Adjunct Professor of Social Welfare Jorja Leap, who has conducted extensive research on gangs, contributed to a KPCC discussion about the reality and evolution of gang violence in South Los Angeles. Concerns about heightened gang violence were prompted by the shooting of rapper Nipsey Hussle, which remains under investigation. Looking at the data from current efforts to reduce gang violence through prevention, intervention and reentry, Leap confirmed that “what we’re doing is working” but there is still a long way to go. “The relationship between the communities of L.A. and law enforcement has changed radically in a very positive direction,” Leap said. Looking forward, she stressed the importance of prioritizing funding and trauma-informed reentry, arguing that “we must not become complacent.”
Adjunct Professor of Social Welfare Jorja Leap spoke to HuffPost about President Trump’s characterization of the street gang MS-13. Trump has portrayed the gang as an imminent threat in the United States, but “the truth of the matter is it is less of a problem now than it ever was,” Leap said. While law enforcement and youth gang prevention have helped combat MS-13 in the U.S., the gang founded by Salvadoran immigrants in Los Angeles in the 1980s has become a far bigger menace in Central America. “It is indescribable what goes on there,” said Leap, who is also executive director of the UCLA Health and Social Justice Partnership. “I don’t think we can grasp where the real terror is and how fear and intimidation rule the day for individuals, for their families, because of the grip of this gang” in Central America, she said.