Bratton Wants a ‘Gang Czar’ to Coordinate Efforts

Bratton Wants a ‘Gang Czar’ to Coordinate Efforts
LAPD chief says he agrees with a report saying programs need centralized oversight.
By Patrick McGreevy
Times Staff Writer

August 5, 2006

Citing a study critical of Los Angeles’ anti-gang efforts, Police Chief William J. Bratton called Friday for a “gang czar” and a new office to oversee the more than 20 existing, but scattered, programs.

“We spend over $80 million a year on gang prevention and intervention in this city, and it’s a mess. Nobody coordinates it,” Bratton said in his regular appearance on KTLA-TV Channel 5.

At a news conference later, Bratton said he agrees with the findings of a report released earlier this week by the Advancement Project, a nonprofit group that called for centralizing the oversight of the 23 intervention and prevention programs operated by various city departments.

“I support the idea of the creation of the position of gang czar, somebody we in the Police Department could go to: one person, one place to really coordinate our police operation with those prevention and intervention operations,” Bratton said.

The chief added that the LAPD would remain in charge of suppression efforts.

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa plans to appoint a gang advisory group and bring in an expert to help him determine whether the czar idea has merit, according to Deputy Mayor Maurice Suh.

Among the questions to be answered: how much power and authority should such an official have, to whom should that person report and should a new department be formed, officials said.

“It is unclear what a gang czar would look like, but we will be studying that idea and others,” Suh said.

The Advancement Project is also planning to report later this year on whether a czar should be appointed or whether the oversight should take some other form, according to civil rights attorney Connie Rice, a co-author of the report.

Bratton said some after-school programs aimed at keeping young people out of gangs are working, but he questioned whether others were worth the money.

“If somebody is not doing a good job, what the hell do you want to give them any money for?” he said to reporters.

The chief said his department has succeeded in reducing gang violence by 50% from the 1990s. In the early years of the last decade, he said, Los Angeles saw 500 gang-related homicides annually, and now the number is down to about 250.

“We are doing a pretty good job on the police side of it, but all the intervention/prevention which we can be part of in this city — quite frankly, it’s all over the place,” Bratton said. “It needs much better coordination.”

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