Continuing to seek funding and other support for community services, representatives of Venice 2000 held an event Friday, December 5th, to provide awareness about the importance of gang intervention services in the Venice community.

The panel discussion involved representatives of the Venice gang intervention organization, including executive director Stan Muhammad, director Melvyn Hayward, Jr., director George Avalos, board member Tom Hayden and case manager Claudia Bracho. The event was held in conjunction with “First Fridays,” in which businesses on Abbot Kinney Boulevard in Venice extend their operating hours on the first Friday of each month.

Hayden, a former state senator, signed copies of his book Street Wars: Gangs and the Future of Violence at the discussion and proceeds from the event will go to Venice 2000.

The panelists discussed the impact of the current economic crisis on the potential increase in violence and loss of funding for intervention programs such as Venice 2000. The loss of funding for programs related to education and training, drug and alcohol rehabilitation and gang intervention can affect the quality of life for people in the community, the panelists said.

“The event was to let the community know about the importance of Venice 2000 to the community and to the youths in the community,” Venice 2000 executive assistant Marie Ann Balthard said.

Muhammad has said the organization is troubled by the possible loss of city funding under a plan by Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa to target gang reduction services in sections of the city that are considered the most violent, areas known as Gang Reduction and Youth Development zones. Each of the 12 zones, areas such as Cypress Park and Watts, is slated to receive $1 million for prevention services and another $500,000 for intervention.

But Muhammad and City Councilman Bill Rosendahl have expressed frustration that none of the 11th Council District communities are designated zones, as places like Venice have suffered from gang crime in the past but are not considered to be the most violent. Muhammad referred to incidents of gang violence that Venice experienced in the early 1990s and noted that the situation has improved because of the work by Venice 2000.

“We wanted to inform people about where we are at and the impact it could have if we don’t get funding,” said Muhammad, who is also a Venice Neighborhood Council member.

Venice Neighborhood Council president Mike Newhouse, who moderated the panel discussion, also said that Venice has become a safer community because of the efforts of the Los Angeles Police Department and Venice 2000.

“The panelists made it clear about the kind of work they’ve done in the past and that they want to be able to continue to do it in the future,” Newhouse said.

According to Villaraigosa’s office, organizations such as Venice 2000 have the opportunity to compete for some of the $2.4 million in funding that has been set aside for general prevention and intervention services in communities that are not covered by the gang reduction zones. Muhammad said the applications are due December 15th and he is confident Venice 2000 has made its case for needed funding.

“We’re definitely competing for (funding),” he said.

In addition to providing awareness, Muhammad said the December 5th discussion was intended to acquire more support for his organization, which plans to get people involved as “Friends of Venice 2000.”

Those wishing to get involved with Venice 2000 may go to www.venice2000.org/ or call (310) 823-6100.

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