In a four-part series, National Public Radio reports on Los Angeles’s efforts to combat gang activity in the MacArthur Park neighborhood. Deadly gang violence transformed MacArthur Park from a mecca to a menace. A decade ago, L.A. police officers from the local Rampart division’s anti-gang unit got caught in a massive corruption scandal. Cops were accused of framing and shooting gang-bangers and stealing their drugs to sell them.
Things changed after William Bratton took over as Los Angeles police chief in 2002 and began a partnership with agents from the FBI, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, the Drug Enforcement Administration and Immigration and Customs Enforcement. “It’s been a real help to us having them involved because they bring all kinds of other resources and ability to access intelligence,” says Los Angeles police homicide Capt. John Egan. “When the feds get involved, when the FBI gets involved, you’re looking at serious time on those charges.” The number of homicides has been declining since the high mark of 106 murders in one year in the Rampart police division more than a decade ago. There have been five homicides this year. New video surveillance cameras now monitor the entire park. And patrol officers roam around on new three-wheeled police vehicles. Police Sgt. Ryan Schatz and his partner say since gang violence is down, they’re left to pursue less violent crime, such as giving citations to illegal fruit vendors.