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Gangs of LA - The New Mafia

by Bob Weir Wednesday, Jun. 16, 2004 at 5:46 AM

A recent ABC News special report had me wondering what country I’m living in. When I heard the opening remarks: “Homicides have risen dramatically as street gangs continue to terrorize the public,” and “People are refusing to leave their homes for fear of attack by roving gangs,” I had to listen closely for the location referred to because I expected it to be a report from Iraq, Latin America, or Afghanistan.

Gangs of LA

June 15th, 2004

Weir thinking about it

A recent ABC News special report had me wondering what country I’m living in. When I heard the opening remarks: “Homicides have risen dramatically as street gangs continue to terrorize the public,” and “People are refusing to leave their homes for fear of attack by roving gangs,” I had to listen closely for the location referred to because I expected it to be a report from Iraq, Latin America, or Afghanistan.

Sadly, it is too often a domestic situation that rivals and even supersedes the criminal machinations of the aforementioned venues. Los Angeles Police Chief William Bratton is calling upon the federal government to help eradicate the growing problem of violence in the streets caused by a proliferation in gang activity that has increased the homicide rate by 350% in some areas.

“There is nothing more insidious than these gangs," said Bratton, a former NYC police commissioner. "They are worse than the Mafia. Show me a year in New York where the Mafia indiscriminately killed 300 people. You can't."

Clive Jackson Jr., 14, a promising basketball player with no gang affiliations was shot dead as he tried to flee from his assailant, who, according to witnesses, was about the same age. The gunman used an automatic weapon to fire shots into the head of his victim. In the last 3 weeks, more than 20 people have been gunned down in South L.A.

A few months ago, a woman who decided to testify against one of the gang members in a homicide case was burned to death when a firebomb was thrown into her house in the middle of the night. We read about gangs known as The Crips, The Bloods, and the Mexican Mafia, all of whom are known to be involved in murder, drug importation and sale, as well as a plethora of other organized criminal activities, yet there seems to be no way to stop the malevolent cancer they impose on society.

Bratton wants the feds to use the RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act) and the IRS to bring down gang leaders, saying: “That’s what got Al Capone.” Well, I hope the chief is right, but I don’t see the similarity between Capone and the Crips. Big Al, at the height of his criminal empire, had less than a thousand hoods working for him, and when somebody got killed it was usually another hood.

According to the FBI, membership in just one of these notorious L.A. groups, known as the 18th Street gang, is about 15,000, while the total gang membership is about 100,000. With a police force totaling about 10,000, it’s simple to draw the conclusion that we need to hire more cops. That often becomes the cry of police chiefs and mayors when the slaughter in the streets starts dominating the headlines.

NYC has about 40,000 cops, yet crime is on the rise. They have more cops than many countries have soldiers in their combined military forces. It’s not the number of police that matters, it’s how effective they’re allowed to be. The crime in NYC went down when cops knew that Mayor Giuliani was supportive of them. Perhaps L.A. Mayor Hahn intends to emulate his former East Coast counterpart. It’s easy to gain headlines by declaring a war on crime, but the people who are sent to fight that war must have the backing of the civilian authorities. Cops are people too, and if they know they’re going to jeopardize their jobs every time they go into battle, they are going to avoid it like the plague.

Most people have n unrealistic expectations of the police. They want them to look and behave like a bunch of boy scouts, and pacifists, but at the same time expect them to be tough enough to handle the grimiest, sleaziest, most violent prone Neanderthals that ever walked the Earth. While they’re chasing and/or rolling around the ground with some desperado that wouldn’t think twice about killing them, the cops have to be extra careful not to offend anyone’s sensibilities, because they might end up on the evening news as a precursor to a courtroom in which they become the defendants.

I can hear the liberals screaming already: “The police must not use unnecessary force.” No kidding? The problem is that the cop very often has less than a second to make a decision on what is “necessary,” while his inquisitors will have weeks or months to determine the validity of his actions.

It’s interesting that those complaints always come from people who have never faced off against a desperate criminal who had no intention of being arrested again without a fight. When a cop risks his or her life to put that kind of savage in a cage, he or she has very possibly saved your life -- because tomorrow that savage would have been stalking you. Still, the public remains naïve about the war on crime because, in the words Jack Nicholson uttered in one of his movies: “You can’t handle the truth!”

Bob Weir is a columnist for The American Thinker. The author of 7 books, he is a retired NYPD sergeant, living in Flower Mound, Texas.

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18,000 in the 18th street? more rational Wednesday, Jun. 16, 2004 at 9:00 AM

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