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Anti-Gang Program Expands to Eastside With Federal Funds

Combined effort of law enforcement agencies is credited with reducing crime in other parts of Los Angeles County.

August 07, 2003|Richard Winton | Times Staff Writer

An anti-gang program credited with significantly reducing crime in at least half a dozen Los Angeles County neighborhoods is being expanded to include the LAPD's Hollenbeck Division and the East Los Angeles sheriff's station area thanks to $2.5 million in federal funding.

City and county officials gathered Wednesday to announce that the Community Law Enforcement and Recovery program is hitting Eastside streets this week.

Police Chief William J. Bratton said the program will mobilize the city attorney, district attorney, the LAPD, and sheriff's and county probation departments.

"What this is all about is community-oriented policing, the idea that police, criminal justice leaders and the community, working together with scarce resources -- we can get it done," Bratton said.

He said the program will increase gains already made this year against gang crime in the area.

"Homicides are down from 36 in 2002. So far this year there have been 21. That's a drop of over 40%," Bratton said. "Shootings with victims are also down 21%."

Eastside Los Angeles City Councilman Antonio Villaraigosa praised the effort.

"Together working in a coordinated way as in the CLEAR program we can do more," he said. Villaraigosa said he goes to the site of every homicide he can in his district.

"About 10 days ago ... I saw a homicide. A 15-year-old gang member killed in cold blood. I think we can do better than that," he said.

The program is designed to reduce crime by intervening before gang activity can escalate. Officers on patrol collect intelligence, parole agents maintain pressure on parolees, and prosecutors can bring coordinated cases.

Launched in 1996 as part of President Clinton's Anti-Gang Initiative, the program was inspired by outrage over the 1995 gang-related killing in Los Angeles of preschooler Stephanie Kuhen.

The $2.5 million in federal funding for the effort in the Boyle Heights-East Los Angeles area was secured by Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-East Los Angeles), who represents the area.

Despite the credit the program has won in LAPD's Pacific, Northeast, Foothill, Devonshire and Newton divisions, it has struggled to maintain funding.

City Atty. Rocky Delgadillo took the opportunity to deliver a blunt warning to Eastside gang members: "We are going to swoop down on you in this area and we're going to hit you with everything we've got."

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