Antigang Fight Viewed As Community “Cultural War”


The war against gangs in Southern California can be won if the political will can be found to attack the problem as aggressively in the schools and homes as on the streets, says the Los Angeles Daily News, concluding a weeklong series. More cops. More probation officers and intervention workers. More youth programs. More jobs. They’re all needed and they all cost a lot of money. Academic experts, law enforcement officials, and community activists have formed a consensus view that the war against gangs essentially must be a cultural war. The minority of hard-core criminals must be taken off the streets and programs developed that offer the majority of mainly poor youths alternatives to gangs through educational, recreational, and employment programs. “As long as there are gangs in our communities, it is a viable option to our kids,” said Malcolm W. Klein, a professor emeritus at the University of Southern California, who has studied gangs since 1962. “Kids see it painted on the walls, in school, on the playgrounds, on the streets and in movies and clothing advertisements. Unless you can take that option away it’s going to be there. And we don’t know how to take it away.”

Leading the charge to bring together the resources is Los Angeles Police Chief William Bratton. He said strong leadership, adequate resources, and cooperation among a host of local, state and federal agencies are at the heart of rooting out the gang scourge that’s taken nearly 3,100 lives and cost taxpayers about $5.2 billion since 1999 as the number of gangsters has soared at 10 times the rate of the population. El Monte police say aggressive anti-gang programs implemented in the 1970s have reduced the gangs from eight with about 2,000 members to only two with a couple hundred members. The police department has expanded job-placement efforts over the years to include tattoo removal, counseling, and programs both for at-risk kids and their parents. Klein offers a somewhat different view: “As long as we depend on the cops, courts and legislators, we’re dead in the water. As long as we have got gangs – as long as they have a point of control – we lose. I don’t care how many of them you put away, there’s always someone coming up. And why are they coming up? Because it’s the local community that spawns the gangs.”


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