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Gang Crime Crackdown
By Christina VillacorteCity News Service
Prompted by a spike in gang crime in central and south Los Angeles in recent weeks, police and city officials today announced plans to unleash a multi-agency law enforcement crackdown in the area.
The initiative will rely on the resources of the Los Angeles Police Department, the FBI, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, U.S. Marshals Service and California Highway Patrol.
``We've seen in this area of the city an unfortunate increase in homicides over the month of July and August, and we know from experience if we put added resources into an area -- such as police, community groups, gang- intervention programs -- we can usually very quickly reduce that increase,'' LAPD Chief William Bratton.
``In the military, you've seen it in Iraq and Afghanistan, you call it the surge,'' he said at a news conference at the LAPD's 77th Street Station. ``This is a form of surge, where we put more resources in because there's an increase in problems.''
Police officials noted that crime rates in the city have declined for eight years, including in the south and central division areas, but there's been an upsurge in murders since July.
The LAPD's Criminal Gang Homicide Group -- which probes gang-related killings in the 77th Street, Southwest, Southeast and Newton areas -- investigated 17 homicides in July and 22 homicides so far in August, with another week still remaining in the month.
Cmdr. Kyle Jackson is the group's commanding officer and head of the newly formed task force.
``When you look at a two-month period of time, and you're talking about almost 40 homicides in a region, it simply says we have to do something,'' he said. ``We have to do something extraordinary.''
The LAPD could have dismissed the spike as a ``blip'' on the radar screen, but instead opted to be proactive and saturate the area with patrols to crack down on violence, Bratton said.
``This is evidence of a philosophy that has permeated all levels of the department,'' the chief said.
Lt. Darryl Ito, a watch commander at Rampart Station, said trying to identify the factors that led to the spike in crime is difficult.
``It may be because it's the summer, it's hot,'' Ito told City News Service. ``I don't know what the causes are. But I believe a lot of it has to do with the economy. People are out of work. People are not hiring day laborers. More robberies and burglaries are evident the past few months.''
Bratton said the spike in crime is not believed to be tied to any specific gang feud or retaliation.
Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said aside from stepping up law enforcement, city officials also plan to boost gang prevention and intervention activities and community outreach programs.Â