The killing of a 13-year-old girl in a gang fight near Charlotte has helped rally support in North Carolina for a Los Angeles-style crackdown on gangs, reports the New York Times. At least 36 states have passed laws similar to those pioneered in the 1990s by Los Angeles, and enacted statewide in California. The laws prohibit public gatherings of two or more people suspected of being gang members; establish databases to track gang members; deploy broad sweeps of suspects; and lengthen prison terms for gang-related crimes.
Doubts have been raised about the value of the approach. Some law enforcement officials suggest that such aggressive suppression tactics may worsen some gang problems by alienating groups of people from the police and stocking prisons with thousands of young people, many of whom are transformed into hardened gang members while incarcerated. “L.A. has this approach of being tough on crime,” said Dallas district attorney Craig Watkins. “But the result of that is overflowing prisons, high crime rates and increasing numbers of gang members. Now we want to be smart on crime.” Earl Paysinger, an assistant Los Angeles police chief, said “assertive gang suppression” was appropriate for gang members “whose sole purpose is to wreak havoc on the community.”