Los Angeles, plagued by 23,000 violent gang crimes since 2004, including 784 murders and 12,000 felony assaults, has won a $5 million judgment against a criminal gang that had dominated the heroin trade downtown for decades, says the Christian Science Monitor. The verdict could bode well for another first-of-its-kind lawsuit the city filed last month that goes after all assets of gang leaders, not just those associated with their criminal activity. Both suits seek to plow the money back into improving the neighborhoods affected by the gangs.
The suits were filed under amendments to state laws aimed at strengthening authorities’ ability to control gangs. A 2007 amendment allows law enforcement to seize assets associated with criminal conduct. A 2008 law goes even further – it allows prosecutors to collect damages from gang members’ personal assets, too. “We’re sending a message to gang leaders across this city,” said City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo. “If you break the law, we will not only find you, arrest you, and put you behind bars, we will also take away your money, your property, your homes, and your cars. Every penny we strip away will be returned to the neighborhoods.”