Drugs, Gang Violence Blamed for 50% Jump in Inglewood Murders

TIMES STAFF WRITER

An upswing in gang violence and drug dealing caused Inglewood's murder rate to rise 50% last year, making 1989 the second-deadliest year in the city's history, according to year-end estimates released last week by the Inglewood Police Department.

Police reported 46 murders in Inglewood last year, compared to the record 55 reported in 1980.

At the same time, the number of shootings involving Inglewood police officers more than tripled, rising from three in 1988 to 11 in 1989 and pushing the city into third place in Los Angeles County in the number of officer-involved shootings. In part, police attributed that increase to gangs and drugs.

"We are aggressively attacking gangs and drugs on our streets," Sgt. Harold Moret said. "We are going to have police officer-criminal conflicts."

A new Anti-Crime Team funded by a special police tax and specifically aimed at reducing gang and drug activity has helped police respond more quickly to calls for help, Moret said. "When we get there very quickly, we have more occasion to confront armed people committing crimes," he said.

Councilman Jose Fernandez said that the number of officer-involved shootings is a consequence of officers putting themselves into life-and-death situations. "The police are being very proactive in dealing with gangs," Fernandez said. "So, of course, that might create situations where confrontations occur. I wish there wouldn't be any shootings, but it's difficult being a community next to L.A."

Although saying that most officer-involved shootings are justified, citizen activist Terry Coleman called in an interview last week for the creation of a police commission to investigate citizen complaints.

"Police work is difficult," said Coleman, a former Los Angeles police officer now on disability. "It's not that the police aren't doing their job, but I'd like to see a strong police commission in this city so officers are judged by their peers and then by the citizens."

Four of the 11 officer-involved shootings in Inglewood resulted in deaths.

With the increase, Inglewood ranks behind only the much-larger Los Angeles Police Department and county Sheriff's Department in officer-involved shootings. According to the district attorney's office, in 1989, Los Angeles police were involved in 65 officer-involved shootings, while the Sheriff's Department had 30. Behind Inglewood were police departments in Long Beach (9), Torrance (3) and Santa Monica (3) and the California Highway Patrol (3).

Other South Bay law-enforcement agencies with officer-involved shootings in 1989 were Gardena, Hawthorne, Los Angeles Airport and Redondo Beach, which had one each.

Of the 46 murders in Inglewood in 1989, 22 were connected to gang or drug activity, six to domestic disputes or child abuse, five to robberies, four to fights that escalated to murder, and one to a sex crime. Murders in all categories rose from 1988, with those in the gang and drug activity category showing the largest increase. The remaining eight were classified as "other" or "unknown."

The first murder of the year occurred when an Israeli cab driver who picked up a fare at Los Angeles International Airport was shot by a passenger while driving through Inglewood to Los Angeles. The final murder victim was a 19-year-old Los Angeles gang member whose car broke down in Inglewood, where he was shot in the chest by rival gang members.

After Inglewood's record of 55 murders was set in 1980, the rest of the decade fluctuated between 21 and 32 murders per year.

In addition to the 46 murders last year, there were six other deaths judged justifiable homicides. Only one death has not yet been classified pending investigation: Patrick Shanahan, a teen-ager who died in police custody outside a Grateful Dead concert last month.

Complete crime statistics for 1989 are still being compiled, although police estimate that the overall crime rate may have risen 10%.

OFFICER-INVOLVED SHOOTINGS

These police agencies had the most officer-involved shootings in Los Angeles County during 1989. The approximate number of sworn officers in each department is in parentheses.

1. Los Angeles Police Department (7,900): 65

2. Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department (7,000): 30

3. Inglewood Police Department (185): 11

4. Long Beach Police Department (650): 9

5. Torrance PD (240), Santa Monica PD (150) and California Highway Patrol (1,040): 3

In addition, these South Bay police agencies had one officer-involved shooting: Gardena (80), Hawthorne (80) and Redondo Beach (110).

SOURCE: LOS ANGELES COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY'S OFFICE

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