Gang Violence Reduction
Letter to Councilman Nate Holden


Arthur A. Jones, J.D., Dr.jur.
Robin Wiseman, J.D., Dr.h.c.

International Human Rights Law and Policy
email to:

November 13, 2002

The Hon. Nate Holden
Los Angeles City Council
Los Angeles, CA 90012

Dear Councilman Holden,

Further to my telephone conversations with Media Director Angela Estell of your executive staff, I am submitting the following thoughts in the hopes you may find them of assistance in your meeting on Friday, November 15, with LAPD Chief Bratton.

Our brief outline addresses two primary subjects, viz.,

Gang violence in the 77th Division; and
Homeless sweeps in downtown Los Angeles.

Gang Violence Reduction, 77th Division:

To aid in your preparations for the meeting with Chief Bratton, we have attached a copy of our Gang Violence Reduction notes we prepared for Monsignor John Moretta, Church of the Resurrection, Boyle Heights (please see: Letter to Monseinior Moretta). Chief Bratton read and commented on this document at the Police Commission meeting which took place there on October 29. He added that he intends to incorporate and implement a number of our recommendations (please see Chief Bratton in the Hollenbeck Community, Oct 29).

We would welcome the opportunity to contribute to a reduction in gang violence in the 77th Division, and South Central Los Angeles generally.

Homeless Sweeps in Downtown Los Angeles:

As you know, my firm has been active for a number of years in comparative research and development of Community Policing approaches in this subject matter area. We presented several studies and reports to Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca, and remain in close contact with key executives of LASD regarding community policing innovative solutions on the interrelated topics of homelessness, drug and alcohol addiction, and mental illness on the streets.

Although we can appreciate the need to prepare downtown Los Angeles for redevelopment, including quality of life misdemeanor enforcement, we continue to advocate a balancing of social and economic interests.

Our comparative research of successful programs in other cities in the US and Europe confirms our advocacy of a more holistic, interagency approach than is currently visualized by LAPD, the City Attorney, or the Central City Association.

As we have maintained in past studies and publications, the problems of homelessness, substance addiction and mental illness can best be combated by a concerted plan of enforcement, intervention and prevention spearheaded by enlightened Community Policing leadership.

That approach has produced extraordinary results in many cities and counties, including Portland, and Multnomah County, Oregon; San Diego, California; Memphis, Tennessee; Miami, Florida; Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota; in the policies and programs currently in operation or development at the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department; and in a large number of European metropolitan areas we have visited, studied and assisted.

The integral approach coordinates available community resources from the outset. These include social services, housing, mental health, drug and alcohol rehabilitation, counseling and education.

Also, the cumulative costs of arresting, prosecuting, and incarcerating the homeless and mentally ill must be accounted for and contrasted with the known costs and benefits of a more permanent community policing philosophy of prevention, intervention and recidivism reduction.

Moreover, California case law such as the Court of Appeals decision in In re Eichorn (Santa Ana, 1999), must be considered for their potential collateral attack on homeless sweeps and prosecutions in light of the defense of necessity set forth in that opinion.

We would urge you to discuss the alternatives with Chief Bratton. We would further suggest a more inclusive assessment of all existing community resources, together with a planned evaluation accounting technique for any such comprehensive police operation that impacts basic social policy involving great numbers of homeless, addicted and mentally ill persons. We would also suggest that a joint meeting with LASD executives would be extremely helpful at this juncture.

Comparative good examples abound. To illustrate:

A. Johnson and Mayberg's California Report on Effectiveness of Integrated Services for Homeless Adults with Serious Mental Illness, submitted to Governor Davis on July 15, 2002. Based on the specific collaboration with law enforcement in the 43 municipalities and communities included in the study, the Report presented the following outcomes over the past 12 months:
  The number of days of psychiatric hospitalization since enrollment dropped 65.6%;
  The number of days of incarceration dropped by 81.5%;
  The number of days spent homeless dropped by 79.1%.

The Report further states that one of the prime essential components of any successful program is the initial contact by police for the purpose of "Outreach for identification, assessment, and diagnosis of target clients…"

The Report's Implementation Approach and Study Methodology leaves no doubt whatsoever that their success depends directly on close cooperation with law enforcement. "Joint outreach with law enforcement" is listed repeatedly throughout the document.

Finally, the Report continues to emphasize joint responsibility -and credit for success-with law enforcement in the section entitled "Program/Fiscal Impact", which addresses the savings to taxpayers realized through reductions in incarceration and recidivism.

B. San Diego's experience should be considered not only for the PERT team (mental illness episode response), but also for the Homeless Outreach Team (HOT),which is a joint outreach team consisting of police officers, social workers and psychiatric clinicians who make regular patrols in areas of concentrated homelessness. Their statistics can be retrieved from the San Diego Police Department, and will prove to be quite informative.

C. Multnomah County, Oregon (containing the City of Portland) launched a mental health and homeless outreach team in July 2001. Although it is the creation of the County Department of Mental Health, under the supervision of Dr. Peter Davidson, its methodology and approach are very much in line with progressive community policing techniques. A few examples of the team's success rated:
Between August 2001 and April 2002, calls per month to the crisis hotline dropped from 4,000 to 2,200;
During the same period, the number of days spent in psychiatric wards dropped from 1,500 to 1,000;
The number of times Portland Police took psychotic or suicidal individuals to emergency rooms dropped from 175 to 110.

D. In Zürich, Switzerland, the SIP (Safety, Intervention, Prevention) teams, which are constituted much as the interagency outreach teams in several US jurisdictions, reduced total homelessness by 56% in the first 18 months of operation; then reduced it by a further 38% in the following 12 month period. These reductions produced an enormous savings of city finances, and the SIP program is paying its own way on a cost/benefit analysis. We have maintained a close and informal partnership with the Sozialrat of the City of Zürich for the past two years, as well as a continuing comparative statistical analysis and evaluation of results.

If properly planned and implemented, a community policing interagency approach is nearly always more inclusive and better coordinated than is presently visualized by LAPD, the City Attorney, and the Central City Association. It can reduce violence and concentrations among the homeless, and prevent recidivism. It can maximize existing social and medical infrastructural facilities while rendering them more efficient through permanent police leadership.

We will appreciate an opportunity to be of service in the foregoing areas of public safety and welfare.

Sincerely yours,

Arthur A. Jones, J.D., Dr.jur. Robin Wiseman, J.D., Dr.h.c.

cc: Sheriff Lee Baca
Dr. Richard Weintraub
LAPD Chief William Bratton
LAPD Assistant Chief Jim McDonnell


--- Arthur A. Jones and Robin Wiseman are international human rights lawyers with legal educations in the United States and Europe. They are consultants and authors on international policing, social policy and human rights, and regular contributors to the forum here at LA Community Policing.

For additional information or a complete list of references, contact:

Dr. Arthur Jones