Attorney General Kamala Harris claims budget cuts will hamper the war on drugs efforts

Alex A. Alonso Staff Writer
June 28, 2011 | 4:24 a.m.

For the last several years, we have been hearing that there is no way to arrest our way out of the gang problem in California. Former Los Angeles Police Chief William Bratton, Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca, and current LAPD Chief Charlie Beck are all on the record stating that we cannot arrest our way from the gang problem in Los Angeles, but what exactly does that mean?

Since the 1980s, under Chief Daryl Gates, there was a theory that is you aggressively policed gang neighborhoods and arrested as many gang members for even the most minor infractions, that would persuade gang members to quit the gang and ultimately have a positive impact on gang crime. Then Sheriff, Sherman Block, also believed that aggressive law enforcement efforts would cripple the gang and eventually end gang violence and drug sales.

Nearly thirty-years later, we have learned that massive suppression efforts were ineffective and in some instances had a reverse effect. What law enforcement did not understand then was that as a result of attacking gang culture, it put gang members on the defensive, causing them to unify and hold on to their culture more intensively. Not necessarily involved in violence, gang members continued to be more visible, loitering, and expressing pride in their neighborhood.

Regardless of the risk and dangers associated with street gangs, for many youth, gang culture eventually becomes a way of life, where law enforcement efforts and extreme rhetoric characterizing gang members as terrorist, cancers and plagues, will have simply have no effect on mitigating young boys, 10 to 14-years-old from joining the gang.

Although the upper brass of the LAPD and other law enforcement agencies understand that without an integrated prevention and intervention program, their suppression efforts are futile, but ironically, law enforcement continues to use massive enforcement operations, federal RICO indictments, and huge drug task force operations against gang members and others selling and using drugs.

For example, the LAPD and FBI recently arrested dozens of members of the Black P Stone (BPS) Bloods in a law enforcement effort called Operation Red Dawn. Most if not all the men arrested were not involved in any violent crime. After a 12-month investigation, the majority of charges these men are currently facing are selling drugs, mostly in small quantities. All the defendants are currently facing 5 to 40-years in prison on mandatory drug sentences.

These men were acting as independent drug dealers on behalf of themselves where their gang identities had little to nothing to do with their drug dealing activities. As small time dealers, they were working as the middle man in the huge supply and demand of drug distributors and drug users. Although many of these men have gang identities, the average age of 35-years-old suggests that their gang identity was not a major factor, as some of men in the indictment were over 50-years of age.

Now that the State budget is going to cut money from a variety programs including those that have supported many of these multi-million dollar law enforcement operations, Attorney General Kamala Harris is claiming that “target[ing] criminal gangs and drug trafficking organizations” will be jeopardized. The current California budget proposes a $71 million cut which will take millions from State-wide task forces that have primarily been arresting drug dealers in mostly non-violent offenses.

These suppression efforts have primarily focused on arresting men, mostly blacks and Hispanics, for drug sales in small amounts that have been characterized as “drug trafficking.” Some of these operations have produced large drug seizures, but most of the millions spent by the Federal and State government have mostly captured small time hustlers that have been sentenced to mandatory minimum prison terms for non-violent offenses.

Attorney general Harris has stated that these budget cuts would severely hamper law enforcement’s efforts investigating mostly drug dealers. The government continues to spend tens of millions of dollars on the investigation, apprehension, and incarceration of drug offenders, as they continue to lose the now 40-year war on prohibited drugs. Every time they remove drug dealers off the streets, they are replaced within days and sometimes hours, and their multi-million dollar operations will eventually be repeated. Just five years ago in this same neighborhood the FBI and LAPD teamed up in Operation Stone Cold, arresting dozens of gang members in what they called a “dismantling” of the BPS according to J. Stephen Tidwell, of the FBI, but the Black P Stones are are still in the community and so long as their is a demand to use drugs,

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3 Comments for “Attorney General Kamala Harris claims budget cuts will hamper the war on drugs efforts”

  1. Stef Alonso (@stefinla)

    The money that they have been wasting away should have gone towards intervention. Catching the youth at about 10-14 years of age by giving them a purpose for life so that they would feel empowered and not feel the need to join a gang. If more emphasis was put on this area as Kamala Harris said in the wake of her taking on the District Attorney position.

  2. LEO

    The police do NOT care about these young people. If they did, they would take the millions that they spend on DRUG WAR money and help uplift the youth with incredible educational programs that support at-rick youth and their struggling families.

  3. Ronald James

    5 – 40 years in prison for selling small amounts of drugs …
    Man, that’s crazy !
    “Land of the free” my blank !
    “Slaves of the government” would be more appropriate …

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