Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa wants federal help in prosecuting gang-related racial crimes involving blacks and Hispanics
The mayor sought millions of dollars in federal grants to target gangs in trouble spots such as South L.A., parts of the San Fernando Valley and Boyle Heights. He also asked Gonzales for continuing help from the U.S. attorney's office in Los Angeles in prosecuting gang members for federal crimes and focusing attention on foreign-born gangs such as Mara Salva Trucha, a gang from El Salvador.
In addition, the mayor said he would like the attorney general to provide help in prosecuting gang-related racial crimes.
Bratton met with Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca earlier this week to discuss the rise in racially motivated gang violence and map out ways to better coordinate their gang units, particularly where gangs have shown a pattern of targeting victims because of race.
"It's getting to where those rivalries are … racially motivated and innocent people are getting shot," Baca said Wednesday.
There have been numerous anti-gang initiatives over the decades — none doing much to diminish the influence of and damage done by the region's scores of active street gangs.
A recent report by prominent civil rights attorney Connie Rice concluded that Los Angeles' gang efforts, costing $82 million annually, have floundered because of a lack of coordination among the 23 anti-gang programs spread throughout city departments.
"What the city is doing is designed to fail," Rice said Wednesday, again calling for a dramatic change in anti-gang efforts. "It's not about altering a program. It's about a paradigm shift…. We need smart suppression, not blanket suppression."
Support has grown for creating a "gang czar" to coordinate efforts, something sources say Rice is expected to recommend in a follow-up report due out this month. Bratton and others have said they would back such a move.
"It's more than just raiding gangs and gang injunctions," Councilman Herb Wesson said. "Its about stopping kids before they join gangs."
Los Angeles Police Department officials blamed the jump in gang crime in part on racial tensions in the L.A. County jails, which led to riots last year. They said some of those disputes between Latino and black gangs spilled into neighborhoods.
At the same time, efforts to get gang members off the streets for minor crimes have been hampered by conditions in the county's jail system, the largest in the nation.
While gang injunctions and computer modeling have helped reduce gang activity in some areas, the early release of inmates from Los Angeles County jails — where officials say the vast majority of those booked admit a gang affiliation — has put many charged with lower level offenses, such as weapons violations or simple assaults, quickly back on the street.
More than 150,000 inmates sentenced to County Jail have been released since mid-2002 after serving small fractions of their sentences due to budget cutbacks and federal orders against overcrowding.
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