By Amy Silverman
By Olivia LaVecchia
By Monica Alonzo and Stephen Lemons
By Chris Parker
By Michael Lacey
By Weston Phippen
So many of Todd's friends have died, it's made him reflect.
"I really don't get joy out of beating somebody up anymore. I'm different now. I guess I'm just growing up."
Can a program like this one make someone stop banging?
"I think it all depends on what's inside that person, if they really, deep down inside, they want to get out of it, get away from this shit. But I've got the brands and all the tattoos. Tattoos, I guess, can be worked with, but you can't take a brand off."
He looks sad. He has a girlfriend, and she's not into gangs at all.
"I don't want that shit around her. She really, she didn't grow up anything like I did, she comes from a good family background, and I'd hate to bring that type of thing around her or put her life in jeopardy."
Todd dropped out of the 11th grade. He hangs out at home a lot; Kimo and Tony are trying to help him find a job. What does he want to do?
"I don't know. Definitely not no fast food or selling crack or heroin or none of that."
Federal funding for the Mesa Gang Intervention Project will almost certainly dry up by the end of 2000, but that does not necessarily mean the end of the program. In fact, city officials like Police Chief Strauss hope to expand the project city-wide. Without the evaluation component, costs will be lower, although there will need to be a commitment from a number of local social-service agencies to keep it up and running.
But Strauss does warn that the project would be among the first to be trashed in the event of an economic crisis.
"You know, it's one of those programs that when times are good, it's a great program," she says, "and if times ever get really bad, then we're gonna have to cut back on it."
Read more of our Hard Core stories.
Contact Amy Silverman at 602-229-8443 or at her online address: firstname.lastname@example.org