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Gang Homicides Rise Slightly in O.C. After a 10-Year Decline, Report Says

Crime: The district attorney's office notes that the numbers are far lower than in the early 1990s. Greater police presence, longer prison terms are credited.

September 12, 2002|MAI TRAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Gang-related homicides rose for the first time in a decade, according to a report released Wednesday by the Orange County district attorney's office.

There were 18 homicides recorded last year, compared with 16 in 2000.

That's still a fraction of the more than 70 gang killings the county recorded in the early 1990s, when gang warfare was at its height.

Prosecutors said that other types of gang crime, including drug offenses, vandalism and probation violations, continued to decline last year.

Moreover, the number of gang members in the county is at its lowest level in a decade. The county has 17,306 gang members and 357 gangs, the report said. That's nearly 700 fewer gang members and 10 fewer gangs than in 2000.

Officials said the decline can be attributed in part to tougher laws that have kept gang members in prison.

"We're taking a lot of shooters off the street," Assistant Dist. Atty. Marc Rozenberg said. "We're sending people away for a very long time now. The law has changed.

"It has helped us fight this plague that we have."

He also credited improved gang law enforcement activities.

Every police department in the county has an anti-gang unit, and the 12 law enforcement agencies work with prosecutors and probation officers.

"The police are making their presence [known] out in the streets," Rozenberg said.

"When there are more police on the streets, you don't have as many people willing to go out and shoot somebody."

Still, he believes gang crimes will probably rise as the teenage population increases.

The report was compiled by the district attorney's gang prevention unit, the Regional Gang Enforcement Team and the Tri-Agency Resource Gang Enforcement Teams.

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