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Gang Truce Is Worth Maybe One Cheer : The real victory would be in persuading gang members to give up the life altogether

For the last eight weeks, a tenuous truce has held between rival Latino gang members in the San Fernando Valley. According to the Los Angeles Police Department, the fragile peace has been visible on the streets: Drive-by shootings and fights among gangs have mostly stopped.

The situation in the Valley at the moment contrasts sharply with the recent surge in violence between black and Latino gangs elsewhere in Southern California. In the Venice area, for example, 13 people have been slain this year in a cycle of retaliatory bloodshed by gangs. In a single square-mile area there, more than 30 people have been shot since October, many of them innocent victims who apparently were mistaken for gang members.

Precisely because gang wars claim so many of the innocent, a truce that diminishes the carnage is always welcome. No one, however, should be misled into thinking that such a truce is a satisfactory goal or a reason for the general citizenry to relax. Violent street gangs are as much a plague as ever.

The gangs of the San Fernando Valley might be engaging in a kinder, gentler interaction among themselves, but there has been no slackening in the crime they are waging against the law-abiding; robberies by gang members in the Valley are on the rise.

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In that respect, the Valley is similar to the LAPD’s South Bureau (covering much of South-Central Los Angeles), where a lull in gang rivalries has allowed young criminals to concentrate on victimizing non-gang members.

At best, the temporary peace and the regular meetings that are being held between rival gangs present police, local government officials and other concerned persons and organizations a chance to talk to gang members about the consequences of an existence devoted to violence and crime. The situation offers an opportunity to attempt to draw some of those members into a more productive life. That, and nothing less, ought to be the goal.


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