"The friendships and some of these friendships are really embedded. They are hard to break," said James Garrison, an intervention worker.
Hundreds of intervention workers are on the city payroll. The Gang Reduction and Youth Development, known as GRYD, has a budget of $18 million.
Yet a city audit by City Controller Wendy Greuel finds $525,000 wasted. They are the funds specifically designated to determine whether the program is making a difference.
"All of our efforts are futile if we can't measure the success of these programs in reducing gang violence and gang membership," said Greuel.
The audit comes as gang violence is down 11 percent, but it's uncertain if demographic changes, stepped-up enforcement, or city programs are the reasons.
"This is a call to action," said Guillermo Cespedes, director of GRYD.
Cespedes says part of the difficulty is defining what to analyze, but GRYD, he says, now has a good start.
For prevention, they are zeroing in on children 10 to 15 years old. Are they showing multiple risk factors in nine categories? They include: cutting school; being a lookout for drug sales; and negative peers. Changes in behaviors can be measured among active gang members too.
"By being more involved in anger management classes, mentoring classes we have, they wanted to be more involved with positive adults around them," said Garrison.
LAPD reports positive trends. It appears that there are fewer retaliatory shootings because intervention workers are conducting rumor control, creating calm. Yet the city controller wants more than observations.
Taxpayers, said Greuel, deserve real numbers to show their dollars are hitting the mark.