Sgt. Sean Colomey patrols the most gang-ridden neighborhood in Los Angeles, the nation’s gang capital. The Christian Science Monitor says it is his job to lead 28 specially trained police through an area where assault weapons are common, graffiti “tags” define the turf, and 7 of every 100 residents are members of one gang or another. On a recent Friday night Colomey invited Anthony Pacheco, an L.A., police commissioner, to a ride-along to see the action. Although Los Angeles crime has dropped overall, there was a 14 percent jump in gang-related violent crime last year. Police say there are 39,000 gang members, 15,000 of them active in the area where Colomey and Pacheco will be on patrol.
On their ride together, Pacheco and Colomey took inventory of 65 gangs who police say rule these streets like terrorists. They “rule by fear and intimidation, the threat of violence and murder in every area of these neighborhoods,” says Colomey, a 17-year veteran. In a kind of “Marshall Plan” attack on the problem, police department action includes unprecedented collaboration with the feds: the FBI, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF). It includes injunctions that restrict activities of certain gang members and nuisance-abatement crackdowns that target gang hangouts. It includes lists of “most wanted” members and “most wanted” gangs and better-coordinated ways to rosecute them. There’s also traditional enforcement, meaning a bigger show of force and more arrests. This night would make that clear.