Gang prevention experts

In several Los Angeles communities, The Salvation Army is keeping kids out of gangs.


“Los Angeles faces a crisis of gang violence that will continue to spread into previously safe neighborhoods unless the city provides young people with other alternatives in gang-plagued communities.” – Los Angeles Times, Jan. 13, 2007

In the city’s fight against gang violence, prevention and alternatives are key weapons, something The Salvation Army has known and practiced for years. Youth programs are a staple in the network of services The Salvation Army provides across Southern California.

Along with the Compton Corps, the Red Shield Youth Center and the South Los Angeles Community Center provide environments where young people can escape the deadly snare of gangs.

Red Shield Youth Center: Pico Union, one of the poorest neighborhoods in Los Angeles, is plagued with high crime. More than 160 rival gangs battle it out in the eight-square mile area. But in the middle of the neighborhood, The Salvation Army’s Red Shield Youth Center, Executive Director Irene Lewis, provides a safe haven for more than 4,000 children and their parents. The Red Shield sets high standards for quality after-school enrichment programs and activities for youth during the out-of-school hours. Some of the special programs at the center include: academic support and computer studies; Children’s Theatre Playhouse, which trains students in all facets of theater production; the Red Shield Karate Club, which has achieved national recognition and has earned several state and local titles; an On-Track gang-diversion program for kids in year-round school, and City Ballet of Los Angeles, which provides classical, contemporary, and cutting edge dance instruction to students in Red Shield’s state-of-the-art dance studio.

South Los Angeles Community Center: Situated on the dividing line between rival African-American and Latino gangs, this center, led by Executive Director Mortimer Jones, brings together kids who would normally be at war with each other. The center opened in 2003 to provide much needed services in South Los Angeles, one of the most troubled urban regions in Southern California. It offers performing arts classes, including ballet, theater production and song writing. The center also provides tutoring, SAT Prep and a reading club. Teen workshops include printing, photography and graphic design. Meanwhile, kids who like to work out will find a gym and weight room.

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