The California Wellness Foundation’s annual Conference on Violence Prevention took place on Tuesday and Wednesday of this week, with the idea of policy-talking, idea exchanging and, of course, networking—with a bit of sideline gossip thrown in (human beings being….well…human).
There were people in town for the two day event from D.C. representing the various parts of the Department of Justice, specifically those who concern themselves with, not the law enforcement end, but the programatical side of addressing gang violence. Among those in attendance were Thomas Abt from the Office of Justice Programs (OJP), and Louis Tuthill from the National institute of Justice (NIJ)—which is basically the research arm of the DOJ.
Still the group was not without it’s smattering of law enforcement types; Special Agent John Torres from the ATF was there, along with a cluster from LA County probation and some deputy police chiefs.
Naturally there were folks from city governments, local and out of state. Among the LA contingent who came there was City Council member Tony Cardenas, and Guillermo Cespedes, LA’s Deputy Mayor who heads up the city’s gang violence prevention and intervention programs.
PLUS there were academic experts like my friend Jorja Leap from UCLA’s School of Public Affairs, Angela Wolf from the National Council on Crime and Delinquency, Barry Krisberg from Berkeley’s Center of Criminal Justice—and so on and so on.
But outnumbering the policy wonks and research minds, were the heads of organizations doing ground level work in the world of violence prevention, most of them working with the gang issue in some way or another—people like Dawn Brown from Girls & Gangs, Aquil Basheer, who was one of this year’s Peace Prize recipients, Blinky Rodriguez and Bobby Arias from Communities in Schools. Skipp Townsend from 2nd Call, Carol Biondi who is involved with Camp David Gonzales (among other places)….and many more.
Even Alex Sanchez, from Homies Unidos, was there on Tuesday night, when he seemed to be constantly surrounded with clusters of well-wishers, most of whom had not seen him since before his arrest on RICO charges in June 2009.
If there was one theme to the panels, side meetings and spontaneous ad-hoc discussions that took place during the nearly two-days of the event it was a single question: what really works when it comes to solving the problem of gang violence?
By the time the conference ended—as might be expected—, the answer was still very much up for grabs.
Speaking personally, however, I came away with an armful of new stories, great new contacts and informants, and many new shards of inspiration—all of which will be informing posts here in the weeks and months to come.