Even as crime overall is down in Los Angeles, violent gang battles have spiraled out of control in recent months, says the Christian Science Monitor. That has produced a “climate of fear higher than any time in the history of this world capital of gangs,” says Najee Ali, a black activist. Hispanic numbers have grown, pushing into neighborhoods that were predominately black. Recent killings of blacks by Hispanics is a new category of hate crime, says Earl Ofari Hutchinson, a political analyst. The question is whether city leaders, the schools, the police, the courts, churches, and community activists will spring into collective action to try to defuse the tensions underlying the violence. The Los Angeles Times reported that FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III joined local law enforcement officials yesterday to announce a campaign for the “strategic dismantling” of two street gangs.
New collaborations with federal, state, and local agencies will pool money and resources. Among new ideas: better tracking of gang members who reenter neighborhoods after release from prison. Officials have come to realize that the gang epidemic here is largely immune to increased crime crackdowns. “We have been stuck on ‘stupid’ in fighting gangs,” says Constance Rice, author of a new study and 100 recommendations presented to the City Council this week. Police see they “cannot arrest their way out of the gang violence crisis,” and are moving to a “comprehensive, neighborhood-based, schools-centered” approach, said the study. “What is different now is that everyone realizes for the first time that enforcement is only a short-term fix,” says Jorja Leap, a social welfare professor at the University of California, Los Angeles.