Police, FBI target San Fernando Valley gang crimes

A joint task force is being formed to address a surge in violence. Of concern is a recent spate of interracial attacks and retaliations.
By Patrick McGreevy
Times Staff Writer

November 22, 2006

Alarmed by a spike in gang violence, including interracial attacks, in the San Fernando Valley, the Los Angeles Police Department is forming a task force with the FBI to target organized violence and witness-intimidation crimes, officials said Tuesday.

Deputy Police Chief Michel Moore told the Police Commission that there has been an increase in violent crimes by Latinos against African Americans as well as some retaliatory violence against Latinos.

The number of attacks has reached 15 this year, which Moore said is unusually high for the Valley.

Moore blamed that increase on disputes that began in jail, then spilled onto the streets. It was a reverse of earlier this year when officials blamed jail violence on street disputes working their way behind bars.

Overall, gang-related crime in the San Fernando Valley is up nearly 40%, with 1,203 gang crimes this year compared with 860 last year, Moore told the panel.

“The increase in gang violence has caught everyone’s attention, including the FBI, and they have approached us and we are now forming a task force,” Moore told the commission.

He said the task force will begin working within 30 days. At least two FBI agents will work full time with expanded LAPD gang units.

Police Chief William J. Bratton said in a written report to the commission that Valley Bureau officers are setting up work space and equipment “that will allow them to go after these individuals involved in this increase in gang violence using the additional tools and powers that the FBI brings to the department.”

The FBI routinely assigns agents to work with LAPD bureaus targeting violent gang hot spots, said Laura Eimiller, a spokeswoman for the federal agency.

“We work with the various LAPD divisions with the agents assigned to violent crime addressing the street gang problems,” she said. “They are constantly trying to put resources where they are most needed.”

Moore said the increasing gang problem is fueled, in part, by conflict between graffiti vandals.

“These tagging crews are engaged in acts of violence against one another because of territorial or acts of disrespect in their view,” he said, noting there has been one killing involving competing tagging crews.

Some of the violence also stems from disputes between gangs involved in the narcotics trade, he said.

But one of the most disturbing trends is interracial gang violence, Moore told the commission.

“We have seen an increase in hate crimes, primarily Hispanic on black. And retaliatory acts back,” he said. “We believe and have information that supports that these are acts that are coming from unrest and disturbances within the [Los Angeles County] jail system, conflicts within the existing gangs and race tension in the county jails.”

Although racial tension involving gangs does not appear to be showing up on high school campuses in the Valley, there has been some tension at schools, Moore said.

In an effort to head off any spread in conflict, he met Monday with student leaders at Canoga Park High School and has consulted in recent days with Rabbi Allen Freehling, executive director of the city Human Relations Commission. The LAPD also has been working with the school police to refine plans for responding to any potential campus violence in which race is an issue.

Moore also met with county officials this week about having probation officers assigned to the anti-gang push in the Valley.

Police Commission President John Mack said he was glad to see Moore working with other groups to help “alleviate some of the racial tensions, especially some of the conflicts between African American and Latino gang members.”

Moore said his agency is having to deal with the gang problem even as it deploys more officers to combat an increase in street robberies in the Valley.

“While we sit here today, we are the safest bureau per capita anywhere in the city, but we need to get a little better than that,” Moore said.

*

patrick.mcgreevy@latimes.com

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