Voices of the Gang Fighters

"To me, a good leader is someone who will follow, someone who doesn't declare himself to be a good leader. And he has to have a good constitution with the basic, old-fashioned value that everybody has to be treated equally, and everyone has a right to succeed. If things are not right, they have to be made right.

"I used to go down to the corners and alleys, but I don't do that anymore; I'll just sit down with them.

"I don't know why God has me here, but He has me here. I know there have been people saved, lives changed, and what we are doing is critical to kids who haven't been born yet or are just being born.

"At the same time, I've gotten letters from mothers thanking me for helping them to bury their children. This is so wrong, to have to thank a gang agency for helping to bury a child. I'm fine if I keep moving, but if I stop and reflect I don't do so well. Our uphill battle has not been so much with the gangs as it has been with the other gang - the policymakers." - Steve Valdivia, executive director, CYGS

"The thing that CYGS is most effective at is putting out small fires. That's where they really excel. They'll work an area, and find out what's going on, and then dampen it. Are they good at what they do? Depending on the circumstance, they are very good. Certainly they are understaffed, and more money should be put into beefing up their organization. Steve has got so many irons in the fire that he is always moving from place to place, but nobody works harder." - Michael Genelin, head of the Hard Core Gang Division, L.A. District Attorney's Office

"The L.A. riots were a wake-up call, but Steve pulled his people off the streets during the riot because we are not a public- safety organization. Steve is not a follower. He knows how to recruit the followers, and then tell them that they have parts of the answers we're looking for. Overall, the answers to L.A.'s problems are going to have to be a bottom-up and top-down kind of change." - Tony Borbone, administrative staff, CYGS

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