Every few years, an act of Los Angeles gang violence rises above the rest, sparking outrage and vows to conquer the gang problem. A new crackdown – targeting 11 gangs – might suggest that the Los Angeles Police Department is trying again where it has failed before, says the Los Angeles Times. Though gang crimes jumped 14 percent last year, they are down significantly from the early 1990s and even more compared with the mid-1980s. There were 7,714 gang crimes last year, compared with 10,945 in 1995.
“It is the same prescription every time they have a major event,” said Malcolm Klein, a veteran gang sociologist and University of Southern California professor emeritus. “Gangs are defined as a crime problem and not a community problem. This is old fashioned suppression in a new guise, and where is the proof that has worked?” Connie Rice of the Advancement Project in Los Angeles has a plan for the city to overhaul gang intervention programs and try to use means other than law enforcement to address its 39,000 gang members. Cheryl Maxson, a University of California Irvine criminologist, said that “the interventionists are not able to mobilize as quickly as LAPD, so law enforcement has taken the lead on gangs for decades. So the city goes with strategic suppression.” Police Chief William Bratton says LAPD efforts over the last four years have yielded results.