A veteran South Los Angeles gang intervention worker has been forced to resign from his agency and will no longer work the streets on behalf of City Hall after he was caught manipulating time cards, officials said Friday.
Harry Warren, who bounced in and out of jail as a young man, had been a high-profile intervention worker and youth counselor for 20 years. He was forced to resign recently from Chapter Two, his nonprofit agency, after being confronted with evidence of financial impropriety, several officials confirmed.
"I am disappointed in Harry's conduct," said Chapter Two founder Jerald Cavitt, also a veteran intervention worker. "I wish he would have stayed on the straight-and-narrow."
Warren could not be reached for comment.
Chapter Two is an important player in the city's gang-prevention efforts; the agency contracts to provide intervention services in a troubled and deeply impoverished neighborhood bisected by Florence Avenue and the 110 Freeway. Through that contract, Warren has acted on the city's behalf, tending to at-risk youth, controlling street gossip and working to interrupt cycles of retaliatory violence.
Warren's undoing did not come in connection with his City Hall work, however. Chapter Two had been hired separately by the nonprofit group Occupational Therapy Training Program, where he provided life-skills and job-training counseling to disadvantaged youth.
City officials said it appears Warren manipulated the time cards of at least two youths enrolled in the program and then pocketed about $550. Deputy Mayor Guillermo Cespedes, who runs the city's Office of Gang Reduction and Youth Development, said Warren paid back the money.
Because Warren resigned from Chapter Two, he is "currently not under contract with the city," Cespedes said. Beyond that, Cespedes said: "This is a personnel matter internally for Chapter Two."
Cavitt said he learned that money had been "misappropriated" several weeks ago and confronted Warren immediately.
"There wasn't any question about it," Cavitt said. "We couldn't tolerate it."
Warren had been involved in a host of important initiatives to curb gang violence.
He was a familiar sight at the scenes of gang-related shootings. He fought to ease tension after the beating of Rodney King, helped secure a key accord between two notorious gangs and quelled violent encounters between African Americans and Latinos at a high school.
Allegations of impropriety brought against gang intervention workers are a delicate subject at City Hall.
Some authorities, particularly in law enforcement, remain wary of the city's groundbreaking campaign to use former gang members in violence-prevention programs. The arrests of several high-profile intervention workers who reverted to their old life have stung.
But many of the intervention programs are a demonstrable success; crime is on pace to fall citywide for the ninth straight year, and serious gang-related crime has fallen 40% in the neighborhoods where Cespedes' office runs its summer parks programs.