Feds give city $2.5 million for gang fight

Los Angeles Daily News

Feds give city $2.5 million for gang fight
Boyle Heights is 1st target

By Rick Orlov
Staff Writer

Thursday, May 20, 2004 – Bolstered by a $2.5 million federal grant, Los Angeles launched a new front in the war against gangs on Thursday that will involve a partnership with police, community members, businesses and other organizations in the Boyle Heights neighborhood.

Mayor James Hahn said Los Angeles was one of four cities selected in the nation for the three-year pilot program designed to involve a community in fighting gangs.

“This program is an opportunity to engage the entire community to work with us to keep our children safe,” Hahn said at a news conference.

The program is aimed at gangs in Boyle Heights, but it could spread to other areas depending on its success. Other cities in the nation with similar programs are Miami Beach, Fla.; Milwaukee, Wis., and Richmond, Va.

Councilman Antonio Villaraigosa, who represents the Boyle Heights area, said the grant will help police and the community.

“It will help us build the capacity of community organizations and collaborate with residents to make a lasting impact,” Villaraigosa said.

Under the program, efforts will be made at heading off gang membership by working with families through health clinics, schools and summer programs.

Active gang members and their associates will also be targeted on the street, in jails and after their release from prison to get them out of the gang life.

“One of my top priorities is to make sure that suppression of street gangs is a national priority,” Police Chief William Bratton said. “We are not going to be able to arrest our way out of this problem.”

Under Bratton, the LAPD has reorganized its anti-gang units to deal with the 48,000 gang members in the city and stepped up enforcement efforts with a series of highly publicized strikes around the city.

In addition, the city — first under Hahn when he was city attorney and continuing with City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo — has won court injunctions against gang members. The court orders give police wide latitude in dispersing gang members.

District Attorney Steve Cooley, during deliberations on the county budget this week, warned that his office will be hampered in prosecuting gang crimes because of cuts his office is facing.

If proposed cuts go through, Cooley said he will not be able to hire the prosecutors he needs to meet the goals of an interagency gang task force.

“If I can hire 40 prosecutors in addition to keeping pace with attrition, I commit to fulfilling the objectives of the task force,” Cooley said.

However, he added he could not promise his office could continue an aggressive anti-gang effort without more funds.

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