Gang Crime in Los Angeles and So. CA

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa is a wimp. He correctly notes that there is a serious gang problem in his city but his solution is just stupid.

Mr Villaraigosa said there was a connection between poverty, low education levels, lack of job opportunities and gang membership.

These root issues needed to be addressed as part of a solution to gang violence in the United States and elsewhere, he said.

While I don’t doubt that poverty, low education levels and lack job opportunities allowed gangs to recruit new members, the idea that the gang problem is going to be solved by addressing these problems now is a fools policy…and Mayor Villaraigosa is a fool.

Part of the new strategy will be to target specific gangs and gang leaders. Sounds goog, but Najee Ali, former gang member turned community activist notes the problem with this policy,

Najee Ali, a community activist and former gang member, said the mayor and police chief shouldn’t be legitimizing gangs with such a list. “To the gang members it is a badge of honor.”

I’ve heard Najee Ali a number of times on the radio here in Southern California and he has always had sensible things to say, I fear he may be correct on this point as well.

And what exactly is this plan? So far, it looks like not much,

The LAPD has shifted 18 additional officers to the 204th Street gang turf and is expected to double that soon.

Villaraigosa also has appealed to U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez for millions of dollars in anti-gang funds and for more federal prosecutors to pursue racketeering and other charges mostly used in the past against organized crime. Gonzalez has dubbed gangs one of the country’s greatest threats.

The mayor is also working with FBI Director Robert Mueller, who has assigned agents to an anti-gang task force in the San Fernando Valley to work alongside cops deputized as federal officers.

Moving around upto 54 cops and begging for money and help. Yep that is a great strategy for taking on 39,000 gang members. Basically we have nothing. If you can’t pay for your plan you have no plan.

Here in Los Angeles the way gang violence is handled is you hold a three day summit about how bad the gang problem is, issue a report, beg for money and then do nothing.

Simply deporting these guys does not seem to have done much good either. Typically the gang members from the notorious MS-13 gang (Mara Salvatrucha) are deported back to El Salvador where they visit with friends and family and often return, illegally, to the U.S. But even more disconcerting is that some MS-13 gang members elected to stay in El Salvador and expand the gang there. Now, MS-13 is spreading out to other cities directly from El Salvador via illegal immigration.

Gang violence is a serious problem and one that underscores why there is a need for immigration reform/improved border security. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s mealy mouthed pablum isn’t going to help the situation though.

FILED UNDER: Law and the Courts, US Politics, , , ,
Steve Verdon
About Steve Verdon
Steve has a B.A. in Economics from the University of California, Los Angeles and attended graduate school at The George Washington University, leaving school shortly before staring work on his dissertation when his first child was born. He works in the energy industry and prior to that worked at the Bureau of Labor Statistics in the Division of Price Index and Number Research. He joined the staff at OTB in November 2004.

Comments

  1. Tlaloc says:

    Not like they have any way to take on the gangs so long as the drug war is maintained. The police can’t compete with that kind of cash flow. Never will.

  2. Patrick T. McGuire says:

    Geez Steve, why don’t you tell us how you really fell. LOL

    OK, so the mayor is a wimp and won’t do anything. What’s new? Government officials these days aren’t interested in solving any problems, they just want the money and prestige of holding office. And I don’t see them changing anytime soon.

    The question here is simple: what are you going to do? I assume from your writing that you reside in the LA area and that therefore this problem is a personal one for you. If that’s true, what are you going to do?

    And before you ask, I carry a loaded pistol all the time, even at home. As do most of the residents in my area. It seems to be an effective deterent. In fact, I would venture to say that the gang population here is probably the lowest per capita in the nation. If my government won’t provide protection, I do it myself.

    So what are you going to do?

  3. Its a quagmire I tell you. A civil war. We need to surrender to the gangs now and pull out of California. We should just accept that Mexico won the Mexican-American war and reduce the violence by pulling out now. Where’s the senate with their non-binding resolutions when you need them.

    p.s. Its all Bush’s fault.

  4. Anderson says:

    Let’s see: Mayor says

    These root issues needed to be addressed as part of a solution to gang violence in the United States and elsewhere, he said.

    Steve says:

    While I don’t doubt that poverty, low education levels and lack job opportunities allowed gangs to recruit new members, the idea that the gang problem is going to be solved by addressing these problems now is a fools policy…and Mayor Villaraigosa is a fool.

