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Agencies Team Up to Fight Gangs

A new countywide law enforcement coalition will share information to help combat violence.

May 05, 2003|Richard Winton and Andrew Blankstein | Times Staff Writers

Top law enforcement officials from across the county will meet today to conduct the first session of a new policing organization designed to share information, intelligence and tactics in combating gang violence.

Sheriff Lee Baca and Police Chief William J. Bratton hope the new County/Cities Gang Planning Authority will tear down traditional boundaries between law enforcement agencies.

"For too long we've tackled gang problems independently," said Baca, the driving force behind the authority. "This is not a local problem. We've really got to look at it from more of a global perspective. The same gang members can be responsible for a shooting in Long Beach, Compton and the Valley."

Baca said that although gangs have been singled out as one of the county's most prevalent crime problems, the coordination of information has fallen short. What is needed is a true clearinghouse for information, he said.

Baca said the authority's formation comes as the relationship between the Los Angeles Police Department and the Sheriff's Department has improved.

"We're being much less parochial," said LAPD Deputy Chief Mike Hillmann, the department's new gang czar. "Solving the problem means reaching out and being collaborative."

Hillmann said the LAPD and the Sheriff's Department will be improving teamwork by comparing gang case notes, devising joint strategies and sharing the same database on gang members.

"The idea is that we want to put together a regional information program," Hillmann said.

Those efforts will include building a coordinated case management system so members of the LAPD's newly created Gang Impact Teams and the sheriff's Operation Safe Streets gang units can access data on gang members, including sharing information about vehicles or gang associates, he said.

Baca said one of the first tasks of the authority is to gather better statistics on gang crimes. In 2001 there were more than 500 gang homicides across the county, but Baca said he wants to track all shootings.

The authority plans to use Compstat, a crime tracking system, to monitor gang activity countywide and create strategies. Bratton recently deployed Compstat in Los Angeles and it was the backbone of his New York crime reduction efforts in the 1990s.

Hillmann said that in combining the resources of the county's two largest law enforcement agencies, he expects smaller police agencies will want to climb on board, making it even tougher on gangs to operate in the area.

At today's meeting, Los Angeles County prosecutors, local police departments and state justice officials will participate

Wes McBride, a retired L.A. County sheriff's deputy who is president of the California Gang Investigators Assn., said that coordinating the gang response among multiple agencies is a good idea.

"It's something that's been needed for a long time," McBride said. "At the worker-bee level, the LAPD and the sheriff's have always worked well together, but at the higher levels there hasn't been much communication."

Teamwork can quickly determine what has been tried before and which approaches work and should be expanded, McBride said.

"If we see a new thing in our area, we can quickly check with LAPD by computer in real time," he said.

"I don't think anybody is naive enough to think that this will eradicate gangs," he said. "But it should significantly decrease the levels of gang violence."

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