The Harbor Area Gang Alternatives Program (GAP) was created in 1986 as the outgrowth of the work of the Harbor Youth Violence Reduction Roundtable, jointly sponsored by the United Way and the County Board of Supervisors.
In the early 1980s, Los Angeles Police Department statistics showed the Harbor Area had a high level of gang activity and resulting crime—higher than virtually all other parts of the County. In 1986, the Round Table was convened to examine the gang problem, identify the causes of youth violence, and determine what local strategies could be developed to effectively address this problem. GAP was formed as a result of this meeting.
The original components were:
- Classroom curriculum based on the “Paramount, CA Gang Resistance Is Paramount” (GRIP) model
- Graffiti clean up service in the Harbor Area of Los Angeles
Originally the fifth grade was the target group for the program, but that was quickly changed to fourth grade when testing revealed too high an incidence of gang involvement already at the fifth grade level. For the first fifteen years, GAP kept to its two-pronged approach and stayed mainly in the Harbor Area, employing between three and seven employees.
In 2000, the program began to expand and as a result, GAP started doing business as The Gang Alternatives Program. It also began to look at the broader gang prevention corpus of programs and research. As a result, GAP continuously adopted the program elements and best practices from around the country as evidenced in program evaluation and research.
The current components of the GAP program are:
- School-based youth gang prevention curriculum for 2nd, 4th, and 6th grades
- Court approved parent and teen education program
- Graffiti prevention education program
- Extensive Graffiti Abatement program
- Bulky items pick up program
- Community Beautification
- Youth job training and development
- After school programs
- Outreach and referral services, and
- Gangfree Life Academy®
Since 2000, GAP has grown from 7 to 75 employees. GAP serves Boyle Heights, Carson, Compton, Downtown Los Angeles, Gardena, Harbor City, Hacienda Heights, Harbor Gateway, Hawaiian Gardens, Lynwood, Rowland Heights, San Pedro, South Los Angeles, Watts, Whittier, and Wilmington.
The Gangfree Life® and gangfree.org were launched in September, 2008. In September 2019, GAP introduced its new website. The goal is to create an online presence that could reach our current GAP communities and to extend the Gangfree Life® outside the classroom. The Gangfree Life® and gangfree.org also educate community members, parents, and youths on the realities of gangs, and offer the Gangfree experience to those outside our immediate service area.