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Going after the gangs

February 15, 2007

Re "City plan targets 11 worst gangs," Feb. 8

As an inactive gang member and current South Los Angeles activist, I was disappointed and shocked to see the article on the top 11 gangs. Publicizing the top gangs and their leaders will not reduce gang violence. Gang leaders read and watch the news. By publishing names, not only have you created a target for rival gangs of the mentioned leaders, you have given lower-ranking gangs incentive to increase their activity to move up the list.

This ranking not only will create celebrities in a community that is already lacking heroes, it will increase violence in our communities. Even if this is a strategy of public officials, The Times could have considered more seriously the effect its reporting would have in fueling more violence. It is innocent communities like South Los Angeles, caught between rival gangs, city politics and media ratings, that will pay most heavily for this irresponsible decision.

JAMES HARRIS

Los Angeles

The writer is an organizer for the South Los Angeles nonprofit group Community Coalition.

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Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's decision to get tough on top gangs is another salvo in the high-profile conflict between gangs and government. The short-term gains might be positive; the long-term effects are in doubt.

The long-term solution is to thwart recruitment of gang members. Los Angeles City Councilwoman Janice Hahn proposed a ballot initiative for $50 million. The City Council agreed. This money primarily would be dedicated to gang prevention and intervention.

This is a solid investment in a long-term solution. Although we can hope for the best with the initiative to deal with the worst offenders, the solutions lie elsewhere. We all need to get onboard with the City Council to pass this important funding measure.

DOUGLAS SEMARK

Wilmington

The writer is executive director of the Gang Alternatives Program.

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Good for the mayor and Los Angeles Police Chief William Bratton for declaring a new war on gang violence. But that is only half the job. We must give young people alternatives or the policing effort will fail -- better schools, better teachers, job opportunities, playgrounds, safer neighborhoods. You can drive them out of gangs, but they must have somewhere else to go.

DONALD SHAW

Los Angeles

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