The Advancement Project

Urban Peace Academy
Helping Communities Increase Safety

What We Do

The Urban Peace Academy is a rigorous training program that sets professional standards for this dangerous work, critical to keeping peace on the streets. The Academy helps reduce and prevent community violence, making poor neighborhoods safer so that children can learn, families can thrive, and communities can prosper.
More than 2,400 gang interventionists and law enforcement officers have been trained through the Academy in cutting-edge technologies that reduce violence and keep peace in violence hot zones. This has resulted in better collaboration, shared accountability for public safety, and the implementation of effective community policing.

Who We Work With

  • Community-based organizations
  • Gang Reduction & Youth Development (GRYD) office, City of Los Angeles
  • Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles (HACLA)
  • City gang violence prevention initiatives
  • Public sector service providers
  • School safety personnel
  • Law enforcement
  • Hospital emergency room personnel
  • Gang interventionists, like Melvyn Hayward, Jr.

Melvyn Hayward, Jr. started gang banging at a very young age. By the time he was 18, he was facing a sentence of 27 years to life in prison. Years later, he turned his life around and now spends his days as the Executive Director of H.E.L.P.E.R. Foundation, a gang intervention nonprofit. He is also an instructor in the Academy.

Why the Academy is Needed

The Academy is unique in our nation and is a critical component of our Comprehensive Violence Reduction Strategy because it develops teams of trained professionals who will together respond to and reduce violence in hot zone communities. The Academy is a collaboration among the Urban Peace program, University of Southern California, law enforcement and diverse street-level practitioners. 
The Academy designs its curriculum and standards of practice through multi-disciplinary committees that bring diverse cultures, disciplines and experience to the table and therefore, its courses are responsive to the needs of the practitioners, evolve with the changing realities on the ground and are effective.
We initially created the Urban Peace Academy due to Los Angeles’ failed and costly 30-year “war on gangs” that resulted in 450,000 youth arrests and persistent conflict between law enforcement and communities of color. Despite 30 years of investment, L.A. still has unacceptably high concentrations of gang violence that are destroying communities. It is estimated that 90% of the 300,000 children who live in gang violence hot zones have been exposed to chronic violence as victims or witnesses; 27% of these children suffer from symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.

Impact of the Academy

The Los Angeles Times highlighted the Academy in "An Educated Weapon will Combat Gangs".
The New York Times wrote about the Academy in "LA to Train Anti-Gang Workers in New Academy"
The Academy provided all the training for Long Beach's Summer Night Lights, which consisted of one day of training for community partners, one day for the Long Beach Police Department, and three days of trainings for youth squads and outreach workers. Watch this short video to see how the Summer Night Lights program has positively affected Long Beach:

Summer Night Lights in Long Beach 2011 from Charles Lauren Films on Vimeo.