DA’s Report: Almost Half of LA County’s Young Black Males in Gangs With AM-LA Riot
LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Gangs cannot be controlled without a long, costly effort, says a study released Thursday that estimated almost half the county’s young black males belong to street gangs.
Authorities estimate at least 936 gangs are active in Los Angeles County, with 150,000 members of all races and ages.
″To eliminate gangs in Los Angeles County any time soon is an unrealistic goal,″ said the report by the district attorney’s office. ″Just to bring them under control will take years of consistent, intelligent, expensive effort.″
District Attorney Ira Reiner, in releasing the report at a news conference, said he doubted that a truce between two of the city’s most violent gangs would hold.
″There haven’t been any black gang homicides since the truce began and that’s good,″ he said. But he cautioned that many gang truces such as the one announced by Bloods and Crips after the Los Angeles riots have been short- lived.
″The truces are not unusual,″ he said. ″We’ve had many of them over the years and unfortunately they’ve all failed.″
A similar truce was announced in San Francisco this week. Gang members and city officials said it was modeled after the Los Angeles effort.
″We want to eliminate the stupidity. It equals nothing. As long as the lines of communication are open, we can cope and deal,″ said Andre, a member of a gang called Western Addition. He and other gang members who discussed the truce wouldn’t give their last names.
In Los Angeles, the months-long study included analysis of gang-crime figures kept on computers of local law enforcement agencies. The agencies had records of gang activities for 15,256 black males ages 21 to 24, or about 47 percent of that population group.
″We do not know what the reason is for that very large number,″ Reiner said. ″It may be that they are being overcounted. I think that needs to be examined very carefully.″
The report called most older gang members beyond rehabilitation, saying the best anti-gang strategy would be for social agencies to target younger boys with gang prevention programs. Law enforcement, it added, should concentrate on using an improved computer database to prosecute and subsequently imprison older gang members, which the report called ″the core of the hardcore.″
Well before the riots, burgeoning gangs were bent on pursuing vendettas in a seemingly endless cycle of violence, turning some neighborhoods into war zones, the report said.
The result has been an unprecedented crime wave, according to the report, which found that male gang members commit more than six times as much crime per capita than non-members.
A record 771 gang homicides were recorded in Los Angeles County last year, up from a previous peak of 441 in 1980. Without accounting for gang-related murders, the city’s homicide rate actually would have declined since 1984.
The biggest rise in gang crime has been registered by Hispanic gangs. The sheriff’s department reported a 96 percent jump in Hispanic gang killings in 1990, and the police found the biggest increases in all types of gang crimes in predominantly Hispanic neighborhoods.
At the same time, authorities found that black-on-black gang homicides dropped by almost a third.
Among the study’s more surprising findings was the lack of a direct link between drug trafficking and gang violence. The report recommends that the two be treated as separate problems.
″Low-income, minority neighborhoods plagued with drugs and gangs are like patients suffering simultaneously from heart disease and cancer,″ it said. ″No doctor can treat one disease without taking the other into account. But curing one will not cure the other.″
While the report found that drug trafficking is not driving gang violence, it is providing money that enables members to buy more powerful weapons.