Gang Prevention in Los Angeles
Gangs have swiftly gained precedence over the past two decades, and have spawned from groups of defiant youths of the 19th century, to violent criminal organizations that have firmly rooted themselves within all facets of the American society. From brutal homicides, to the trafficking of narcotics, the threat of gangs has, and continues to adapt to the societies to which they occupy. Although these criminal organizations have acclimated themselves, law enforcement tactics have failed to adapt along with them. In the seventies and mid eighties, law enforcement agencies initially failed to identify gangs as a serious threat to public safety. In the late eighties and early nineties, with a rise in gang violence law enforcement responded with harsh tactics to control and eliminate gang violence by any means necessary. Now, in 2012, the City of Los Angeles along with the Unites States faces a modern gang problem that requires an unorthodox approach by law enforcement, which has been severely hindered by cases of police corruption, misconduct, and lack of coordinated action. Both law enforcement and society can develop a new system to identify, respond, and prevent gang activities more effectively.
The term gang once referenced to a group of youth who went against society’s norms, but now the term holds a much darker meaning. Gangs have transitioned from a social nuisance, to a serious threat to American public safety and our everyday life. This transition is characterized by the shift in gang identity, motives, and crimes. Gang crimes in the 1970s were petty at best primarily loitering, truancy, theft, and disturbing the peace, but in the 1980s the level of gang violence was changing for the worse. This is evident from statistics compiled by gang experts, such as from 1984 to 1992, the number of gang
homicides in L.A. County rose from 200 to 800 homicides a year. Gangs who were once committing non violent crimes are now committing serious violent crimes affecting everyone in one way or another. The L.A. Times reported that residents of gang neighborhoods were barring widows, chaining doors,
and sleeping in bath tubs to protect themselves from drive-bys, and people avoided wearing clothing in colors associated with gangs to prevent being misidentified by rival gangs. Gangs have risen to one of the primary social issues facing society, and have proven to be an issue plaguing not just the inner cities, but the county as a whole including the affluent City of Santa Monica. Los Angeles County as a whole has seen an increase of homicide rates from 212 to 807 from 1984 to 1995, the gang problem thought to be faced only by inner cities has now diffused among the smaller communities such as Santa Monica as well.
Following the massive increase in gang violence and other gang related crimes in the 1990s people started to realize that something had to be done quickly to stop the violence. This created a shift towards suppression where the streets could be saturated with police over going the intervention route where the community wouldn’t see immediate results. Charles Katz stated “suppression tactics were primarily adopted because policy makers felt social intervention of the 1960s and 1970s was no longer effective in dealing with gang problems, as they were based on the assumption that gang membership was the byproduct of a socially deprived community, and that values and norms of gang youths could be changed by “reorienting the youths attitudes, values, and expectations toward mainstream society”. That did not reduce delinquency, but rather it drove youths to it. Gang units or specialized task forces to deal with gang crime specifically came into question to battle this program, and would become the most commonly used form of gang suppression. Another common practice the police...
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