In the wake of the fatal shooting of a Venice High School student early this month, Los Angeles City officials are looking at ways to increase programs serving at-risk youths in the Venice and Del Rey communities.
The Los Angeles City Council approved a motion Friday, June 23rd, presented by Councilman Bill Rosendahl, calling on a host of city agencies to identify additional funding options for at-risk youth programs in the two communities.
The City Council also directed various city agencies to establish a “safe passages” program at Venice High School, as well as to find ways to calm tensions and prevent additional violence in the local communities.
The proposal came only weeks after the June 5th shooting death of 17-year-old Venice High School student Agustin Contreras on the high school faculty parking lot.
Police said Contreras, who was reportedly not involved in gangs, was trying to protect his younger brothers during an apparent gang-related fight.
The alleged shooter remains at large but the City Council has approved a $50,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of Contreras’s killers.
The death of Contreras has given the city an “opportunity to seize the moment” in bringing more focus to dealing with community issues related to gangs, Rosendahl said.
“We must find the perpetrators of this heinous crime and bring them to justice,” Rosendahl said. “At the same time, we need to stop the cycle of senseless violence that took his life.
“To do that, we must offer more opportunities to at-risk youths to lure them away from gangs.”
Such opportunities include additional jobs and after-school programs, Rosendahl said.
At a Venice town hall meeting held a day after Contreras’s death, many community members agreed that more after-school programs and summer job opportunities are needed to prevent youths from resorting to gangs, Rosendahl said.
While there are some existing programs serving at-risk youths in the Venice and Del Rey areas, there are “not enough,” he said.
The City Council has directed officials from the Los Angeles Police Department, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s office, the city Department of Recreation and Parks and the Commission on Children, Youth and Their Families, to explore ways to increase funding programs for at-risk youths in the communities.
The proposal calls for the agencies to prepare a list of job training and at-risk youth employment programs, and to publicize those programs in the Venice and Del Rey communities.
“This is a way to really get funding for youths in those areas in a variety of ways,” said Safiya Jones, Rosendahl’s press deputy.
As part of the City Council proposal, officials from the Los Angeles Unified School District, local Neighborhood Councils and other city agencies will explore ways to establish a “safe passages” program at Venice High School.
The program, which is offered at some other city high schools, is aimed at helping youths get home from school safely, Jones said.
The city Human Relations Commission has also been directed to work with the Los Angeles Police Department, local neighborhood groups and officials at Venice High School and Mark Twain Middle School in Del Rey, to try to “calm tensions and prevent any additional violence” in the two communities.
“I’d like to see more safety and security issues resolved at the (Venice) high school,” Rosendahl said.
Human Relations Commission executive director Rabbi Allen Freehling said the commission had already been devoting resources and staff members to Venice High School prior to the final day of school, Friday, June 23rd.
The commission plans to develop an inventory of resources in the Oakwood neighborhood of Venice to “help make life more peaceful and harmonious,” Freehling said. Commission members will also facilitate community forums to determine what the residents need, he said.
The problems in Venice and Del Rey will be better solved when members of the community work together in an effort to improve their community, he said.
“If people come together they find that they have a lot of common interests and a desire to improve the community,” he said.
“It’s just a question of getting them together.”