SHERMAN OAKS—On Monday, April 24, the Public Works and Gang Reduction Committee of the Los Angeles City Council discussed ways to fight the rise of gang-related crime in the west San Fernando Valley. While the West Valley is not known for high rates of gang activity, crime rates have risen in the past 3 years.
Though the overall rate of crime in the Valley has gone down this year, it has increased by 16 percent in the West Valley division, in neighborhoods such as Sherman Oaks, Encino, and Tarzana, according to LAPD Valley Bureau Deputy Chief John Sherman.
According to a report by the LAPD and Mayor Eric Garcetti’s Office of Gang Reduction and Youth Development (GRYD), violent gang crime in the area has risen by 63 percent, with 177 incidents in 2014, 288 in 2015, and 289 in 2016. Crimes include murder, drug trafficking, and carjacking, among others. The report also indicated that there are currently 16 gangs in the West Valley.
Councilman Bob Blumenfield, who represents the 3rd Council District in the San Fernando Valley, raised the topic of increasing gang prevention services in the West Valley. The West Valley police division’s gang unit does not receive direct funding from GRYD, a $25 million program in 23 zones that focuses on gang prevention and intervention. The nearest GRYD zone is in the neighboring Topanga division, which has covered areas that include West Hills, Canoga Park, Winnetka, and Woodland Hills since 2011.
“There are a lot of people out there who think that the West Valley is gang-free; they are deeply mistaken. Not only must we fight those gangs head-on, but we must ensure that our children have good prevention programs and healthy after-school opportunities that divert kids from becoming gang members,” said Blumenfield at the meeting.
GRYD services include education campaigns and programs such as Summer Night Lights, which provides community events for youth at night to discourage gang-related activity. GRYD aims to “reduce gang-related violence and to strengthen individuals, families and entire communities,” according to their mission statement.
The committee proposed that the current GRYD zone expand its operations to the West Valley division and requested a report on the potential financial impact.