LOS ANGELES, June 11 (Xinhua) -- Twenty-seven workers have graduated from an inaugural gang intervention program in Los Angeles Friday, giving the city a boost to minimizing gang violence.
The students received certificates from the Los Angeles Violence Intervention Training Academy after finishing a 140-hour course taught over 14 weeks at the Downtown Labor Center of the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), said the manager at the academy, Fernando Rejon.
The academy offers direct practice curriculum including mediation,conflict resolution, community crisis intervention and setting of cease-fire and understanding, he said.
The academy will begin classes for 30 new students in September.
Many of the students are former gang members. The city allocated to the academy 200,000 U.S.dollars in January to help students convince their friends and neighbors not to join gangs.
Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa was convinced that the program would professionalize the work of gang interventionists.
"These brave men and women have chosen to correct their life's path, to work side by side with our police department to bridge the gap of cooperation for the sake of saving lives," he said at a press conference in January.
The city pays gang intervention agencies about 26 million dollars a year to negotiate cease-fires and provide activities to lure youth away from gangs.
Los Angeles is home to more than 400 gangs with more than 39,000 documented members. Gang-related crimes dropped 11.2 percent in 2009 compared with the previous year, and gang-related homicides decreased 15.6 percent, according to latest statistics provided by the Los Angeles Police Department.