Top Los Angeles law enforcement and elected officials Tuesday acknowledged a recent rise in the number of killings in South Los Angeles and announced plans to bolster anti-gang activity in the area.
Speaking at a news conference at the Los Angeles Police Department's 77th Street station, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Police Chief William J. Bratton said a task force consisting of officers from the LAPD, California Highway Patrol, the mayor's gang-intervention program and other agencies would be formed to focus on the swath of the city south of downtown.
Although overall rates of violent crime and gang-related crimes in the city have continued to fall this year, July and August were violent months in parts of South L.A. During those two months, the LAPD's Criminal Gang Homicide Group, which investigates gang-related killings in the department's 77th Street, Southwest and Southeast divisions, responded to 30 killings.
That represented roughly a doubling of the homicide rate in those areas compared with the first half of the year. In addition, the nearby Newton area had nine killings over the same period.
"When we talk about nearly 40 homicides in an area, it simply says that we have to do something, have to do something extraordinary," said Deputy Chief Kirk Albanese, head of the LAPD's South Bureau.
Commanding officers in each of the areas have been ordered to identify neighborhoods with the worst violence and drug-dealing, Albanese said. Officers from specialized units in the LAPD, with support from the CHP, will be deployed into the area, Bratton added.
City Atty. Carmen Trutanich announced that the city had won preliminary injunctions against four area gangs -- a relatively new weapon used by the city that makes it illegal for gang members to congregate.
With overall homicide rates the lowest in decades, gang-related violence is down but remains a major scourge in the city's urban core.
Bratton said in a recent interview that "a couple thousand" more officers would need to be added to the department's ranks of roughly 10,000 to reduce the presence of gangs to levels seen in other large U.S. cities.