Arrests Top 850 as Anti-Gang Drive Continues

Times Staff Writers

After making more than 600 arrests in an unprecedented 1,000-officer sweep Friday night, Los Angeles police returned to the streets en masse Saturday evening in their continuing crusade against street gang violence.

By 10 p.m., the legion of police that fanned out through gang-ridden neighborhoods throughout the city had made nearly 250 arrests. About half of the officers patroled South Los Angeles, the city’s hotbed of drive-by shootings and other gang-related activity.

Police Chief Daryl F. Gates pledged last weekend to place all 1,000 officers on the streets of South-Central Los Angeles. But by spreading the officers around Los Angeles, “gang members are now struck by the grim reality that we will enforce this in other areas of the city just as we did in South-Central for the last month,” said police spokesman Bill Frio.

Authorities labeled the massive deployment, in which Gates himself arrested a man on suspicion of narcotics possession, a major success. However, preliminary reports indicated that gang members made up a smaller percentage of those arrested than in previous anti-gang operations.

Of the 614 people picked up in the sweep that ended at 4 a.m. Saturday, 360--or about 57%--were believed to be affiliated with gangs, police said. According to police statistics, 79% of those picked up in nine earlier sweeps, which began in late February, were gang members.


“I can’t explain that,” said Officer Joe Mariani, a police spokesman. “I don’t think we’ve changed anything in the way we’re operating. It just so happens that the numbers are a little bit different.”

Staying Off Streets?

Another police spokesman, Lt. Fred Nixon, suggested that many gang members, alerted to the crackdown, may be staying off the streets or forswearing their gang “colors” in favor of nondescript clothing.

“They’re trying not to advertise because they know the heat is on,” said Officer R. Bennette, who was on duty Saturday night in South Los Angeles.

A policeman at the Los Angeles Coliseum command post, booking a man who was picked up for exposing himself in public, explained it this way: “Just because we’re looking for gang members doesn’t mean we don’t care about other crimes.”

Although many community leaders have praised the massive anti-gang operation, one officer working at the Coliseum said that not all neighborhood residents share that enthusiasm. “People in the neighborhood, instead of being on our side, make all kinds of accusations,” such as that police are arresting the wrong suspects, Officer Allen Sorkness said.

Gang Members

Frio said police list as gang members those who “are either known gang members, are on file as gang members, admit to the fact that they are gang members or (wear) gang colors in an area that a gang frequents.”

Of 202 people arrested in South Los Angeles in the Friday night sweep, police said, 107 were believed to be affiliated with gangs, as were 55 of the 75 arrested in West Los Angeles, 102 of 187 arrested in the San Fernando Valley and 96 of 150 arrested in Central Los Angeles.

The statistics, released Saturday evening, differed from earlier police tabulations. “After all the dust clears and you start getting everything together, you get true counts,” Mariani said Saturday night. “But considering the factors we’re working with, they’re pretty accurate.”

Before Friday night, the LAPD had undertaken nine anti-gang sweeps, using between 200 and 300 officers, in recent weeks. Those sweeps, all of which concentrated on South-Central Los Angeles, resulted in the arrest of 1,413 people, with 1,124 identified as suspected gang members.

Costs $150,000 a Day

Authorities said they were unable this weekend to provide information on how many of those arrested previously have been formally charged with crimes. The weekend sweeps are estimated to cost $150,000 a day, largely in overtime expenditures.

Gates made his arrest in South-Central Los Angeles after stopping for questioning two men who he said wore clothing that gave them the appearance of being gang members, Frio said.

As it turned out, the police spokesmen said, the men were not gang members, but one had illegal drugs on him. Gates proceeded to transport the man, whose name was not disclosed, to a makeshift booking center at the Coliseum. No other details of the incident were given.

Police have attributed at least 85 killings in Los Angeles County to gangs thus far this year, but officers reported no such violence during Friday night’s sweep.

Two Shots Fired

Two shots were fired, however, at an officer who was serving a search warrant at a suspected gang-operated “rock house” at 70th Street and Denker Avenue late Friday, police said. SWAT team members moved in and six suspects were arrested without further violence, authorities said.

And in Lynwood, east of Los Angeles, a sheriff’s deputy fired five shots at a suspected gang member who pointed a handgun at him. The man was taken into custody unharmed.

Gates pledged the massive task force deployment, involving nearly one seventh of the department’s 7,200 officers, after a 19-year-old man was killed and 10 other people were wounded a week ago Friday in one of the worst drive-by shooting attacks in the city’s history.

On Saturday morning, funeral services were held for the victim, Stacey Childress, before a tearful, overflow audience at the Fruit of the Vine Ministries in South Los Angeles.

The massive show of force over the weekend did not entirely stem violence in the city.

At 5:30 a.m. Saturday, 90 minutes after the task force had dispersed, a 37-year-old motorist who stopped on a South Los Angeles street was shot and killed by two men who flagged him down, police said.

ARRESTS BY BUREAU Total arrests, by bureau, from 1 p.m. Friday to 4 a.m. Saturday during special anti-gang enforcement effort.

Non- Bureau Gang Gang Total SOUTH 107 95 202 WEST 55 20 75 VALLEY 102 85 187 CENTRAL 96 54 150 CITY TOTAL 360 254 614