Declaring that Los Angeles must confront gang violence forcefully, City Councilman Martin Ludlow plans today to formally propose the creation of a city department dedicated to gang intervention and prevention.
"It's time for the buck to stop with a general manager who's got nothing more to do in life than eliminate this issue," said Ludlow, who estimated the number of annual gang killings at 300. "Other than that, we're just moving deck chairs on the Titanic."
The city spends millions of dollars each year grappling with gangs. The LA Bridges program tries to keep middle school students out of gangs, while the Community Development Department makes grants to reformed gang members who try to keep the peace and run intervention programs. And the LAPD is charged with gang suppression.
Ludlow says those efforts are not nearly enough. His five-page proposal, which was hand-delivered to all elected officials in the city Monday, calls for the mayor and City Council to create a Department of Urban Affairs in the next fiscal year. It would bring together administrators, case-workers, gang peace-makers, academics and social workers to find solutions to gang violence.
Funding would come from a half-cent increase in the sales tax that city leaders are considering, or, if that is not approved by voters, from federal and state grants and existing funding for city anti-gang programs.
Ludlow, who plans to submit his proposal to the City Council today, wants the council to create a committee to study his plan rather than send it to existing committees, a process that he sees as cumbersome.
Police Chief William J. Bratton said through a spokeswoman that he was "extremely supportive" of the proposal and called it "the one component that's been missing."
Khalid Shah, executive director of the Stop the Violence, Increase the Peace Foundation gang intervention program, said the city must consider innovative techniques if it is serious about stemming gang violence.
"We're dealing now with a more dangerous mode of violence, with examples like the 14-year-old shot 19 times," Shah said.
"They're called OK killings -- overkill killing. It's part of a culture ... what kids are seeing on television, what they've been fed since they were born. We have a whole new generation of young people desensitized to that kind of violence."
Other officials praised the idea, although several said it would need study.
"There's no doubt that people are dying in the streets," said Councilman Ed Reyes. "The idea is great, but let's be methodical in how we analyze and implement it."
Councilwoman Wendy Greuel called it a "starting point for discussion."
"The bottom line is, what we're doing now isn't working," she said. "We have to fundamentally reexamine the way the city addresses the gang issue."
Other officials, including Mayor James K. Hahn, praised the concept but questioned whether more bureaucracy was needed in tight financial times.
Elizabeth Kaltman, a spokeswoman for the mayor, said he "absolutely agrees that more resources are necessary to reduce gang violence."
But, she said, he has concerns about "the costs that would be associated with creating a department."