Former LA Deputy Mayor Joins Creative
Cespedes to scale up crime and violence prevention programs
December 18, 2013
Dec. 20, 2013 – Los Angeles’s Deputy Mayor/Director Guillermo Cespedes, who played a key role in reducing the city’s gang violence and recruitment, will join Creative Associates International in Washington, D.C., in January.
Cespedes—a leading expert and practitioner in youth intervention—will strengthen Creative’s already vibrant worldwide crime and violence prevention portfolio, as well as lead the development of new programs.
“Deputy Mayor/Director Cespedes will be a valuable addition to our global team of experts,” says Charito Kruvant, President and CEO of Creative. “His proven experience and holistic vision will greatly assist communities in Central America and elsewhere that want to live in peace.”
Appointed Deputy Mayor/Director of the Office of Gang Reduction and Youth Development in 2009, Cespedes was asked by then-Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa to take a new approach to the decades-long challenge of gang-related violence. In 2007, the city reported 7,642 gang-connected crimes ranging from murder and kidnapping to robbery and attacks on police officers.
“When a community feels threatened, the typical response is to use handcuffs and arrest people,” Cespedes explains. “Unfortunately, it didn’t work in Los Angeles. In fact, it only strengthened gang identity and membership.”
In close collaboration with police, parks, schools and community organizations, Cespedes developed a series of innovative strategies and a data-driven model to stem the violence and provide young people with other opportunities. It identified 12 geographic zones that employed new police tactics, increased municipal services and engaged the community in the creation of safe spaces. Learn more here.
The new plan worked. For example, homicides dropped from 1,097 in 1997 (54 percent were gang connected) to 298 homicides (52 percent were gang related). To learn more about the approach, please see this short video.
Cespedes’s role on Creative’s robust team
In his new role, Cespedes will be based in Creative’s headquarters in Washington, D.C., initially focusing on the organization’s current programs in Honduras and El Salvador, which are supported by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the private sector. Cespedes has professional experience in the region. To learn more, please see our Crime Prevention Brochure.
“Los Angeles and Central America are tied together at the hip, so it is a logical step for me to start with Creative’s work that region,” Cespedes says.
Deborah Kimble, Director of Creative’s governance and civil society programs, says elements of the Los Angeles model will be a good fit with Creative’s existing community-led approach.
“We will introduce the model and work with communities to adapt and build their own version,” says Kimble.
Prior to his position as Deputy Mayor, Cespedes managed programs in Los Angeles, Long Beach, Berkeley and Oakland. He holds a Masters in Social Work from Columbia University in New York, a BA in History from Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, Conn., and post-graduate training at the Nathan Ackerman Institute in New York and the Bronx State Hospital Family Studies Unit.