. Even the limited opportunities available through the informal infrastructure such as
street vending and social networks formed among neighbors seem fragile and susceptible to pressures from
the formal structure. As several street vendors noted, their livelihood is often interrupted by police officers
who give citations that the vendors cannot afford to pay or who confiscate their goods and impound their
vehicles.

The vulnerability of this largely immigrant population who is attracted to the area by the cheap rents and
flexible managers who allow multiple families to occupy a single unit allow the entrenched gang culture to
dominate and flourish. In an area dominated by large apartment units, some of them with more than 200 or
300 units and with very few safe, public spaces, families struggle to keep their children and youth out of
trouble and engaged in productive activities. Overcrowded housing forces youth to congregate on the streets
exposing them to gang recruitment and other crime occurring throughout the GRYD zone that is a well-
known open drug market. With well-defined gang territories around schools, youth fear gang recruitment and
victimization on the way to and from school. There is a great need for a primary prevention network that
employs a family-centered approach. Such a network would include safe and productive alternatives in and
outside of school for the majority of youth in the area, as well as culturally competent strategies to engage
parents.

The area’s community leaders and public institutions have begun to work together to build a safer
community. Emerging civic and business networks are committed to fully participating in a community
strategy, and LAPD’s Mission Division has made important strides in building relationships in the
community. Newly-constructed schools offer needed space as well as parent centers that can promote parent
engagement.

While the GRYD strategy in the Panorama City area needs to capitalize on these recent positive
developments and build coordination across sectors to do so, the conditions that spawn and sustain gangs in
the area, including extreme density and lack of economic opportunities, can deteriorate rapidly due to the
transient nature of the community and the potential negative impact of the broader economic downturn. The
large number of vulnerable and marginalized immigrant families in the area are particularly in jeopardy as
even minor fallbacks can devolve into a major crisis. Sustainable stabilization of the violence and gang
activity in the area will require a more long-term strategy that includes community leadership development,
economic revitalization, and lasting partnership with multiple sectors in the community.




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Recommendations

Defining the GRYD

           •   Redefine and/or expand the GRYD boundaries to include Blythe Street south of the GRYD
               and the surrounding neighborhood, given the historically high level of gang activity in the
               area.

           •   Consider expanding the boundaries to include the area immediately surrounding Sepulveda
               Middle School and/or Monroe High School, given the territorial disputes between gangs in
               and around those schools.

Safety for Children and Youth: Targeted Prevention at the Community Level

           •   Develop comprehensive safe passage to and from schools in coordination with LAPD, local
               businesses and surrounding schools, particularly Monroe High School, Sepulveda Middle
               School, Vista Middle School and Panorama High School.

           •   Establish afterschool programs structured around sports, recreation, and youth development
               activities in Recreation and Parks facilities and schools. Ensure program access for youth in
               the GRYD and immediately surrounding areas, as well as adequate supervision.

           •   Maximize the utilization of existing Recreation and Parks facilities in the area by extending
               their operational hours and developing structured afterschool programs adequately
               supervised by trained staff. Plan for summer, if not year-round, park activities geared
               towards local children and their families.

           •   Promote parent education and awareness workshops regarding neighborhood safety issues
               and empower local parents to develop neighborhood safety groups.

Community Organizing Activities

           •   Conduct multiple Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) sessions
               with youth and families in order to identify actionable neighborhood improvement projects
               and involve relevant City departments to assist the community in implementing the action
               items. These include broken street lights and maintenance, graffiti removal, trash and bulky
               item pick-up, nuisance properties, improvement of storefronts, animal control, etc.

           •   Develop a Community Empowerment Team to foster leadership within the community to
               advise and eventually provide oversight of the gang reduction strategy. Include Panorama
               City Neighborhood Council, LAUSD, LAPD, LAFD, schools, Parks and Recreation and
               County representatives, as well as community, youth and faith-based leaders and prevention
               and intervention service providers. The Team’s priorities should be to:
                   o Develop on-going communication channels between participating entities and
                       actively solicit community input;
                   o Enhance collaboration to leverage resources and maximize the effectiveness of
                       targeted prevention and intervention services; and
                   o Identify priority needs for the area, and develop both short- and long-term action
                       plans to meet the needs of the community.


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           •   Engage business communities, particularly along Roscoe Boulevard and Van Nuys
               Boulevard, along with faith-based communities. Leverage their strengths to promote
               community-wide family-centered activities to increase community cohesion and awareness.


Targeted Prevention for Youth At-Risk of Gang Joining

           •   Develop a service provider network to determine existing prevention and intervention
               capacities in the area, particularly noting opportunities to create referral and collaboration
               linkages between providers.

           •   Streamline existing targeted prevention resources in the area and prioritize family oriented,
               culturally competent service delivery models that serve parents and their children. Prioritize
               establishing service capacity for:
                      o Parent education and support;
                      o Youth leadership and development activities; and
                      o Mental health services and substance abuse treatment.

           •   Expand opportunities for youth employment by coordinating efforts with local businesses,
               educational institutions and community based organizations.

           •   Develop more generalized primary prevention opportunities for recreational, arts and
               cultural enrichment, and sports activities that can serve a broad sector of youth including
               those at higher risk of gang joining.

Intervention

           •   Educate community stakeholders and other public and private stakeholders about the role of
               gang intervention.

           •   Facilitate the formation of communication and operational protocol between gang
               intervention workers and LAPD.

           •   Enhance coordination with other prevention and intervention resources that service the
               GRYD zone. Include buy-in from local schools in coordination efforts.


Suppression

           •   Improve community relations and address barriers specifically around language access and
               cultural competency.

           •   Ensure coordination between existing suppression efforts (Safer Cities Initiative, Gang
               injunctions, new CLEAR site) to maximize their impact.

           •   Engage key community stakeholders to advise implementation of the new CLEAR unit by
               ensuring a broad representation on the Community Impact Team and its robust operation.
               The team can also promote linkages to prevention and intervention services.



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Reentry

          •   Increase investment in reentry services. Focus on job readiness and placement services
              linked to accessible mental health, substance abuse and housing support.

          •   Provide comprehensive reentry support for all probation youth within the GRYD to help
              facilitate their transition back into schools and to improve educational outcomes.

          •   Improve coordination between gang intervention workers and reentry services to facilitate
              exit strategies for gang members.

          •   Improve coordination between adult and youth probation and parole.


General Recommendations

          •   Implement long-term economic development strategies that meet the needs of current
              community residents, such as livable wage jobs and affordable housing.

          •   Work with CRA to increase homeownership opportunities for low- to middle- income
              residents. Work with Council District 7 and CRA to implement recommendations from the
              North Hills Safe Cities Initiative workshop.

          •   Work with apartment owners to identify space that residents can use for family and youth
              activities.

          •   With other appropriate City departments, explore ways to regulate and support street
              vending as a form of micro-enterprise development.




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