EDITOR'S NOTE: We're often asked at LA Community
Policing about issues involving gangs and other youth problems in
the community. Here's an LA Times article that helps illustrate
just how large,
difficult and violent the situation is in Los Angeles.
We can't tell you where the statistics the Times used came from
... but they are alarming. Among other things the sheer scope of
the problem it an excellent argument for doing all we can as a community
to both participate in and support anti-gang prevention and intervention
Home Turf for Hundreds of Neighborhood Criminal Groups
by Richard Winton
Times Staff Writer
May 13, 2005
isn't new, but gang violence seems to be on everybody's agenda at
The House of
Representatives on Wednesday passed a bill that would, if enacted
by the Senate and signed by the president, allow some kinds of gang
crimes to be tried in federal court. It would also lengthen sentences
and create a RICO-like statute to give law enforcers an additional
tool with which to attack the problem.
a day goes by in the Los Angeles mayoral race that the candidates
don't trade charges about who is or isn't soft on gangs. So it seemed
a good time to take stock of what is really known and what
How many gang members do police believe are operating in the city
of Los Angeles and Los Angeles County?
to CAL/GANG, a statewide database maintained by the California Department
of Justice, the city of Los Angeles is home to 463 gangs with 39,032
members about the same number as residents of Encino.
Latino gangs are the most numerous, with 22,309 members. Predominantly
African American are the so-called Crip gangs, with 10,306 members,
and Blood-affiliated gangs, with 4,209. The rest are smaller gangs.
These numbers are down from 1997, when the database showed 64,000
CAL/GANG estimates there are 1,108 gangs with 85,298 members. About
53,121 are members of predominantly Latino gangs, while the Crips,
with 210 cliques, have 17,542. The numbers include those for the
city of Los Angeles.
To be listed
in the CAL/GANG system, a person must meet two or more of the following
criteria: be an admitted gang member, be named by a reliable informant,
wear gang attire, display gang signs or tattoos, frequent gang areas
or be arrested with known gang members.
Q: Is there
any reason to think the CAL/GANG statistics are inaccurate?
activists, academics and even some police officers believe the real
number of active gang members may be far lower, but no one has better
a USC sociologist who has studied gangs for 42 years, says the system
tends to let gang members' names remain in the records long beyond
their activity. However, he also says police tend to be unaware
of juvenile members and to undercount female gang members.
say there are 20,000 18th Streeters, they are basically guessing,"
are gangs operating?
of the 88 cities in Los Angeles County report some gang activity.
In general, it's rarer in wealthy enclaves, although places such
as San Marino and Arcadia have some Asian American gang activity.
South Los Angeles has 121 gangs, and the San Fernando Valley is
home to 81.
members are the most geographically dispersed, with members in the
far reaches of the San Fernando and San Gabriel valleys.
Q: How deadly
are the local gangs?
A: Los Angeles
recorded 291 gang-related slayings last year, accounting for 57%
of the city's 515 homicides. While other types declined last year,
gang killings increased 12.4% over 2003. Furthermore, 172 gang-related
killings occurred elsewhere in the county Those numbers are significantly
lower than in the early 1990s.
Q: What strategies
are the LAPD and Sheriff's Department using to reduce gang violence?
A: The LAPD
delivers most of its anti-gang work through "gang impact teams"
based at divisions throughout the city. About 360 officers are on
the teams, which gather intelligence on gangs' criminal activities
and develop cases against members.
Much of the
LAPD's strategy is based on what is known as the 10% Factor, which
holds that law enforcement should target the 10% of criminals who
account for about half of crimes.
Department's anti-gang operation, known as the Safe Streets Bureau,
is particularly active in the Compton-Lynwood areas. One of its
key strategies is to focus on the "shot callers" who direct
a gang's activities.
also operates a multi-jurisdictional clearinghouse for gang intelligence.
Q: The mayoral
candidates have been talking a lot about gang injunctions. What
are they? Do they work?
A: Gang injunctions
usually focus on the few dozen blocks of a neighborhood that a gang
claims as its territory. Within that area, named gang members typically
are prohibited from congregating, using cellphones and harassing
or intimidating neighbors, with violators facing up to six months
has 25 gang injunctions in place, affecting neighborhoods across
the city. Initiated in the early 1980s, such injunctions have been
upheld by the Supreme Court despite opposition by civil libertarians.
injunctions make for good political rhetoric, their effectiveness
remains in question. Cheryl Maxson, a UC Irvine criminologist, said
the actions have a modest effect on crime and may help perceptions
about an area. In the late 1990s, Jeffrey Grogger, a former UCLA
professor now at the University of Chicago, studied 14 gang injunctions
and concluded that violent crime fell 5% to 10% in the year after
they took effect.
warn that often those named in the court actions move to new turf,
leaving a younger generation to take over the affected territory.
As for Mayor
James K. Hahn's proposal for a citywide injunction, most experts
say it goes against the basic idea behind the injunctions: that
a gang has a turf and you want to take it away from them.
Q: Even Police
Chief William J. Bratton admits you cannot arrest your way out of
the gang problem. So what is being done to intervene in the lives
of those drawn to gangs?
A: There are
a plethora of gang intervention programs across the county and city.
The city of Los Angeles spends $82 million a year on anti-gang programs
but does little to determine which are working. To address the issue,
some City Council members want a new agency formed to focus the
programs are L.A. Bridges, aimed at middle-school children, and
Homeboy Industries, which gives predominantly Latino gang members
a chance to start a career on the right side of the law.
Q: What are
the trends in gang activity?
A: There is
growing hostility between black and Latino gangs in South Los Angeles.
Crips and Bloods are increasingly traveling to the suburbs to commit
are also becoming involved in more white-collar crimes such as credit
card fraud. They also are less likely to wear traditional gang attire.
A new generation
of gangs may also be evolving from tagging crews that are graduating
from graffiti to serious crimes.
of Los Angeles
crime touches every corner of Los Angeles, but the Newton community
south of downtown saw the most incidents from January through March.
gang-related crimes by LAPD Division
crimes through March 2005
on police officers
into a residence
*Includes kidnapping, rape, arson and extortion
Los Angeles gangs
teenagers of various races/ethnicities, who listen to metal
or gothic music
regional explainer graphics are available at www.latimes.com/localgraphics