San Francisco, CA – A new strategy for dealing with gangs is responsible for a dramatic decline in homicides in Los Angeles, according to a front-page story in today’s Los Angeles Times. The strategy involves a community-based, law enforcement program that works collaboratively with ex-gang members to prevent gang violence.

According to the Times, the notoriously crime ridden city got through the traditionally violent summer months with 167 gang-related homicides, compared with 214 for the same period last year. L.A. Police Chief William Bratton said he believes the city will end up with the lowest number of homicides in 37 years. The significant decline in homicides includes a 50% drop in killings in some South L.A. neighborhoods, such as Watts, reported the Times.

The new gang strategy, developed after Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Bratton vowed a crackdown, relies on the help of local gang intervention workers, many of whom were gang members. According to the Times, when a homicide occurs, police contact gang interventionists, who LAPD officials say are particularly good at “rumor control” and calming tensions to prevent retaliation. This shift in strategy is a dramatic departure from previous gang violence strategies that involved injunctions, mass arrests, and sweeps.

“Gang interventions techniques such as these are exactly what is need in San Francisco to effectively combat gang violence,” says Public Defender Jeff Adachi. “When you invest resources in prevention and intervention at a community level, you see results. Instead, San Francisco seems intent on disregarding the lessons learned by other cities and continues to waste resources by pursuing unproven gang suppression tactics, like gang injunctions.”

The article noted that Los Angeles gang injunctions had created recriminations between police and gang-intervention workers, who later worked together to reach an agreement as to how to remove people from gang injunction lists. “I hope we can learn from their example and avoid gang injunctions altogether,” Adachi said.

According to the Times report, Devon Harris, 16, was killed in June after he and his friends got into a quarrel with some other teens in Watts. Within a week after interventionists hit the streets, there was an arrest in the case and no retaliatory shootings occurred.

The Los Angeles Times article can be viewed at www.latimes.com. The San Francisco Public Defender’s Office maintains a “Gang Injunction Resources” page that can be viewed at http://sfpublicdefender.org/.

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