Congresswoman Bass has spent her life working toward responsible criminal justice and police reform. In 1990, she founded Community Coalition to transform the social and economic conditions that contribute to addiction, crime, violence and poverty. Bass’ advocacy and organizing have always centered on one thing: addressing the deep, structural problems that give rise to crime – joblessness, income inequality, lack of education, and untreated substance abuse.
As a longtime South Los Angeles resident, she understands: public safety and increased policing are not synonymous. As a former Physician Assistant, she knows: the disastrous policies that created the War on Drugs have not reduced drug use and violent crime. As a Black woman, she has seen firsthand government’s inadequate investments in communities of color – from limited access to good paying jobs, to underfunded public schools, to insufficient health care.
Research tells us that what people harmed by crimes want most is to ensure that they are not harmed again and that no one else will be harmed either. By a significant margin, crime survivors prefer fairer prison sentences, greater investments in crime prevention, rehabilitation, schools and education, and mental health and drug treatment.
Los Angeles cannot arrest its way out of crime. Historically, law enforcement’s approach has been to apprehend, adjudicate, and punish — Bass believes this is a reactive model that levels too much focus on the individual wrongdoer and not enough on the conditions underlying crime and violence. It’s not law enforcement’s role to focus on the root causes of crime and violence – community organizations and trained experts can and should be given the resources to do just that.
Prevention is better than cure. Crime and violence affect the physical, mental, social, and economic health of people, communities, and society with costly consequences. Not only is prevention more cost effective – it is also more humane.1 Stopping crime before it happens will liberate countless Angelenos from terrible suffering, loss, and anguish. To achieve this goal, Bass will use a public health approach to violence prevention and crime reduction.
Bass will make deep and structural investments to rebuild communities that are most affected by crime, and most impacted by mass incarceration. She will refocus Los Angeles around safeguarding our communities, preventing the conditions that lead to crime, and rehabilitating people who have made mistakes, so they do not offend again.
Establish an Office of Community Safety in the Mayor’s Office
Bass knows that crime and violence prevention can be achieved without excessive law enforcement action.2 She is committed to solving crime in the long term and knows that this requires a strategy beyond punitive reactions. That’s why she will launch the Office of Community Safety in the Mayor’s Office, to support cooperation and collaboration between the community and the public and private sectors to build strong and healthy neighborhoods across Los Angeles.
Bring Everyone to the Table and Build a Partnership with the County
Police and the justice system should not exclusively manage solutions to public safety. The contributing factors causing crime and violence cut across multiple sectors of city and county government. So should the solutions.3
Through the new Office of Community Safety, Bass will ensure that every city department works in a comprehensive and interconnected manner to maximize existing resources and create the political will to usher in meaningful reforms. She will lay the groundwork for multi-sector collaboration that brings together every corner of our city to understand our unique perspectives, roles, and shared responsibility for collective action.4
Bass understands that every neighborhood in Los Angeles has its own history and relationship with violence and policing, and will build her response to crime around the individual needs of those communities – from Westchester to Hollywood, Mar Vista to Sherman Oaks, East LA to South LA, and everywhere in between.
We can lower crime rates by increasing the economic and social vitality of our communities. Research has shown that investments in creating good-paying jobs has a greater impact on crime than comparable funds invested in increased policing.5 This requires identifying neighborhood level concerns and priorities and mobilizing residents to be a part of problem identification, problem solving, and accountability.6 It also requires reintegration of formerly incarcerated and system-involved youth and adults back into the community and offering them a seat at the policy-making table.
Listen Directly to Communities to Re-envision Public Safety
During her first year in office, the Mayor’s Office will reach out to every neighborhood in Los Angeles to hear directly from Angelenos about their concerns and perspectives on public safety – and livestream each meeting to ensure transparency and public access. Bass will use findings from those conversations to develop a neighborhood-specific strategy to re-envision public safety, and ensure that the needs of individual communities are met.
Crime and safety policy must consider racial disparities and unintended consequences across diverse communities. Crime and violence occur in all communities – but not all communities have equal access to resources like psychotherapy, recreational space or legal assistance that help maintain community stability and well-being.
Further, communities most affected by gun violence typically lack the political clout to influence policy and direct resources. Research has shown that those most heavily impacted by gun homicide are young Black men (murdered at a rate 8–12 times the gun homicide rate for young white men). But how often are young Black men invited to inform policy grounded in their experiences, needs and ideas for change? People at the highest risk of gun suicide struggle with mental illness, but are so often stigmatized that they are often excluded from policy decisions.7
Bass has always prioritized the voices that are too often ignored – and elevated the perspective and learned experience of people who are traditionally excluded from policy decisions that directly impact their lives.
Aligned with best practices,8 Bass will ensure that the Mayor’s Office’s community engagement strategies will:
- Include a detailed, neighborhood-level understanding of crime and violence.
