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L.A., county join to fight gangs

Times Staff Writers

Touting new tactics to combat gang violence, Los Angeles city and county officials pledged Tuesday to create joint law enforcement teams in the San Fernando Valley, and city leaders proposed a $50-million tax increase to beef up anti-gang programs.

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, City Councilman Tony Cardenas and Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky unveiled a plan to pair county probation officers with city police in six Valley stations to curb what they called an alarming rise in gang-related crime.

The probation officers would visit probationers’ homes, handle juvenile arrests, supervise high-risk youths and manage requests for help from parents, schools and other agencies.

The city and county would split the annual $500,000 cost; the City Council must still approve its initial commitment for the remainder of this fiscal year.

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“We have had too many young people die as a result of gang violence,” Yaroslavsky said. “This is not just about suppression. This is about intervention. But make no mistake: It will be one or the other.”

Meanwhile, Councilwomen Janice Hahn, Jan Perry and Wendy Greuel proposed asking city voters to approve a tax increase to fund anti-gang programs.

They asked the city’s chief legislative analyst to report back to the council in two weeks with language for such a ballot measure.

Hahn said Tuesday that the increase could come in the form of a sales tax, parcel tax or other type of assessment. She said the move was prompted in part by the recent gang-related shooting death of 14-year-old Cheryl Green in Harbor Gateway, which is part of her district.

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“I know we’ll be accused of rushing this, but I’m doing this now because I can’t wait,” Hahn said. “There are programs in Los Angeles that work and we’ve completely underfunded them, and we need a dedicated funding stream.”

Hahn said she was open to going to voters as early as May, but could wait until next year if that would improve chances of it passing. Los Angeles County voters narrowly defeated a sales tax hike in November 2004 to pay for more police, and city voters last November rejected by a slim margin a property tax boost to pay for $1 billion in affordable-housing bonds.

As the city and county officials unveiled their ideas for dealing with gangs, City Atty. Rocky Delgadillo acknowledged the constraints that his office faces in dealing with a surge in gang violence in the Valley and elsewhere in the city. He pointed to a lack of resources from the city and the federal government, and ineffective efforts by federal immigration officials to deal with gang members who are in the United States illegally.

“With limited resources, we have to be smarter, and we have to be tougher,” Delgadillo said. “We can’t afford to wait around for resources that may never come.”

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duke.helfand@latimes.com

steve.hymon@latimes.com

Times staff writer Tony Barboza contributed to this report.

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