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Police Call Gang Sweep a Success; 1,453 Are Arrested

Times Staff Writer

More than half of the 1,453 people arrested during the Los Angeles Police Department’s gang crackdown on Friday and Saturday nights have been identified as gang members, police officials said Monday.

Of the 794 gang members arrested--after being identified by the color of their clothing, hand gestures, tattoos and by their own bragging--683 were adults, police said.

Overall, 204 adults were arrested for felonies, 577 for misdemeanors and 48 on felony warrants, police spokesman Joe Mariani said. Juvenile arrests included 41 on felony counts, 79 for misdemeanors and 19 for curfew violations.

There were also 138 drivers arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence and 171 people arrested for various narcotics violations, Mariani said.

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Sixty-six people caught up in the unprecedented show of force by 1,000 police officers face criminal charges so far, authorities said.

Prosecutors in the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office said Monday that they have filed felony complaints against 46 suspects. Misdemeanor complaints against about 20 people have been filed by the city attorney’s office, prosecutors there said.

Officials from both offices predicted that total will rise as paper work is processed from the flurry of arrests made Friday and Saturday night from South Los Angeles to suburban Pacoima in the San Fernando Valley.

The unusual campaign to force gangs off city streets was deemed a success by police, even though some of the 794 gang members who were arrested on minor charges, such as littering and blocking sidewalks, were eligible to be cited and released.

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Prompt Processing

Under the Immediate Booking and Release system employed at the Coliseum, suspects were processed through and released in as little as 15 minutes to half an hour, assuming they had verifiable identification and were not named on any outstanding warrants. However, officers said “glitches"--complications in identification or papework--slowed the process in some cases.

Gang members who who went to jail apparently stayed there, although jailers reported no unusual overcrowding problems Monday.

“We have not posted bond on many of the gang members,” said Celes King III, a South-Central-area bail bondsman whose business jumped by nearly 400% during the weekend. “The parents of gang members are not rushing to their aid like they used to. I think the community has had it with gangs. It is basically supportive of regaining the streets.”

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Police said they were encouraged by the sweep, even though the slaying of a 15-year-old boy Saturday night on 6th Avenue near Pico Boulevard was labeled a gang drive-by shooting.

‘Crime Is on Hold’

“What the long-term effect will be, who knows?” said Lt. Bob Ruchhoft, a spokesman for the Los Angeles Police Department’s gang activities office. “The way the gangs are organized, we have no way of telling if the leaders were picked up. But the fact that we didn’t have a lot of criminal activity in the south end over the weekend is encouraging. Crime is on hold.”

The sweep drew criticism from the American Civil Liberties Union, however.

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“We’re looking at the police practices during the sweep,” said John Hagar, an ACLU lawyer. “Who is being stopped by the police? Is it something that is more appropriate to Warsaw than to Los Angeles?”

Hager predicted that the crackdown would have “a rather dramatic lack of results in terms of felony criminal filings.” He charged that the sweep was a publicity gimmick for the Police Department.

“Being a member of a gang isn’t a crime,” Hager said. “I think we have real problems with some of the arrests. The Sheriff’s Department has a more appropriate approach. They gather evidence on gang members suspected of criminal activity . . . and then arrest the bad guys.”

Sheriff’s Lt. Charles Brantly, an administrator of his department’s anti-gang detail, said his 40-member squad was increased to 70 investigators last month. He said more than 100 “hard-core gang members” have been arrested since then, with felony criminal charges filed against 80 of them.

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Brantly said Sheriff Sherman Block plans to meet with county supervisors today to outline his department’s procedures and explain “why we don’t need the National Guard” to fight the gangs.

The Sheriff’s Department has kept a low profile while Los Angeles police were staging their well-publicized sweeps, Brantly said, because “we’re afraid to blow the bugle. If things get bad, it gives negative publicity to the police and positive publicity to gangs.”

Sheriff’s Department gang experts calculate that there are between 80,000 and 100,000 gang members in the county who belong to about 600 gangs. About 26,000 gang members live in Los Angeles, according to Los Angeles Police Department estimates.

CASES FILED

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Of the 1,453 arrests made during the show of force, 39 felony (drug) cases and about 20 misdemeanor (littering, carrying a knife, etc.) cases have been filed by offices of the district attorney and city attorney. Police described 794 of those arrested as gang members. Here is a breakdown of the arrests:

204 felonies (adult)

41 felonies (juvenile)

577 misdemeanors (adult)

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79 misdemeanors (juvenile)

48 felony warrants (adult)

176 misdem. warrants (adult)

19 curfew violations

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138 driving under influence

171 narcotics violations


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