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Teen Gang Prevention Program

County of Los Angeles Public Library

Innovation Leader: Debbie Anderson, Youth Services Coordinator, danderson@library.lacounty.gov

Problem Statement

Gang activity in several Los Angeles County communities continues to rise. Though some suppression programs offered by law enforcement have helped to lower the number of gang-related crimes, these efforts do not address prevention opportunities to reach youth before they join gangs.

Innovation

The Los Angeles County Library created a program of meaningful activities and provided a welcoming environment to youth who are at risk for joining gangs in three communities with high rates of gang activity. The Library’s Teen Gang Prevention coordinator, funded by the Board of Supervisors, worked with County Sheriff, Probation, Mental Health and Parks departments to plan and customize programs with local teen appeal. Programs such as employment workshops, library card campaigns, library resource orientations and opportunities for creative expression as a positive outlet have all been provided at each of the three libraries. Participating teens created sculpture and paintings. They also produced a video using state of the art equipment on a mobile video production studio. The teens attended a play performed by a theatrical group that uses music, dance and comedy to remind today’s youth to remember the past and the sacrifices made for them by others. Library staff provided reading/educational programs and recreational activities to youth during the summer months at three County Libraries; they have also taken programs outside of the library walls by providing many of the same programs at partner parks. Bilingual computer classes and book clubs are just some of the programs hosted during the summer. A strong component of the programming has involved close partnerships and collaborations with community organizations, teen clubs, law enforcement, Parks, school-based Probation officers, educational organizations and schools. Such partnerships have helped to promote the library programs to the target audience. An emphasis on the Library having a visible presence at community job and resource fairs has been another important element of the program.

Progress

Since the Library’s program inception in July 2010, over 100 programs for at-risk youth have been hosted. Teens who were not library users are now comfortable with the resources that the library has to offer and have received library cards and orientations. Library staff made connections with the teens and their families so that they feel welcome and recognize the library as a safe place to visit and an important community resource. A sense of community cohesion has been created with outreach to organizations and groups that serve teens. Information about library resources has reached teens through a variety of outlets.