Gang violence has injured more people in the U.S. than has terrorism. Police chiefs and FBI agents converged yesterday on Los Angeles to to focus on “home-grown” gang killers, says the Los Angeles Daily News.
In the two-day, closed-door summit that ends today, law enforcers planned to draft a national strategy to get more money and resources from the federal govenrment to fight gang violence, which is rising in Los Angeles and elsewhere. “This is what’s killing young people here,” Los Angeles Police Chief William J. Bratton said. “This is what has the potential to kill many cities.”
Bratton, who called gang crime a “sleeping tiger,” seeks a national wake-up call on gang-related crime. Serious crime in Los Angeles dipped 22 percent in 2003, but more than half of the city’s 500 homicides were gang-related.
Chicago’s top cop said his city, too, attributed half of last year’s homicides to street gang violence. “Gangs are no longer a local issue,” said Chicago Police Superintendent Philip J. Cline. “We need the federal government to step up their efforts.” New York City has been so preoccupied with terrorism, said New York police Capt. Jim Osgood, that it’s only now focusing on street gang crime, which makes up 15 percent of that city’s homicides. “Ours is a late-blooming problem,” he said.
Denver Police Chief Gerald R. Whitman, who said 30 percent of his city’s homicides are gang-related, said that a cohesive plan presented to the federal government would give common voice to the cities’ concerns. “That partnership is probably the best weapon we have,” said Louis F. Quijas of the FBI’s Office of Law Enforcement Coordination, which co-hosted the event with the LAPD.
The local jurisdictions hope to get more funds at a time when many, like Los Angeles, are having budgets slashed. The LAPD remains down about 1,000 officers, while the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department could lose more deputies under Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s recently released spending plan for 2004-05.