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Fighting Gangs in Los Angeles

April 12, 1988

Letters to the editor (March 25) on the subject of "Police Sweeps in Los Angeles" seem to confirm my suspicion that The Times and the Los Angeles Police Department communicate with different people.

One of your correspondents from Chino made an eloquent plea for someone to step forward and be the champion for the "rights of gangs." Three other letter writers from Los Angeles, Rosemead and Salinas, respectively, rallied around that theme. All four of them were inspired by a Times photograph accompanying a March 13 article, "The Hammer is Nailing Gangs."

I do not doubt that those four letters represent the Times' anticipated reaction to the half-page photograph depicting the anguish of a woman and two small children who are inside a house where a court-ordered search produced narcotics and guns.

The people with whom I communicate, residents of South-Central Los Angeles, have a much clearer understanding of the root cause of that anguish. They know from personal daily experiences that their enemies are not police officers. They know the enemies who are terrorizing their neighborhoods to be violent, narcotic-trafficking gangs. They look at children who are trapped in a vicious cycle where death is the most likely doorway to escape and demand that a better way out be given to them. They also know that when police officers, armed with a warrant, remove guns and narcotics from a house occupied by those children, the officers are trying to open that other door. Certainly no one espousing "gang rights" is going to offer them a chance to escape to a better life.

The people of South-Central Los Angeles have often complained that The Times does not report the good or the bad within their community accurately. That may be why they also do not write letters to the editor. Nor are they likely to be able to distance themselves far enough from their gang-induced fears to author academic treatises on the feeding and care of gangs.

Whether The Times ever hears from those people or not, I do. I hear them loud and clear. I hear calls for help. The LAPD is delivering that help, with aggressive law enforcement. And there is resounding applause to every fall of the hammer.

DARYL F. GATES

Chief of Police

Los Angeles

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