Law enforcement officials from across Los Angeles County convened a "gang summit" Thursday to plot strategy against street gangs, whose wars reportedly killed 387 people last year.
"It's just an exchange of information, of ideas; that's what it's about," said Sheriff Sherman Block before meeting with county Supervisor Kenneth Hahn, Dist. Atty. Ira Reiner, City Atty. James Hahn and officials of police departments around the county.
Block said the meeting was not triggered by the Jan. 30 killing in Westwood Village of 27-year-old Karen Toshima of Long Beach, who was caught in gang gunfire. The shooting prompted tighter security measures in the popular theater and restaurant district near UCLA, but also caused racial tensions as citizens of gang-infested black communities contended that police officials were ignoring them in favor of the affluent area.
Robert Vernon, assistant chief of the Los Angeles Police Department, said the immediate need is for laws allowing local police to use phone taps to pick up gang conversations about crimes.
"Most people don't understand we don't have authority for wiretaps. Only federal authorities have," Vernon said.