first_imgThe 50 Valley officers will fan out across the region to target high-crime areas like Pacoima, North Hills and Mission Hills, where gang crimes have skyrocketed over the past year. Under the plan, police are also cracking down on the 204th Street gang responsible for a high-profile, racially motivated killing of a 14-year-old girl in Harbor Gateway. And the FBI has also agreed to list one of the city’s most wanted gangsters on its 10 Most Wanted list. But already, change in a decades-old policy that stopped police from naming gangs is sparking criticism from those who work with the groups. And others say they are anxious to see a desperately needed intervention and prevention plan. Though Villaraigosa has pledged to come up with one, he has no deadline. “If you understand the gang subculture, it’s like a promotion for the gang,” said Tom Ward, an adjunct professor at USC and expert in transnational gangs. “They want to establish the reputation for themselves and for the gangs. Vowing an all-out assault on gangs, city leaders presented a long-awaited plan Thursday that commits 50 new officers to combat San Fernando Valley criminals and takes bold steps in publicly naming the city’s most violent gangs and their members. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Los Angeles Police Chief William Bratton released the plan during a roll call at the LAPD’s Mission Division, where there was a 161 percent gang-crime spike last year. “The rise in gang violence must stop,” Villaraigosa said. “We are mounting a coordinated, aggressive suppression strategy that targets the worst offenders and the most violent gangs and we are coming at them with everything we have.” By naming the city’s most vicious gangs, training 5,000 officers in gang-suppression tactics, establishing a gang homicide unit in South Los Angeles and increasing community outreach – the mayor thinks his plan can quell the violence. “It’s the best promotional material they can imagine.” But Bratton defended the shift, comparing gangsters with such mobsters as John Gotti, former boss of the Gambino crime family. “I am from back East. Back East we publicize our criminals because we find it helps to prosecute them and get them arrested,” Bratton said. “John enjoyed the limelight … but he died in prison.” ‘Smart, strategic’ Civil-rights attorney Connie Rice, who recently completed a half-million-dollar study on gangs for the city, called the plan smart, strategic and coordinated, though she too criticized Bratton’s call to name gangs. “We all know they have that list, but I’m not sure it should be public,” she said. “There might be gangs out there working now to make that list.” But she said having a gang coordinator and bringing patrol forces into gang suppression will improve policing. Councilman Tony Cardenas, who chairs the City Council’s ad hoc Committee on Gangs and Youth Violence, said it’s a good first step but not enough to tackle long-term problems. “The city is a boiling cauldron, and we are finally noticing what people have been living with for years,” Cardenas said. “But we have to do more than suppression.” Rounding up suspects could cost more in the long run than prevention efforts such as after-school programs, he said. “Every time someone is arrested, you are looking at spending $90,000. To have prevention and intervention costs $1,300 to $1,400. It’s simple math on where our money should go.” But Bratton said there was a crisis that could not wait. “We don’t have time to wait on the suppression side,” he said. Councilwoman Janice Hahn, whose South Los Angeles district is among the worst when it comes to gang crime, welcomed the new approach to naming gangsters. “I think it might empower the community to know who these gang members are and be able to recognize their faces,” Hahn said. “To be able to identify them and be proactive in reporting what they’re doing can only help.” The proposal drew support from Los Angeles Police Protective League President Bob Baker, but he said if the LAPD doesn’t get more officers, crime could just shift from one high-gang area to the next. Plan needs rules District Attorney Steve Cooley backed the efforts in South Los Angeles but said a top-10 list could prove counterproductive if gangs gain notoriety. He also said the plan could use rules to ensure there is not a repeat of the Rampart scandal, when gang officers in the former CRASH program overstepped their authority and were accused of framing gang members. It was that case that led to the federal consent decree. “I’m sure we have all learned from that and that the city will send a message that they cannot use whatever means are necessary to stop gangs,” Cooley said. While political leaders praised Villaraigosa for creating the city’s first coordinated gang plan, Alex Alonso said police are not focusing on the most long-term violent gangs. “When the gangs are selected for a target, there is usually a political reason,” said the creator of “It’s not the long-term violence they cause but it can be a single event that gives attention to the gang or geographic location.” He points to the 204th Street gang, one of the city’s smallest. But the Latino gang garnered national media attention after two of its members were accused of killing a 14-year-old African-American girl in racially divided gang territory. The 204th Street gang made the mayor’s list. Making the list The most dangerous gangs in Los Angeles attack LAPD officers and shoot indiscriminately, and their assaults are racially motivated. It’s that profile that got Canoga Park Alabama placed on the Los Angeles Police Department’s list of the most violent gangs – the only San Fernando Valley gang included. Begun decades ago by Latinos seeking unity and protection in a hostile, mostly white neighborhood, the gang now has 400 members whom authorities blame for the majority of the Valley’s hate crimes. The most active members are just 14 to 18 years old, police say. “They shoot at innocent people in the Valley, based on their race,” said Lt. Tom Smart, who heads the gang unit at the LAPD’s West Valley station. West Valley police have logged 14 racially motivated gang shootings since last July – 10 of which involve the CPA gang. Typical of the attacks is one reported Jan. 4, when a 28-year-old African-American was shot and wounded by three Alabama members as he walked home from work. And four Alabama members are suspected in the unprovoked shooting of a black man July 19 at Winnetka Avenue and Sherman Way. “It’s amazing that nobody has been killed,” Smart said. In 2002, the City Attorney’s Office won a court injunction against the gang that prohibits its members from congregating or committing illegal activity. Since then, 97 members have been arrested for violating the injunction. The LAPD estimates there are 77 gangs in the Valley, with a total of 11,000 members. [email protected] (818) 713-3741160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *