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City can't afford to lose youth programs

February 18, 2011

As the massive crackdown on Armenian Power and its alleged associates this week showed, gangs have changed with the times.

The impact of gangs on local communities cannot simply be measured in street muggings, burglaries, tagging and the like — not when they have access to technology that can drain the economy and personal finances.

As economic pains push Burbank and Glendale to consider cuts to many social services, including support for after-school programs that serve as important outlets for the youth, we as a community should consider if we’re really saving anything at all.

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Either we pay for programs that push teens to be the best they can be, or, as this week showed, we pay an even steeper tab further down the road after some youth fall prey to the overtures of enterprising gang members seeking to maintain or increase their ranks.

The massive drain on law enforcement resources alone can be staggering, let alone the impact to families, victims and neighborhoods. The saying “Get ‘em while they’re young” has very real applications, and consequences, here.

To leave all the heavy lifting to our local police and federal prosecutors would be the lazy way out.

Community leaders should seize on the arrests — and where these alleged criminals now find themselves, behind bars, for a potentially very long time — as a tool for outreach and cautionary tales to at-risk youth, and as motivation for re-commitment to after-school and neighborhood programs.

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