Forum will address rising juvenile criminality

The man who is credited with reducing gang violence in Los Angeles will address the issue of juvenile violence Friday at a forum that has multiple sponsors.

The man is Guillermo Cespedes, a Cuban native, who worked four years as director of the Los Angeles Office of Gang Reduction and Youth Development.

More recently he is with a U.S. consulting firm and travels extensively through El Salvador and Honduras.

Among the sponsors is the U.S. Embassy that noted that Costa Rica is being confronted by growing juvenile violence.

Two incidents validate that statement. Tuesday a 12 year old died in a Pavas shooting because he was in the company of the suspected leader of a drug gang, who also died.

And earlier in the week, the Fuerza Pública confiscated a small pistol from a 15-year-old girl after another teen was held up at gunpoint and robbed of her cell telephone.

The issue of juvenile criminality has not been a major topic with the public in Costa Rica although there has been a trend of those under 18 becoming more involved in serious crimes.

Another sponsor is Fundación Acción Joven, a non-profit organization that is working in Puntarenas and Limón to prevent juvenile violence and offer opportunities to youngsters, according to the U.S. Embassy which is helping with these programs.

Scheduled to appear at the forum will be Second Vice President Ana Helena Chacón; Nuria Marín Raventós, former president of  the Asociación Latinoamericana de  Sociología; Víctor Barrantes, vice minister of Justicia y Paz; Miguel Tello, executive cespedes041615director of Fundación Strachan, and Jorge Vargas Cullell of the Programa Estado de La Nación.

The Estado de La Nación and the Consejo Nacional de Rectores also are sponsors, and the session will be from 9 to 11 a.m. in the auditorium of the consejo at the Edificio Franklin Chang Díaz in Pavas.

Costa Rica has a number of public and private agencies involved with helping young people but they have not been able to stem the problem. The forum is designs to generate solutions, said the embassy.

Southern California Public Radio said that Cespedes set up innovative programs that included using ex-cons to convince gangsters and wannabes to take another path. The strategy contributed to a drop in crime.

“Under his leadership, gang intervention workers in L.A. have played a key role in preventing retaliation shootings by rushing to crime scenes and calming rivals,” said the radio station in assessing the work of Cespedes in Los Angeles.

A major problem in Costa Rica is gun play by rival drug gangs. That is believed to be the reason for the death of the 12 year old.

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