- Provide regular updates of the interests, needs, priorities and preferences of the diverse communities in the city.
- Establish and facilitate an ongoing and consistent dialogue and coordination across all sectors of the city and the community.
- Determine how, and the extent to which, different sections of the community feel most comfortable interacting with the police, and use that measure to design neighborhood-specific violence and crime reduction efforts.
- Ensure the priorities and strategies are data-informed.
- Provide ongoing feedback about the impact of implemented strategies.
Data and data-sharing protocols across city and county departments will be key to this effort, and allow the Bass administration to track shifts in markers of crime and violence and discern what enhancement of community assets and strengths have occurred.
End Cycles of Violence
The pandemic has undermined long-standing initiatives to stem violence over the last 15 years. Los Angeles experienced nearly 400 killings due to gun violence in 2021. We need immediate interventions and sustainable solutions to address gun violence.
Bass will fund programs for Angelenos who are at serious risk of being either the perpetrator or victim of gun violence, provide non-law enforcement-led services – including job training and placement assistance, education and assistance covering basic needs such as housing, food, and transportation.
Bass will work with community leaders to promote, replicate, and scale the best and most promising strategies to prevent crime and violence, and redirect practices that have exacerbated violence and negatively impacted public trust. Examples of these programs include the Gang Reduction and Youth Development program (GRYD) and the Community Safety Partnership (CSP).
Bass will support – and fund – the community-based public safety practitioners who work day and night to prevent crime. Intervention workers – often men and women who were formerly gang involved – have deep ties to the community and are best equipped to bring peace to our neighborhoods. But they are constantly traumatized by what they see and do, and do not receive the support or respect from the city that they deserve.
Move GRYD into the Office of Community Safety and Elevate the Role of Community Intervention Workers
Launched in 2007, the Gang Reduction and Youth Development program is a trauma and resilience informed prevention and intervention program that has been proven to reduce violence. The program leverages services – including community engagement and street-based violence interruption – through its network of trained Community Intervention Workers (CIW), often referred to as peacemakers. While GRYD’s outcomes remain successful, the program has been underfunded and unsupported in recent years, and has never invested in intervention workers in the way it should.
Fifteen years after its founding, GRYD remains a sustainable comprehensive violence reduction strategy. From 2014 through 2017, GRYD demonstrated a 41.2% reduction in gang-related retaliatory homicides and aggravated assaults in the South Los Angeles area.9 Furthermore, when a trained CIW responded to a gang-related homicide in tandem with LAPD officers, the likelihood of a retaliatory assault or homicide was only 10% and below 1%, respectively. That likelihood increased dramatically (46% and 26%, respectively) when the LAPD responded alone.10
As Mayor, Bass will shift GRYD into the Office of Community Safety and elevate the role of intervention workers, who are a critical component of the program’s overall success.
Bass has consulted with community intervention workers and community leaders to develop a plan to improve the effectiveness of GRYD that will:
- Employ trained violence interrupters and outreach workers to prevent shootings by mediating potentially lethal conflicts in the community, and following up to ensure that the conflict does not reignite. These workers utilize their trust with high-risk individuals to establish contact, develop relationships, and work with the people most likely to be involved in violence. Workers will develop a caseload of clients who they work with intensively – seeing clients several times a week and assisting with their needs such as drug treatment, employment, and leaving gangs.
- Increase GRYD’s capacity to secure federal resources to support the recruitment, training and retention of community intervention workers.
- Increase the city’s capacity to support the tactical deployment of community intervention workers in high-need areas.
- Expand community intervention services and models including street outreach, youth engagement and “safe passage” programs that increase safety around schools and parks.
- Amplify the voices and leadership of community intervention workers in the governance of GRYD and the city’s public safety policies and practices.
Invest in Community-Based Prevention Strategies
We cannot address crime in Los Angeles unless we make serious investments in jobs and preventative health care, including services for addiction and substance use. Voters have overwhelmingly supported initiatives to decrease public spending on jails and prisons, and increase investments in prevention and treatment services. If elected, Bass will deliver on Angelenos’ desire for community-based public safety solutions by:
- Using data to identify and target services in “hot spots” of criminal activity in local neighborhoods. The new Office of Community Safety will support partnerships with community health clinics and community-based organizations to deploy mobile units to “hot spot” areas that offer health care, outreach, counseling, case management and connections to housing, domestic violence, drug treatment and mental health programs.
- Ensuring that everyone who is able to work in Los Angeles has access to a good-paying job and employment opportunities. Bass fully supports efforts to increase the minimum wage in Los Angeles and will address the outrageous racial disparities in recruitment, hiring and contracting for city jobs and projects.
- Collaborating with the private sector to develop incentives for small businesses to provide apprenticeships, training and jobs to youth, individuals connected to housing and homeless programs and citizens returning home from incarceration.
