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Threat From Skinhead Gangs Reported on Rise

Times Staff Writer

With their numbers almost doubling in the last year and a presence in 21 states, neo-Nazi skinhead gangs pose a growing menace to minorities, particularly in California, according to a national report released Wednesday.

And increasing ties by these youth gangs to established hate groups such as the Ku Klux Klan and the White Aryan Resistance pose special difficulties for police, according to the report, the third issued by the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith on the subject.

Members are generally juveniles who often shave their heads and preach hate against all minorities. A raid last year on the home of an 18-year-old skinhead in Chatsworth produced Nazi memorabilia, a copy of Adolf Hitler’s manifesto “Mein Kampf” and pamphlets espousing white supremacy and claiming that the Holocaust never took place.

The report was released during a conference on hate crimes--vandalism and violence motivated by bias--organized by the league as part of a meeting here.

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Skinhead membership nationwide as much as doubled in the last year to 2,000. The league cited a racially motivated murder in San Jose this year and assaults on gays in Laguna Beach as evidence for its conclusion that California has the greatest number of skinheads and that they are the most violent in the country.

Abraham Foxman, the league’s national director, called for serious police efforts against the skinheads, stating they cannot be ignored as “kids who are simply acting out their frustration in an antisocial manner.”

Skinheads have taken part “in virtually every recent important hate movement rally, march and conference,” according to the report. The Klan, the Idaho-based Aryan Nations and California-based White Aryan Resistance, founded by Tom Metzger of San Diego County, have all forged links with the skinheads, according to the report. Metzger could not be reached for comment.

At the conference Wednesday in Century City, a panel dominated by law enforcement officials discussed a package of recommendations designed to raise community awareness of hate crimes in general and improve police countermeasures.

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Los Angeles Police Chief Daryl F. Gates said a sudden increase in reported hate crimes since June may translate into a slight increase for 1988. Gates, who did not offer statistics, said bias crimes “tear at the fundamental basic pattern of living that makes this country go and that makes it what it is.”

Speakers suggested that the biggest problem is lack of data. A league report recommended standards for reporting hate crimes and suggested that police set up separate units specializing in the bias-motivated incidents. Only eight states mandate hate crime reporting by local police jurisdictions; California is not one of them.

In Los Angeles, the most frequent targets of hate crimes are blacks and Jews, and most incidents involve vandalism of homes, according to the Los Angeles County Commission on Human Relations, which has been monitoring the problem for the last four years. Last year, according to the commission, 79 racially motivated incidents occurred as well as 115 motivated by religious bias. In addition, the commission reported 52 incidents against gays and lesbians.

The league report blamed skinheads for a series of crimes in California. They cited the conviction of Michael Elrod of San Jose for fatally stabbing a white man who had brought a black friend to a party, the felony assault conviction of San Fernando Valley skinhead leader Michael Martin and the attempted murder of two gay men in Laguna Beach in July.


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