Police arrested 33 suspected gang members in the Northeast Los Angeles communities of Highland Park and Cypress Park over the weekend. One police official described the sweep as the beginning of a five-year plan to rid the city of gang activity.
"We are targeting our most violent gangs here in the Northeast area of Los Angeles," said Northeast Division Capt. Noel Cunningham.
"We want to remove as many of the most hard-core gang members as we can, and we'll continue to apply the pressure until we break their spirit."
Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights, about 40 officers from the Los Angeles Police Department's anti-gang unit, Community Resources Against Street Hoodlums (CRASH), and the Northeast Division combed areas in the two communities where gang members are known to congregate, Cunningham said.
The weekend arrests were primarily for probation and parole violations, possession of weapons and possession of narcotics, he said. The young men arrested were in their late teens and early twenties.
He said increasing gang violence in the area, including four slayings of young men in the Highland Park area since January, prompted the sweep.
Last year during the same period, he said, no killings were reported to the Northeast Division, which serves the communities of Highland Park, Glassell Park, Silver Lake, Mt. Washington, Eagle Rock and Atwater.
Two rival gangs in the area are believed to be engaged in a war of retribution that has increased the number of drive-by shootings, police said.
"It used to be that gangs were careful to retaliate on a particular gang member for a particular incident," Cunningham said. "Now they are satisfied to go for just anyone in a rival neighborhood."
Gang members interviewed by a reporter said they want the violence to end, but each side blames the other for starting and continuing the feud.
Cunningham said the arrests will continue until "it will become unbearable for gangs to congregate."
He said he will try to enlist the support of community groups and church organizations in eliminating gangs.