Los Angeles has recorded a significant decline in homicides so far this year — including a 50 percent drop in killings in some neighborhoods, such as Watts — as police embarked on a new strategy involving asking ex-gang members to help prevent violence, reports the Los Angeles Times. The city got through the traditionally violent summer months with 167 gang-related homicides, compared with 214 for the same period last year. Homicides citywide are now at levels not seen since 1970. The drop comes nine months after Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Los Angeles Police Chief William Bratton vowed to crack down on gangs. Though previous anti-gang campaigns have involved mass arrests and high-profile sweeps, this effort has been more targeted.
In its most radical shift, Los Angeles police are putting aside decades of suspicion and turning for help to gang intervention workers, many of whom were gang members. Officials said the intervention workers have been particularly good at “rumor control,” calming tensions after a shooting to prevent retaliation. Homicides in communities patrolled by the county sheriff and officers from neighboring cities were down about 15 percent. Bratton believes the city will end the year with the lowest number of killings in 37 years (in 1970, there were 394 homicides).