Unity T.W.O. director Mustafa Fletcher (center) and others appealed for public support for his organizationâ€™s contract termination to be repealed by the City of Los Angeles.Â The organization boasts strong numbers in prevention and peace accords throughout the region.Photo by Evan Barnes for Sentinel
Contract Expiration Approaches for Successful Intervention ProgramLeaders of Unity T.W.O. vow to keep working for their communityBy Evan BarnesSentinel Staff WriterUnity T.W.O. Inc.'s contract with the city's Gang Reduction & Youth Development Office ends this week and they have still not received an explanation why funding has been cut.Founded in 1998 as a spin-off of Unity One, it is one of the few gang-prevention agencies that has established ties with not only the gangs but the police departments. The agency's list of accomplishments include organizing a series of truces between rival gangs in 2004 as well as playing a role in the 77th Street District having the lowest crime-rate in almost 30 years.From January to May of this year, according to agency founder and director Mustafa Fletcher, there have only been seven gang-related murders in the district. The agency had also not been cited for the city for any major offenses and had been praised by law enforcement for their efforts in stemming the gang problem."If we're doing so much of a good job and crime is down, why would you terminate one of your gang prevention programs for some administration work," Fletcher said.He and others have requested to meet with the office director and city "gang czar" Jeff Carr, but as of press time no meetings have been held. All final appeals have been denied by City Hall.The current state budget crisis had no effect on the decision as the agency's work falls in the description of public service.Unity T.W.O., which stands for "Together We're One" had a six-month contract with the city worth $250,000 and had provided subcontracts to other organizations in the area, such as Developing Options Inc. By employing former gang members as intervention workers, the agency's unique approach has been responsible for bringing, in Fletcher's estimation, 80% of the gangs in the area to peace talks.The decision to cut their funding comes in the wake of the city filing an injunction to release information on rival gangs, a move that some fear will lead to more violence. "This has subjected more parents to gang violence. You might have a loose cannon that could go start something as a result of this," Fletcher said.Regardless of the city's decision, many involved plan to continue their work with gang prevention. Developing Options CEO Eugene "Big U" Henley noted that most have families they have to protect, including his own children, and they aren't willing to give up their fight for their communities."Our work is not based on pay from anybody. Our work is based on us having success by our kids and our families being successful while having a place they can call home," Henley said.Despite cutting funding for Unity T.W.O., the Gang Reduction and Youth Development Office signed new contracts with other prevention agencies for more than $20 million a year.