Religious, law enforcement and civic leaders gave themselves high marks Wednesday in their joint, yearlong war against crime and drugs, reaffirming their commitment to continue their battle for control of crime-ridden neighborhoods.
The campaign, organized by the South-Central Organizing Committee and its sister organization in East Los Angeles, the United Neighborhoods Organization, has included encouraging residents to report crimes, pushing for surplus Olympic money for youth athletic programs in those two areas and lobbying at the state and federal level for anti-crime measures.
About 150 religious and civic leaders gathered at the Wilshire Boulevard Temple for an update on the broad-ranged anti-crime program launched last year.
Among the campaign's successes, UNO and SCOC leaders reported that several bills proposed as part of the groups' anti-crime legislative package have been passed. Most carry stiffer sentences for drug-related crimes.
A former chairwoman of SCOC, Grace Trejo, said many drug "rock houses" have been shut down in the South-Central area through the cooperative efforts of police agencies and local residents.
"One of our most important successes has been building a constructive relationship with law enforcement agencies," she said, adding that residents have cooperated in establishing a "crime-reporting mechanism" in the two areas.
"There's a spirit of trust that's developed between law enforcement and the people," she said, adding that the two grass-roots organizations have developed a good relationship with various county law enforcement agencies.
As at previous gatherings, numerous public officials, including Dist. Atty. Ira Reiner, City Atty. James K. Hahn, Los Angeles County Sheriff Sherman Block and several area legislators, pledged continued support of the crime-fighting effort. The two church-based organizations, which together claim to represent about 140,000 families, are among the most influential groups in the city's Latino and black neighborhoods.
The list of successes presented at the gathering, however, was tempered by a list of incomplete efforts and failures as well.
Noting that more than 700 attended the initial "Congress of Religious Leaders" last March to endorse the two groups' anti-crime strategy, campaign organizers admitted that they have not been as successful as they hoped in maintaining that high level of interest.
And although about $500,000 was earmarked for youth athletic programs endorsed by UNO and SCOC during the first round of Olympic surplus funding by the Los Angeles Organizing Committee Amateur Athletic Foundation, leaders in the effort to gain additional funds contend that they have not been as successful as they had hoped.
"A few small programs scattered through our neighborhoods will not make the difference. . . ," according to a statement from the two groups.