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Gang Crimes Up, but Cases Filed Decreased, Report Says : Violence: Unsolved deadly attacks contributed to the drop in the number of gang members being prosecuted in 1992, according to the district attorney’s office.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Gang-related murders in Orange County are rising but the number of gang members being prosecuted dropped in 1992 because many deadly attacks go unsolved, according to a report released Thursday by the district attorney’s office.

For the first time since 1988, the office’s gang unit documented a decrease in the overall number of gang-related cases filed, said supervising Deputy Dist. Atty. Douglas H. Woodsmall.

In 1992, there were 2,900 cases filed against gang members, including 372 gang members charged with violent crimes that include murder. In 1991, there were 3,050 cases filed against gang members, including 436 gang members charged with violent crimes.

There were 43 gang-related murders in 1992, compared to 31 gang-related murders in 1991.

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Many gang cases involve multiple defendants. Prosecutors filed murder charges against 34 reputed gang members in 16 gang-related murders in 1992. In 1991, 43 gang members were charged with murder, according to the report.

“Unfortunately, not each and every gang case gets solved, but I think there are some hopeful signs that many people from various agencies are getting together to do something about this problem,” Woodsmall said.

He said increased cooperation among law enforcement agencies have helped build tougher cases against gang members. Woodsmall said he believes that this accounts for a 159% increase in gang jury trials in 1992. Juries returned guilty verdicts in 43 out of 44 cases that were tried, the report said.

“When more serious charges are involved, people are not willing to plead guilty when they are facing greater sentences,” he said.

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Efforts such as a countywide computer system on gangs have already paid off: The system recently assisted investigators who later arrested a teen-age suspect in the recent fatal shooting of Century High School student Jose Luis Lopez, the report said.

Woodsmall said other legal tools being used to combat gang crimes include charging people with illegally associating with gangs and videotaping drug activity for use in court.

Prosecutors also are preparing a civil lawsuit to prohibit gang members from gathering in certain areas to further gang activity by declaring them a public nuisance, Woodsmall said. The lawsuit, expected to be filed in upcoming weeks, will be similar to a restraining order and violations can result in criminal prosecution, he said.


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