LOS ANGELES (FinalCall.com)–L.A. Mayor James K. Hahn and Police Chief William J. Bratton recently traveled to Washington to appeal to the Bush administration for intervention by personnel from federal law agencies into the city’s street gang problem.
Julie Wong, Mayor Hahn’s public information officer who also made the trip, stated that the top officials made direct requests for human and financial resources from representatives of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Justice Department, the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) and Assistant Attorney General Michael Chertoff, who heads the criminal division.
In addition to seeking 20-25 ATF agents and a DEA Mobile Enforcement Team, they are also seeking aid from the United States Marshals office, the L.A. County Sheriff’s Operation Safe Streets Program, the L.A. Unified School Police, the Probation and Parole departments and the California Youth Authority.
“They had a very successful trip and were able to get the support of the agencies, however, that is contingent on their budget,” Ms. Wong told The Final Call. Mayor Hahn, she added, further requested aid with preventative measures, such as after school programs.
At a recent press conference announcing the trip and the LAPD’s new strategy for disbanding street gangs, Chief Bratton said the need for more resources proved evident in the amount of shooting deaths that occurred in the South L.A. region alone late last year.
The new task force, he added, would not be a repeat of the former CRASH gang unit, because asking approximately 300 uniformed officers to investigate gang and drug related crimes proved ineffective.
CRASH was a LAPD branch of officers who specifically targeted gang-related crime. The program came under fire, and was dismantled in name only, after the Rampart scandal, which found officers guilty of assaulting unarmed suspects and planting and stealing evidence. The Special Enforcement Unit, as it is now called, exists under more restrictions, supervision and tracking.
The D.C. trip occurred just one week after the LAPD announced the opening of its Community Safety Operations Plan (CSOP) command center, from which a cross section of agents, officers and civilian employees work and collaborate with the community to curb the level of violent crime within South L.A.
A spokesperson for CSOP, who requested anonymity, said the plan, which also implements crime analysis, a seven-day resource tracking period, training, education, prevention and intervention methods has been introduced to the nearby Inglewood Police Department, with possible future introduction into other major city police forces.
And according to recent unconfirmed reports, Chief Bratton and Mayor Hahn have met with mayors of other major U.S. cities, urging them to consider gang crime as they do terrorism, a national issue.
The community, Mayor Hahn said, can and must play an increasing role in their safety, and community collaboration, along with federal, state, and county level assistance will strengthen the LAPD’s compliance with the Federal Consent Decree ordered as a result of Rampart.
Reverend Leonard Jackson, assistant pastor of First A.M.E. church, said he fully supports the chief’s and mayor’s efforts toward protecting the community. He urged residents to back the CSOP and to work with the officials because “no one will help us, but us.”
Chief Bratton deemed the move for federal aid Phase I of reorganizing the LAPD to committing 24 hours a day, seven days a week toward fighting crime.