KILLINGS BY GANGS TAKE BIG PLUNGE

Copyright 1999 Times Mirror Company
Los Angeles Times

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January 1, 1999, Friday, Orange County Edition

SECTION: Metro; Part B; Page 1; Metro Desk

LENGTH: 489 words

HEADLINE: KILLINGS BY GANGS TAKE BIG PLUNGE;
CRIME: SUCH HOMICIDES ARE DOWN 59% SINCE 1993, PARTLY BECAUSE MANY VIOLENT GANG MEMBERS HAVE BEEN JAILED.

BYLINE: RICHARD MAROSI, TIMES STAFF WRITER

BODY:
Gang violence in Orange County has dropped dramatically since 1993, in part because so many hard-core gang members are behind bars, according to a report released Thursday by the district attorney’s office.

The number of gang-related homicides dropped 59%–from 74 in 1993 to 30 during the first 11 months of 1998. Moreover, the number of charges filed in violent gang cases has declined 24% since 1994, said Dist. Atty. Mike Capizzi.

The report is the latest in a series of studies showing that the county’s crime rate continues to plummet.

Law enforcement officials credit the drop in gang crimes to improved community-policing efforts, better coordination between prosecutors and police, and the creation of gang units focused on locking up gang leaders.

As a result, Capizzi said, hundreds of gang members have been sent to prison or the California Youth Authority over the last few years. Between 1994 and 1998, the number of gang members placed in detention jumped 60%, according to the report.

“We’ve sent a message to them that the police and prosecutors are going to own the streets, not the gangsters,” Capizzi said. “We’ve taken the bad ones off the streets, and the ones still there know that if they step out of line we’re coming after them.”

Santa Ana Police Chief Paul M. Walters said his city’s anti-gang statistics mirror the county’s. The department’s focus on targeting gang leaders, he said, has helped break the cycle of retaliation that sometimes fuels prolonged gang wars.

“If you take out the leadership, it doesn’t automatically replace itself,” he said, adding that gangs may actually “disintegrate or go dormant” as a result.

Paul Jesilow, an associate professor at UC Irvine’s department of criminology, law and society, said societal and economic factors may also account for the declines.

Noting that crime rates are down nationwide, he said the drop in Orange County’s gang-related crime statistics could be part of broader, cyclical patterns.

Those are often beyond the control of local law enforcement efforts, he said, and are influenced by economic or demographic trends.

Jesilow said the strong economy could be providing many young people with jobs that steer them away from lives of crime. Also, because many drug distribution networks have been consolidated into fewer hands in recent years, turf-fueled gang wars have declined.

According to the report, there are 19,841 gang members in more than 400 gangs countywide. About 3,600 people will be charged with gang-related crime in 1998, 408 of them for violent offenses.

In 1998, 18 gang members were sentenced to life terms in prison, according to the report.

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

Fewer Deaths

Gang-related homicides in Orange County have dropped 59% since 1993:

1993: 74

1994: 67

1995: 70

1996: 42

1997: 39

1998: 30

Source: Orange County district attorney’s office

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