Community leaders discussed the root causes of gang violence today during the start of a two-day conference in Los Angeles, with a nonprofit director saying the key to preventing violence is by treating it as a public health issue.
The Los Angeles Gang Violence Prevent & Intervention Conference runs through Tuesday at the California Endowment on Alameda Street in downtown Los Angeles.
Too often, gang violence is treated as an issue of criminal justice, according to Kaile Shilling, director of the Violence Prevention Coalition of Greater Los Angeles.
"Violence is better seen and addressed as an issue of public health rather than an issue of criminal justice," Shilling said. "And that really does mean re-framing to say what causes violence, instead of how do we respond to violence."
Shilling pointed to the root causes that lead youth into gang activity including parenting practices, childhood trauma and the policies around mass incarceration and school discipline. Other causes include sexual abuse, substance abuse and mental health issues.
"That all contributes toward a default setting that pushes our young people into prison systems, into gangs and into violence," Shilling said.
A big step would be to stop demonizing young people and address the domestic violence that often leads youth into gang activity, she said.
Los Angeles is experiencing a 50-year low in homicides and gang-related homicides, according to Paul Carrillo, a co-chair of the conference. Still, he said there are pockets of violence.
"There are still very lethal and deadly, unsafe neighborhoods," Carrillo said.
He said the key to stamping out gang violence is to work with everyone in the community, from law enforcement to parents, churches and schools.
The conference, hosted in partnership with Hospitals Against Violence Empowering Neighborhoods, is meant to allow community leaders to come together to share knowledge, build relationships and work collaboratively to end gang violence.
--City News Service