Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca has set lofty goals for his next term, says the Los Angeles Times, including the elimination of street gangs in a county where they have been entrenched for decades, and an end of the long-standing and controversial practice of releasing inmates from county jails before they have served their full sentences. Some experts called the goal on gangs admirable but unrealistic. His promise to stop freeing inmates early also faces obstacles.
Baca, elected last week to a third term, intends to wipe out the county’s estimated 1,200 gangs – with more than 80,000 verified members – by bringing together law enforcement agencies, religious leaders, and community groups. The idea would be to lock up the most dangerous offenders and offer alternatives to other gang members and those thinking about joining gangs. He wants to eliminate early releases of inmates by the time his next term ends in 2010. Malcolm Klein, a sociologist who has studied Los Angeles gangs for 44 years, called the idea of wiping out gangs “ridiculous”: “There have been hundreds of attempts at gang control across the country. Very few of them have demonstrated any success. Of those that have been evaluated, almost none have demonstrated success. Some have made things worse.”