- Supporting the successful re-entry of youth and adults returning home from incarceration. Bass will leverage federal resources and increase investments in community-led programs that provide housing, counseling, family reunification, mentorship, treatment services and job opportunities to returning citizens.
Create Alternative Response Systems
Los Angeles has not made the necessary investments to secure a strong enough social fabric to ensure that people’s basic needs are met. Greater investments are needed in community-based intervention strategies to reduce reliance on police officers to address every societal issue that results from the tears in the fabric – whether it be mental illness, addiction, homelessness or poverty. Bass believes we can reduce single points of contact with law enforcement by building alternative response systems.
As Mayor, Bass will expand alternative response teams – including social workers, EMTs and trained mental health professionals – who can manage order maintenance violations, mental health emergencies and low-level conflicts without implicating the criminal justice system, freeing police officers to concentrate on the most serious crimes.
Expand the Community Safety Partnership
The Community Safety Partnership (CSP) is a multi-agency violence reduction and community safety strategy first implemented in four public housing developments in 2011.
Led by GRYD, LAPD, and the Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles (HACLA), CSP is now located in ten sites across the city. CSP’s goal is to partner officers with CIWs, who will train them in violence de-escalation (intervention) and relationship building (prevention) over the course of five-year assignments where they become integrated in the community. A 2020 evaluation report showed that CSP’s relationship‐based partnership policing: 1) improves resident perceptions of safety, 2) builds trust of officers by residents and community stakeholders, 3) reduces high risk conditions, and 4) increases safety around common spaces, recreational areas, and programs.11 Furthermore, LAPD crime statistics showed that decreases in crime associated with CSP sites were greater than overall crime declines across the city.
Bass will expand and invest in the Community Safety Partnership program. She will fully restore the expert validated “whole of community” safety strategies that build teams of trusted police, community members, gang interventionists and experts to boost safety, build trust, cut police use of force, and drop violent crime – resulting in fewer arrests in the most underfunded neighborhoods of Los Angeles. Bass does not view CSP as a program – she sees it as a new paradigm in policing.
Change our Built Environment
Neighborhood violence is a place-based problem at the magnitude of a public health crisis, and it demands place-based and population-specific solutions.12 13 14 Violence does not impact all Angelenos equally. Communities that have suffered from historical oppression and generations of disenfranchisement are disproportionately affected by violence.
Neighborhood factors can increase the risk for violence due to concentrated poverty,15 population density and crowded housing, and low levels of social cohesion.16 Bass is committed to strategies that mitigate the qualities of place that enable crime to emerge or worsen.17 18 19 20
Street lighting, illuminated walk signs, painted crosswalks, public transportation, parks and maintained vacant lots are associated with 76% decreased odds of a homicide.21 22
Residents’ feelings of attachment and belonging to their neighborhood and neighbors’ ability to detect and intervene in anti-social behavior also increase protections against violence.
That’s why, as Mayor, Bass will integrate public health and public safety with a focus on crime prevention that includes addressing gross inequities in basic city services that help people feel safe moving through their neighborhoods.23 24 25 If elected, Bass will:
- Ensure the city’s planning and zoning practices support the health, safety and economic growth of all communities.
- Work with city departments to improve maintenance of commercial corridors, address complaints of illegal dumping, and rectify inconsistent sanitation services in local neighborhoods.
- Increase investments to support code enforcement and nuisance abatement at commercial and residential properties that threaten the health and safety of neighborhoods.
- Support community-driven development and convert city-owned vacant lots into spaces for housing, community gatherings, community gardens, non-profit organizations and cooperative business models.
- Improve parks and recreation centers and expand access to art, music, health and fitness programs and youth, family and community programming at city parks.
Invest in Youth
Bass has created leadership development programs for young people that have been researched and replicated across the country – and believes deeply in their promise as agents of social change. In partnership with families, students, the Board of Education, teachers, administrators and our labor partners, Bass will expand her lifelong commitment to young Angelenos by increasing investments in summer youth jobs and internship programs, supporting youth-led efforts to improve conditions in their schools and neighborhoods, and investing in youth development programs. She also supports efforts to increase investments in “safe passage” programs, and would scale-up access to social workers and counselors for young people.
- Nearly 25 percent of adults over the age of 25 in LA do not have a high school diploma; nearly 20 percent only have a high school diploma. That means 45 percent of Angelenos are currently excluded from the jobs of the future that require post-high school certification or training.
- Bass will build partnerships with the LA Unified School District and LA’s community colleges and four-year universities that help young people access the kind of social capital and professional network that facilitate professional growth.
- She will also mobilize LA’s higher education institutions to recruit, train and deploy tutors to help middle and high school students that have fallen behind because of distance learning.
- Bass will secure commitments from private sector leaders to hire LA-grown talent, linking our young people and college graduates to local jobs. She will focus particular attention on connecting L.A.’s fastest-growing and legacy industries to youth, especially from neighborhoods with high unemployment.