Street gangs did not start in Los Angeles, nor is Los Angele the gang capital of the United States or the world. Tom Brokow gave Los Angeles this dubious title during a 1988 documentary, and it stuck. Los Angeles does not have the most gangs, the most gang members nor does it have the most or highest gang-related crime rate. Cities such as Newark, Philadelphia, Washington D.C., Detroit, New Orleans unfortunately have crime and homicide rates that are far beyond that of Los Angeles. In fact, Los Angeles is among one of the safest cities in the US despite the 40,000 gang members and the 300 murders per year.
What Los Angeles has is the Hollywood influence, which has celebrated Los Angeles gang culture through movies and music, and that has made gang names like the Bloods and Crips a household name. When the crime rates in the United States peaked during the early 1990s, then President Bill Clinton, mentioned the Bloods and Crips in a speech proposing his Anti-Gang and Youth Crime Control Act of 1996 that died in Congress.
Regardless, we’ve all got a role to play if we’re going to move toward a 21st century that is more free of guns and drugs and violent gangs.
The message today to the Bloods, the Crips, to every criminal gang preying on the innocent is clear: We mean to put you out of business, to break the backs of your organization, to stop you from terrorizing our neighborhoods and our children, to put you away for a very long time. We have just begun the job, and we do not intend to stop until we have finished. – President Bill Clinton, 1996
Although there are years when the City of Los Angeles leads the nation in the number of gang-related homicides, there are several reasons why this characterization is misleading. First, Los Angeles is the second most populous city in nation with 3.8 million people in 2000 and 4.1 million people in 2010, so in actual numbers it is natural for Los Angeles to lead the nation in a variety of crime categories.
Additionally the LAPD and the LA County Sheriff’s Department has an extremely vague definition of what is being called a “gang-related murder.” Often when black or Hispanics are involved in murders in the inner city as a perpetrator or victim when there is no evidence that they are gang members, the police are quick to categorize these incidents as gang-related. The primary reason why police categorize these murders as gang-related is because its easier to prosecute in court and prosecutors are able to add enhanced penalties.
When ever there is a victim or assailant involved in a murder, regardless of the actual motive, that murder will be defined as gang-related by the police in Los Angeles. For example if a woman killed her gang member nephew in a domestic situation, the police will define that murder as gang-related. This generic definition of “gang related murder” inflates motive based gang related murder by 30 percent in Los Angeles. The women would not be prosecuted as a gang member, but if a non-gang member retaliated for the murder of his best friend who was a gang member, he will certainly be prosecuted as a gang members, even is there is no evidence that this person was ever in a gang or ever previously participated in gang activity.
Los Angeles has one of the lowest crime rates in the Country and has seen homicides drop by over 60 percent from the period between 1989 – 1993 when the city was averaging over 1,000 homicides per year. Several other US cities, such as Boston, Miami, and New York have experienced similar drops. Between 2007 and 2011 the city of Los Angeles has averaged 337 homicides per year, making Los Angeles, a city of over 4 million people, one of the safest large cities in the U.S.
|Homicides in Los Angeles|
|LA All|| Percent Gang
| LA Sheriff’s
| LA County