    Need to be less of a quick draw on the “fool” gun, Steve. What’s a four-letter word for someone who doesn’t understand the phrase “part of”?

    Moving around upto 54 cops and begging for money and help. Yep that is a great strategy for taking on 39,000 gang members. Basically we have nothing. If you can’t pay for your plan you have no plan.

    Well, begging for millions of federal $$$ in the face of 39,000 gang members sounds pretty damn sensible to me, granted that all I know about L.A. gang violence is what I read in Steve’s post. It would be worse if the mayor were on his high horse, saying “no problem here … we’ve got it all under control” and keeping the feds out of his ranch. Sounds like the problem is out of the city’s control & federal intervention is badly needed.

    Of course, AG AG may be too busy stamping out porn to help quash gangs. Priorities, dude.

  5. Mister Biggs says:

    For a useful reference this map provides reference for gangs in the City of Los Angeles, however it excludes gangs in parts of the County under the supervision of other Cities or the County like Compton, Carson, Hawaiian Gardens, etc. where some of the big gangs operate.

    As far as federal intervention….
    Well a sizable portion of the gang and prison population in the City & County of Los Angeles are illegal….
    The jails are nearing maximum capacity (due to state legislature in-action) and its expected they will soon be under federal mandate for early releases…..

    This also is what I like about the Chief, in an interview he was asked about the connection between poverty and crime. The Chief said he doesn’t buy it because they aren’t related and that its insulting to lawful citizens who are in poverty.

    The last problem was related to me by friends in the LAPD. Under the guidance of Willie Williams, Bayan Lewis, and Bernard Parks and their willingness to throw a cop under the bus for any complaint filed. As a result the criminals had the upper hand on the police ans ceased being afraid of the police. It was to a point where you could stand in a street and verbally threaten to kill a cop and all the cops would do is ask the person to go back inside (Bratton throws them in jail). Say what you will about the time Daryl Gates was Chief, the criminals were scared of the cops.

  6. Steve Verdon says:

    The question here is simple: what are you going to do? I assume from your writing that you reside in the LA area and that therefore this problem is a personal one for you. If that’s true, what are you going to do?

    Not much. The government has made it next to impossible to own/carry a gun. The people keep voting for fools like Villaraigosa. People don’t seem interested in doing much to address the problem such as adding more cops and curtailing spending on other things.

    Need to be less of a quick draw on the “fool” gun, Steve. What’s a four-letter word for someone who doesn’t understand the phrase “part of”?

    Well then what is the rest of the plan? Huh? I’m waiting. You tell me that and I’ll retract if there is something sensible in the plan.

    Here is a bit of history here for you. There was a gang unit here in LA called the Crash Unit. They actually reduced gang crime. Of course, there were some bad cops in the Crash Unit so instead of getting rid of the bad cops and throwing the book at them, they got rid of the bad cops threw the book at them…and got rid of the Crash Unit and gang violence/crime returned.

    Well, begging for millions of federal $$$ in the face of 39,000 gang members sounds pretty damn sensible to me, granted that all I know about L.A. gang violence is what I read in Steve’s post.

    LA just about paid several million dollars to some piece of shit fireman who, after years of practical jokes on other firemen, had one played on him. Why not tell that guy to FOAD and spend the money on more cops? Oh…that actually makes sense.

    Of course, AG AG may be too busy stamping out porn to help quash gangs. Priorities, dude.

    I agree with you on that one. I think there are problems from the very bottom to the very top. But holding conferences and begging for money isn’t a plan, its a hope. We don’t need hope, we need a plan and a Mayor that is going to do something.

  7. Steve Verdon says:

    By the way, Villaraigosa likes (liked) the conclusions of Connie Rice’s report that called for spending $1 billion on gangs over 18 months. They talked about expanding things like job opportunity, education, and improving neighborhoods to prevent gangs from taking root.
    What. The. Fuck? The gangs have already taken root! There are around 39,000 gang members. Trying to prevent something that has already happened is moronic.

  8. Anderson says:

    Trying to prevent something that has already happened is moronic.

    Again from my perch of general ignorance, aren’t gangs continually recruiting? Older members die, get crippled, go to prison, or come to their senses. That’s why there aren’t gangs of 40-year-olds terrorizing many cities.

    I agree that attacking “root causes” isn’t going to solve the problem, but your post just seemed a bit harsh, given that you actually agreed that poverty, etc. do indeed contribute. Maybe resurrecting something like the Crash Unit would also be a good idea, if it’s not some paramilitary b.s.

