Why LA Gangs Are Fading Away

Pacific Standard looks at surprising decline in gang activity
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 4, 2015 4:00 PM CST
Why LA Gangs Are Fading Away
A man sits in handcuffs while being detained as federal and local law enforcement agencies search a home in Anaheim, Calif. on Friday, Aug. 10, 2012.    (AP Photo/The Orange County Register, Ken Steinhardt)

(Newser) – Seven years ago, Simon Tejada tried selling his house in a gang-ravaged part of Los Angeles. But the three-bedroom appraised at $350,000 only drew a $150,000 offer: "Your house is fine," said the guy making an offer. "The neighborhood's awful." Last year, however, Tejada said he no longer planned to leave—because gang activity had subsided, as it has in other parts of the LA area. Why the change? Pacific Standard reports that it's partly due to the 2002-2009 reign of former LAPD Chief Bill Bratton, who brought CompStat, real-time crime stats that hold police commanders accountable. He also supports the "broken windows theory," which claims that broken windows and other urban blights create more deterioration and crime. Among other factors:

  • LAPD division commanders became community organizers, urging neighbors and City Hall to clean up the streets. They also logged hours with school principals, merchants, librarians, and pastors. "We can't arrest our way out of the problem" became a new mantra.
  • In the 1990s, the Mexican Mafia ordered Latino gangs to stop drive-bys and tax neighborhood drug dealers instead. So police used RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act) laws to prosecute gang-members on federal conspiracy charges. More than two dozen RICO indictments have been filed against major LA gangs since 2006.
  • RICO cases have forced cooperation between police, DEA, FBI, IRS, and others, easing inter-agency turf wars.
  • Other factors are beyond police control. Gangs have declined because leaders alienate or kill their own members; gang-members become middle-class, selling drugs behind closed doors; and rising property values gentrify neighborhoods once run by gangs.

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But the gang-war is far from over: Last month, hundreds of officers raided East LA homes and arrested 20 people suspected of Mexican Mafia ties, on charges ranging from drug-dealing to murder, KABC-TV reports. (Read more Los Angeles stories.)

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