Antigang crackdowns are ineffective, report says

From the Associated Press

July 18, 2007

Antigang legislation and police crackdowns are failing so badly that they are strengthening the criminal organizations and making U.S. cities more dangerous, according to a report being released today.

Mass arrests, stiff prison sentences often served with other gang members, and other strategies that focus on law enforcement rather than gang intervention actually strengthen gang ties, raise their stature and further marginalize angry young men, said the Justice Policy Institute, a group advocating alternatives to incarceration.

“We’re talking about 12-, 13-, 14-, 15-year-olds whose involvement in gangs is likely to be ephemeral unless they are pulled off the street and put in prison, where they will come out with much stronger gang allegiances,” said Judith Greene, coauthor of “Gang Wars: The Failure of Enforcement Tactics and the Need for Effective Public Safety Strategies.”

The report, which was based on interviews and analysis of hundreds of pages of previously published statistics and reports, is valid and accurate but not new, said Arthur Lurigio, a psychologist and criminal justice professor at Loyola University of Chicago.

The report said Los Angeles and Chicago are losing the war on gangs because they focus on law enforcement but are short on intervention.

It cited a report this year by civil rights attorney Connie Rice, who was hired by Los Angeles to evaluate its antigang programs. Her report called for an initiative to provide jobs and recreational programs in impoverished neighborhoods.

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