An innocent bystander, Karen Toshima, has been caught in the cross fire of rival gangs and killed. She died not in a gang-dominated neighborhood but on a stroll through lively Westwood Village near the UCLA campus. Her death is a reminder that gang terror knows no boundaries. The problem, once more growing worse in recent years, demands extra effort everywhere.
As many as 70,000 young toughs belong to gangs in Los Angeles County, according to the Sheriff's Department. The Los Angeles Police Department says that membership is up threefold since 1984. Gang battles are a daily threat to bystanders in areas of South-Central Los Angeles and East Los Angeles. Roving gangs take their graffiti, turf battles, assaults, robberies, drugs, drive-by shootings and murders to other areas.
Before the Westwood shooting, Los Angeles County Supervisor Kenneth Hahn had called for a law-enforcement summit. Los Angeles Sheriff Sherman Block has agreed to organize a meeting next week of police chiefs whose jurisdictions include gang-infested areas. Meanwhile, the LAPD has tripled weekend police patrols near the theaters, restaurants and shops in Westwood.
Los Angeles City Councilman Zev Yaroslavsky, who pushed for the increased patrols, is also planning to seek a $25,000 reward from the council. Councilmen Robert Farrell, Nate Holden and Richard Alatorre also want beefed-up patrols and similar rewards in the dozens of gang-related murders in their predominantly minority and less affluent districts. Fair enough.