Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa on Wednesday appealed to U.S. Atty. Gen. Alberto Gonzales for additional funding and prosecutorial help to combat rising gang-related crime, kicking off a yearlong push to tackle one of the region’s most intractable problems, reports the city’s Times. Gang crime in L.A. increased 14% in 2006 – the first rise in four years and an uptick that Villaraigosa and LAPD Chief William J. Bratton say threatens to overshadow last year’s overall 8% drop in serious and violent crime.
“We agreed that Los Angeles is the epicenter of the nation’s gang crisis and an effective assault on gang crime will require increased suppression, intervention and prevention measures,” Villaraigosa said after his 40-minute meeting with Gonzales in Washington, D.C. The mayor sought millions of dollars in federal grants to target gangs in trouble spots. He also asked Gonzales for continuing help from the U.S. attorney’s office in Los Angeles in prosecuting gang members and focusing attention on foreign-born gangs.