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Inglewood Police Pleased With Curfew Arrest Results

March 24, 1994|JAMES BENNING | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Police Sgt. Sam Cohen set out to sweep the dark Inglewood streets of teen-agers.

The city's new curfew for minors had just taken effect, but, as soon as Cohen pulled out of the station in his patrol car at 11 p.m., the emergency calls started coming in. Burglaries. Drug deals. A drive-by shooting.

Cohen raced back and forth across town in response, occasionally passing youths gathered in clumps along city streets. When the curfew ended the next morning, Cohen had arrested no curfew violators. In all, police arrested only 11 minors, including six suspected gang members.

"You've got to have your priorities," said Cohen, 38, accelerating his black-and-white past the Great Western Forum, the landmark Inglewood sports arena, on the way to a reported fistfight. "You can't stop and talk to kids (with all these other calls)."

*

The city has had its share of violent crimes, from the 24-hour period in January in which a teen-ager, a toddler and three other people were slain to Monday's shooting death of a 26-year-old man in a 68th Street apartment.

Officials hope the curfew, approved last month, will help stem the tide of violence involving youths under 18. Under the law, minors on city streets between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. on weekends must be accompanied by their parents or have a specific destination. Police can arrest youths they suspect are loitering. The curfew begins an hour earlier on weekdays.

Inglewood Police Chief Oliver M. Thompson said he was pleased with the weekend's results. Police arrested 28 youths, and they plan sweeps for the next three weeks.

Juveniles arrested Friday night were taken to the station where they were fingerprinted, photographed, cited and held until their parents arrived. None were too happy.

A 17-year-old arrested about 1 a.m. near a popular taco stand said he was unaware of the curfew. He said he should not have been arrested because he was not bothering anyone.

"I can see it, if you're out broadcasting (making a ruckus), but I wasn't," he said.

Another 17-year-old wearing a red-and-black flannel shirt and baggy black pants stared at the wall, his arms folded, refusing to tell police his name.

In the station lobby, a woman sat with her purse clutched to her chest as she waited for police to escort her son down the hall. Two of her son's friends, also arrested, sat by her side.

"I think the law is fair," she said.

All of the youths had been picked up by their parents by 6 a.m., police said.

*

In an office near the back of the station, several police officers examined a semiautomatic assault rifle that was found near a 17-year-old on the streets. A loaded, 30-round clip was found in his back pocket, police said.

Detective Rod Ramos said he was pleased with the arrests. He worked late into the night checking the youths' names against those of juveniles in the department's computer. Most were gang members, he said.

"We're talking about hard-core gangsters packing guns in high-crime areas," said Ramos, a member of the department's gang intelligence unit. "They're out there to sell drugs, rob people or shoot other gang members."

Cohen said the curfew gives police another tool in their effort to keep gang members off the streets.

"Before, we'd stop these kids and say 'get on home' and an hour later they'd still be there,"' he said. "Now it's 'get on home or you'll come down (to the station) with us.' "

For Cohen, that's a reassuring thought. With the growth of gangs, the city has become more violent since he joined the Inglewood Police Department 20 years ago.

He worries about his parents, who still live in the Inglewood home they bought 47 years ago, and his three children, who spend much of their time there.

"I have a fear of hearing a call that might take place down in that area," he said. "There are good people in this town, and they shouldn't have to live in fear."

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