Gang homicides plunge 32%
Nearly six months into the LAPD's crackdown on gang violence, the number of gang-related homicides in Los Angeles dropped 32%, mirroring an overall decline in violent crime across the city, according to statistics released Thursday.
The Los Angeles Police Department recorded 79 gang-related killings as of Saturday night, compared with 117 during the same period last year.
Chief William J. Bratton said the plunge in gang killings has helped fuel a 24% drop in overall homicides.
"That's 48 fewer murder victims, 48 fewer families victimized and 48 fewer young men going to jail for 20 to 25 years for that crime," Bratton said. "We are actually saving two lives — the victim, and hopefully, keeping another young person from committing a murder."
The crackdown was a response to a 15% increase in gang-related crimes in 2006 as general crime continued to decline citywide. In response, the LAPD shifted more police officers into neighborhoods with large concentrations of gang members to target 11 gangs that police officials considered to be the worst.
The FBI and Los Angeles city attorney's office have also targeted several gangs that have been accused of racially motivated violence.
"That is a substantial decline in gang homicides if their gang-related definition has remained the same," said Malcolm Klein, a professor emeritus of sociology at USC who has studied gangs for several decades. Klein said that generally the LAPD has been fairly good at identifying gangs tied to crime but that it remains a subjective task.
He says he is not surprised that Bratton credited LAPD officers for the decline but he and others cautioned against attributing such a change to law enforcement actions.
To officers on the streets, there is no easy answer for the decline. Some officers said that although they believe recent police efforts have made a difference, other factors, such as demographic changes, improved trauma care for assault victims and longer prison sentences, are also affecting crime statistics such as homicide.
Three-strikes laws, for example, have thinned the ranks of some gangs in the LAPD's 77th Division, Det. John Radtke said. "If I sit down and go through the gang list, it's amazing how many names are in jail or dead."
Officers working in the areas where crime has fallen most steeply said they were reluctant to even guess why violent crime has declined.
Veterans working the streets of South Los Angeles learn to never make predictions, said Det. Richard Arsiniega of the Newton Division homicide squad. "Because tomorrow," he said, snapping his fingers, "it could change."
Police in high-crime areas such as Newton Division and the neighboring 77th Street Division are accustomed to sharp, inexplicable spikes in crime. "We go 11 weeks without a homicide, and then we'll have three in three days," Arsiniega said.
Newton, which is down in homicides this year, has seen a sudden spurt of three killings over the last week.
Two of the recent victims were women, including 31-year-old Karina Michel, who was killed in front of her two children Tuesday.
Some areas of the most intense new police focus, however, have also seen the greatest decline in crime statistics this year. Southeast Division, for example, had 23 homicides at this time last year. This year, there have been 14.
Southeast Division Lt. Glenn Krejci cites an accumulation of new tactics over several years in that division, covering Watts, which is the poorest of all the precincts in the city and includes among its public housing projects three large ones: Nickerson Gardens, Jordan Downs and Imperial Courts.
Krejci said Southeast Division's experience shows that crime responds when police simply throw a lot at it.
For example, Southeast in recent years has added cameras in the housing projects that are monitored by officers, gang injunctions on such projects-based gangs as the Bounty Hunters and the Grape Street Crips, a prosecution program called CLEAR, and money from the Los Angeles Housing Authority granting extra overtime for patrols in the projects, he said.
So far in 2007, homicides in South Los Angeles, traditionally the most violent part of the city, are down from 70 to 58.
Gang-related killings in South Los Angeles are down 23% from 47 to 36, Bratton said.
The South Los Angeles homicide unit has cleared 42 killings or 84% of its caseload, Bratton said.
The clearance for all South Los Angeles homicides has increased from 48% to 74% this year, officials said.
"That is an incredible number. There aren't many departments in the country who have numbers like that," Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said as he chatted with detectives in a squad room.
Citywide, the clearance rate has jumped from 63% to 75% so far this year. Additionally, Bratton and Villaraigosa reminded the public of rewards offered in hopes of solving three separate shooting deaths in South Los Angeles, where homicides were down by 17% in the first part of the year.
Det. Matt Mahoney of South Bureau homicide said good police work is making a difference.
"We are actually making some good arrests. We are hitting prime targets," he said. Gang units "are on top of things. Patrol is on top of things…. I honestly believe it is what we are doing," he said.
But police caution that the summer months have barely begun, and homicides typically surge in August, the result of a combination of factors, such as people being outside at night and so-called gang birthdays falling in months whose numbers correspond with streets in South Los Angeles — streets in the 70s, correspond to July, for example. And the long-term trend is hard to gauge.
"It will be interesting to see where it is going to go in 10 years. I don't think anyone can predict it," Radtke said.
BS Ranch Perspective
LAPD Chief Bratton says that it is the crack down of The Gang Unit that has reduced the numbers, and cased This Reduction. It is this Writer's Experience in LA Enforcement However that the only way that you can Control Crime is through Tough Crime Enforcement. Chief Bratton has not done this. In the recent incident when the LAPD started to do an Active Enforcement Roll to clear MacArthur Park Instead of Standing behind the decisions of the Command Staff that he has worked with and knows well, he turned around and bent to the pressure of the Liberal people that saw the media tapes of the enforcement decision that was made.
I have it that there was clear warnings made in both Spanish and English, Spanish being a Second language, which until recently we have started to bend to make it some kind of a duel language in California. It is way to confusing for the person that speaks a language other then English and Spanish, as to which language that he/she should learn because we, in California cannot seem to make up our minds which language we are going to speak. I digress!!
Back to the park issue, the Police made the announcement to disperse Twice in Both English and Spanish, it was heard by the line Officers Loud and clear. The Media gathered their camera's and didn't disperse, when ordered by the POLICE, as if the PRESS has some GOLDED TICKET TO NOT HAVE TO LISTEN TO THE POLICE WHEN ORDERED!!!
The Media shows the POLICE in such bad light like that of Rodney King, The Police Officers involved in the Rodney King Case was found NOT GUILTY in a California Court!!! However in a Federal Court, they were found Guilty on Three of the over 150 Blows to Rodney King when he was on the ground. Three of the blows were found to be unjustified, in the over 140 to 171 blows that he took. When you take a police officer in a imperfect world and hold them to perfection you are going to have a system that fails and the Spirit of the law is lost. Especially when you have a case like Rodney King, where the Officers were doing their jobs, They got the "FELON" into custody, Within LAPD Policy at that time! Riot or not, they were not guilty, I don't care what anyone says.
This MacArthur Park incident also was handled to the protocol by most all agencies regarding a Riot or Unruly Crowd. They made notice of an Unlawful Assembly Notice in English then in Spanish. They repeated the Notice in both Languages using their Unlawful Assembly Notification Card!!
Then the order for a slow motion to clear the park was made. Tear Gas was pushed out and then they moved more then likely with the Wedge Formation moving the people out of the Park and onto the streets out of the Park.
The incident was done Again Lawfully. I was not there, I have it from Blogs and Electronic Mail that has been Mailed to me regarding this to allow me the perspective on this. The supervisors better go back via their Union and Attempt to get their jobs back. It is a huge cut in pay when you are moved back down from a Captain down to a Lieutenant. it really sucks and they have a case to get their jobs back. Bratton was and is wrong.