    [Digression: I live in Miss., and last night I saw a recruiting commercial for the Gulfport Police. They used footage of SWAT training and, I kid you not, cops in a tank. Yes, a *tank*, with “Gulfport Police” on it. If I can find it on the web, I’m sending it to Balko. God knows what kind of freaks would be attracted by that ad.]

    As for LA paying out $$$ in stupid settlements, well, the mayor doesn’t control the court system.

  9. Anderson says:

    Here’s that Gulfport ad, btw … takes a while to load. Like a Blackwater ad, practically.

  10. Steve Verdon says:

    Again from my perch of general ignorance, aren’t gangs continually recruiting? Older members die, get crippled, go to prison, or come to their senses. That’s why there aren’t gangs of 40-year-olds terrorizing many cities.

    There are older gang members. You’re right in that the life expectancy is short, but once your in, you rarely if ever leave. So if a gang member doesn’t die young you have an older gang member.

    We have 39,000 gang members and they have deep roots in some areas. I suppose you could argue that you should stop the gang from spreading by these policies, but that is at best a half-assed measure and I bet you’d also stop gangs from spreading by arresting gang members.

    The LAPD’s budget for ’06/’07 is just under $2 billion. How much larger could the police be with an extra $500,000,000 to $750,000,000? Suppose those cops target gangs? We spend millions of cultural crap, El Peublo de Los Angeles, and other nonsense all the while gangs have been allowed to grow and spread.

    I’m sorry, but this kind of apologia for these dimwits just doesn’t wash with me.

    I agree that attacking “root causes” isn’t going to solve the problem, but your post just seemed a bit harsh, given that you actually agreed that poverty, etc. do indeed contribute.

    I agreed that it is a factor early on, but we are way, way past the early stages of the gang problem. MS-13 is an international organization now. Attacking the poverty of the young kids in LA or El Salvador isn’t going to do much, IMO.

    And joining a gang isn’t just an “Oh I’m poor, I’ll go join a gang and sell drugs to feed my family,” thing. There a whole host of issues from the age at which they recruit–young people often seriously underestimate their own mortality. Also even if we take a rational choice theory approach to this the decision to join a gang is dependent not just on money, but also the risks invovled. If the downside increases via getting arrested, tossed in jail for a long time then the benefits look smaller relatively speaking. And if you reject the rational choice theory, then you are at least in part rejecting the idea that poverty and crime are linked, IMO.

    Should more be done at the state and federal levels? Sure. But that isn’t an excuse for doing nothing locally/at the city level, which is what I fear is going to happen.

    [Digression: I live in Miss., and last night I saw a recruiting commercial for the Gulfport Police. They used footage of SWAT training and, I kid you not, cops in a tank. Yes, a *tank*, with “Gulfport Police” on it. If I can find it on the web, I’m sending it to Balko. God knows what kind of freaks would be attracted by that ad.]

    Sadly we may need that tank here in some L.A. neighborhoods.

    As for LA paying out $$$ in stupid settlements, well, the mayor doesn’t control the court system.

    There was no trial, the city was going to capitulate automatically. So this objection doesn’t really hold. The mayor and the LA City Council are gutless swine who should be run out of town on a rail, IMO.

  11. Steve Verdon says:

    Here is a pretty decent summary of the Tennie Pierce story. Again we see the complete and utter spinelessness of Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and the L.A. City Council.

    the blog post says,

    Pressure on the city council grew to titanic proportions until the intervention of Los Angeles Mayor, Antonio Villaraigosa grew inescapable. He could no longer ignore the cries of outrage from the public. Late last month, Villaraigosa vetoed the city council’s original adjudication. I’ve never been a fan of Villaraigosa, but I will give credit where credit is due: This was a rare, smart decision.

    Villaraigosa was hoping to pull a Grey Davis, basically ignore the problem and hope it goes away. When it was obvious it wasn’t going to go away then do something. Complete and utter cowardice, IMO.

  12. Bob Agard says:

    I agree with Steve that his mayor is laughable. Denver also has a huge gang problem, with about one-third the number of gang members as L.A. The mayor of Denver does even less. He has not even issued a word about gangs since Denver Bronco player Darrent Williams was killed by gangsters on Christmas Eve. The L.A. gangs also are operating their smuggling trades in Colorado.