The United States Attorney’s Office has partnered with the Los Angeles Mayor’s Office to provide volunteer assistance to the City’s award- winning Summer Night Lights program, a nationally recognized anti-violence project sponsored by the City of Los Angeles’ Office of Gang Reduction and Youth Development (GRYD). Summer Night Lights programs operate during the summer months in more than 30 parks and recreation centers throughout Los Angeles; keeping the neighborhood parks open late into the night as safe havens of activities for young people and their families. In 2011, at the behest of the City, the United States Attorney’s Office “adopted” the Summer Night Lights site located at Jim Gilliam Park and Recreation Center in the Baldwin Village neighborhood of South Los Angeles. Jim Gilliam Park was selected because South Los Angeles had a long history of high crime rates and gang violence and the Office volunteers wanted to make an impactful contribution to violence prevention in the neighborhood.
Dozens of lawyers and staff from the all over the Office volunteer at Jim Gilliam Park and work side-by side with GRYD staff, helping to run a variety of activities for local youth, including basketball games, a skateboard park, arts and crafts tables, and a popular face-painting station for little girls and boys. Other volunteers work with GRYD staff to help cook and serve hundreds of meals for neighborhood residents during the course of a typical Summer Night Lights evening.
Since 2013, the Office has also conducted a youth tennis clinic on the Jim Gilliam Park tennis courts. Office volunteers run the clinic and have recruited a USTA certified teaching professional to lead the instruction. Hundreds of boys and girls have participated in the clinics. In 2015, the Office volunteers went even further and a group of federal prosecutors successfully petitioned the City of Los Angeles to resurface and refurbish the aging Jim Gilliam Park tennis courts. The beautification of the Baldwin Village tennis courts is a permanent testament to the impact that engagement efforts can have on a local neighborhood.
The results in the community have also been significant. The City’s statistics indicate that crime rates in the Baldwin Village neighborhood typically drop during the Summer Night Lights program. Beyond statistics, United States Attorney’s Office volunteers have reported that the park and neighborhood have become safer every year that they have volunteered in the community. Perhaps most importantly, this outreach project provides an ongoing platform for community members and federal lawyers and staff to meet and engage outside the confines of a federal courtroom.