Gang-Related Youth Homicides

It was with great sadness that we read the numerous articles about the tragic death of Stephanie Kuhen and the firearm injury sustained by her 2-year-old brother, Joseph.

Between 1987 and 1994, there have been 28 small children (10 years of age and under) murdered in violent street gang activity in the regions of Los Angeles County patrolled by the LAPD and the Los Angeles County's Sheriff's Department. Previous to the death of 3-year-old Stephanie, all 28 of these small children were African American or Hispanic. Approximately half of these children were killed in drive-by shootings.

Approximately 95% were murdered with firearms, with the most frequent weapon being a semiautomatic handgun. More than half of all child and adolescent homicides in Los Angeles County are gang-related homicides.

Gang-related homicides in Los Angeles County have become a major public health problem. In order to prevent gang homicides, the root causes of violent street gang formation must be effectively addressed. The root causes include poverty, stressed families, unemployment, underemployment, lack of education, racism and a breakdown of sociocultural institutions.

As emergency physicians, we have been involved in the traumatic resuscitation of a number of these 29 children. We have witnessed the horror of these shootings, and have seen the anguish of the families, firsthand, upon being told their child has died from his or her injuries. Unless the root causes of violent street gang formation are effectively addressed, in association with limiting access to illegally obtained firearms, whose child will be next?

H. RANGE HUTSON MD

Boston, Mass.

DEIRDRE ANGLIN MD

Los Angeles

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* Re "Countywide Assault on Gangs Launched," Sept. 22: We don't need any more czars, administrators, or regulators. We just need more police and jails.

JOHN WALKER

San Pedro

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* As a Los Angeles police officer, I can speak from experience that try as we might to eradicate the gang problem, our hands are frequently tied by our justice system.

A few years ago, my partner and I captured a 15-year-old gang member high on narcotics. He was in possession of a loaded .357-magnum handgun that had been stolen in a residential burglary. This gang member had an extensive rap sheet for various crimes. I made notifications to get the OK to transport him to juvenile jail for detainment. I was told he didn't have enough "points" to detain him. I had to release him. Oh, he had to face his charges later in court, but nothing became of it. Another slap on the wrist and off you go. Is it any wonder gang shootings are out of control?

It's too late for gun control. The criminals have more guns than you can imagine. Carrying a loaded firearm is only a misdemeanor. These thugs know it and know that as juveniles nothing will happen to them. We officers know that it's just a matter of time before another innocent plays victim in these gang members' senseless shootings.

BETH HEIM

Los Angeles

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* Regarding the Cypress Park ambush, it's interesting to note how much attention the media is giving to the incident when a white child is involved. I'm sorry that it happened, but would more attention have been paid had the child been a Latino or black? Would the outrage have been as great as it is?

What about all the other people who were killed on that dead-end street? What about the residents who live in fear day after day? Did the media even care to investigate? Despite the City Council's resolution, racism is wild and rampant in Los Angeles and in America!

ROSE V. ROBINSON

Los Angeles

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