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Evictions, Car Seizures Part of L.A. Gang Crackdown

Final Call, News Report , Melanie Muhammad Posted: Jul 05, 2008

LOS ANGELES (FinalCall.com) - Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa was flanked by police Chief William Bratton and representatives from various local, state and federal agencies, when he unveiled a new gang and gun enforcement initiative aimed at stemming violence in the city.

In order to permanently reduce gang violence, illegal firearms must be public enemy number one, Mayor Villaraigosa said. Today, we are taking aim at the worst offenders and empowering law enforcement with the tools to disarm our most violent street gangs, he added.

According to LAPD statistics, last year 394 people were murdered and 78 percent were killed by a firearm.Of the nearly 400 people killed, approximately 58 percent were killed in gang-related violence, authorities said.A 27-page report outlining the initiative focuses its use of more aggressive tactics involving civil gang injunctions, stiffer gun penalties, a higher level of collaboration between varied law enforcement agencies and greater suppression efforts in designated hot zones.

The new measures, effective July 1, also impact driving and housing.

If you engage in violent acts with guns, youre not going to be allowed to drive a vehicle without that vehicle being seized, Chief Bratton said during the press conference broadcast by a local ABC affiliate. If you engage in violent acts with guns in Los Angeles as a gang member, were going to take your apartment, were going to kick your family out and were going to give you a new residenceand your residence will be a 12-by-8 cell with somebody you might not want to be in the cell with, he added.Under this initiative, landlords will have greater power to evict anyone found using a gun within 1,000 feet of their residence.In addition, the city would have the right to seize vehicles used in gang-related crimes.

The mayors policies have caused concerns among civil libertarians and community leaders. Student Minister Tony Muhammad, of the Nation of Islam, raised questions about the new tactics.We applaud him for going after vicious criminals with guns, but to punish a whole family? So you get rid of one problem and now youre creating homelessness, he said. The innocent (will) get caught up with the guilty in their plans and its troublesome. Instead of going after criminals, they have criminalized an entire people.

The Justice Policy Institute, a Washington D.C. think tank, issued a comprehensive report last year titled Gang Wars: The Failure of Enforcement Tactics and the Need for Effective Public Safety Strategies that provides support for Mr. Muhammads assertions. Young men of color are disproportionately identified as gang members and targeted for surveillance, arrest, and incarceration, while Whiteswho make up a significant share of gang membersrarely show up in accounts of gang enforcement efforts. The Los Angeles district attorneys office found that close to half of Black males between the ages of 21 and 24 had been entered in the countys gang database even though no one could credibly argue that all of these young men were current gang members, the report said.

I have asked the chief and others for a clear definition of a gang and I have yet to receive a response, Mr. Muhammad said.Is it a tattoo or dress code? Who are the gangs? The problem is that there is a broad stroke over our people and what they refer to as gang dress looks like everyday hip hop youth, he added.The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan came to Compton a few years ago and warned gang members that if they continued killing each other that God would use the enemy to whip them into submission. This initiative just might do that, so we have to work hard and warn the youth, Mr. Muhammad said.

Related Articles:

Compton Braves Uptick in Violence, Residents Speak Out

LA Mayor Calls for Increased Anti-Gang Programs

Gang Violence Spreads to the Suburbs

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