Gang-related homicides are up more than 30 percent this year in areas under the jurisdiction of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, says the Los Angeles Times. The department’s gang enforcement team is much smaller than it was three years ago and remains chronically understaffed. At least half of the homicides in sheriff’s territories are now gang killings, about the same level as in the city. Statewide, gang violence accounts for about 16 percent of homicides.
While the Los Angeles Police Department under Chief William Bratton has increased the size of its anti-gang units, assigning nearly 350 officers to gang enforcement duty, the gang unit under Sheriff Lee Baca has shrunk. The sheriff’s anti-gang units have 20 fewer deputies than authorized in the department’s budget – about 150 sworn officers instead of 170. Those numbers are down from a high of nearly 190 sworn deputies on duty three years ago. Baca seemed surprised that gang homicides were up substantially – 210 as of late last week, compared with 164 for the same period last year. “We are doing our best with what we have and we don’t have enough,” he said. “If you doubled what we have, we don’t have enough.” Baca is promoting a quarter-cent sales tax earmarked for gang intervention and enforcement, which he hopes to get on the ballot next year. Such a tax would generate about $280 million annually for law enforcement agencies in L.A. County, he said.