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'Ganging Up on Crime'

March 13, 1985

Kudos for your editorial (March 3), "Ganging Up on Crime." It cogently analyzes the South Central Organizing Committee's and United Neighborhoods Organization's innovative proposals to adopt locally a united, interfaith grass-roots strategy against crime, violence, and drug-trafficking and to secure commitment from prominent political and law enforcement leaders to implement that strategy.

Ironically, on that same day the Eisenhower Foundation, a non-public heir of President Johnson's National Commission on the Causes and Prevention of Violence, released a study urgently recommending steps to promote inner-city self-help neighborhood organizations empowering residents with "a stake in their own turf."

Unfortunately, in a conversation with an Eisenhower Foundation spokesman, I realized that the report's traditional remedies to avert "social dynamite" conditions in America's inner-city ghettos and barrios didn't mesh much with the interfaith crime strategy's five prongs.

Your excellent article (March 4), "Need Seen for Strategies to Curb Violence," which briefly reviewed the 223-page study by a dozen crime and violence authorities, "American Violence and Public Policy," again raised the question: Do tougher sentences and increased incarceration result in lower crime rates, especially for major violent crimes?

We who are dealing with alcohol and other drug problems applaud the South Central Organizing Committee, United Neighborhoods Organization and the many religious and political leaders attending the Feb. 28 Congress of Religious Leaders at Mount St. Mary's College for committing themselves to "long-term funding from increased state and/or county taxes on spirits, wine, and beer."" Most violent crime, after all, is alcohol-related.

But now that President Reagan wants federal revenue-sharing funds to cities and counties ended, Californians ought to at long last raise their lowest-in-the-nation excise tax rates on alcoholic beverages, at least to national averages. Alcohol misuse costs Los Angeles County government alone about $320 million yearly.

Perpetuating a state alcohol-tax public policy, pegging wine and beer tax rates at 1 and 4 pennies respectively (cigarettes at 10 cents a pack, incidentally) serves only to subsidize the incidence and prevalence of problems of violence--not their reduction and prevention.

RAY CHAVIRA Lynwood Chavira is chairman of the National Policy Committee of Americans for Substance Abuse Prevention.

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