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After bloody summer in L.A., Garcetti defends crime-fighting policies

Francisca Xuncax, mother of a 13-year-old victim in a triple shooting in South L.A., listens to Mayor Eric Garcetti at a news conference.

Francisca Xuncax, mother of a 13-year-old victim in a triple shooting in South L.A., listens to Mayor Eric Garcetti at a news conference.

(Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

Days after a drive-by shooting left three children wounded and nerves in South Los Angeles freshly rattled, Mayor Eric Garcetti appealed for patience with a police strategy intended to suppress spiking violence, saying it would take time to show full results.

Speaking at an emotional news conference alongside a mother of one of Wednesday’s shooting victims, Garcetti said a plan he announced at his State of the City speech five months ago to reduce rising crime was still in its early stages. “Strategies for turning around crime, one way or another, don’t happen in a period of weeks,” he said.

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FOR THE RECORD: A previous version of this article misspelled the last name of Francisca Xuncax as Suncas.

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August was the deadliest month in L.A. in six years. Garcetti said he was confident that his administration’s approach — which involves deploying hundreds of additional elite police officers into troubled neighborhoods and increasing funding for gang-intervention programs — has prevented an even sharper rise in violence. “These are sound strategies,” he said. “We know they work. They’re just starting to come into play. And I will never assess that they are not working because crime might still be going up. I’m confident that it would be going up more without them.”

Garcetti was flanked at Friday morning’s news conference by Los Angeles police Chief Charlie Beck, gang-intervention workers and relatives of recent victims of gang violence, many from South L.A.

“We are here today because we have to put a human face on this. We are here today because we can’t let any killings go by,” Garcetti said. “You watch the nightly news, you might get two or three [homicides] a night, and then you watch your late-night show and you go to sleep. We can’t rest easy. We cannot go on doing what we are doing.”

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Among those present was Francisca Xuncax, whose 13-year-old son Martin Xuncax was among the three children injured when a gunman opened fire near a taco stand at 94th and Figueroa streets Wednesday.

Beck said Friday that the gunman — whom police have described as a black man between the ages of 20 and 25, with a short Afro and a piercing near his left eye — fired 13 rounds from a 9mm pistol, striking three children but missing his intended target.

Police said the gunman struck two children in the torso and that a third was hit by shrapnel. All were expected to survive.

“Last night he was delirious,” Xuncax said of her son. “He kept screaming, ‘I’ve been shot, I’ve been shot, blood, blood,’ while I was sitting next to his bed.

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“My son was innocent like the others,” she said, tearing up. “Right now, I’m scared to return home.”

Through Sept. 18, L.A. had seen 210 homicides this year, an increase of more than 9% compared with the same period in 2014. Many large American cities are struggling with rising homicide rates, though violence remains far below the levels of previous decades: Killings in L.A. peaked at 1,092 in 1992.

In April, after statistics showed city crime rising after a decade-long decline, Garcetti announced that he would shift 200 officers into the LAPD’s Metropolitan Division, an elite unit that deploys its members based on crime patterns.

Garcetti said Friday that it had taken months to train and reassign those officers and that they only recently hit the streets.

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He said his strategy to pump additional funding into anti-gang violence initiatives is also still playing out. On Friday night, the mayor was scheduled to launch a two-month extension of Summer Night Lights, a popular program that keeps public parks open late with staff and activities to encourage safety.

peter.jamison@latimes.com

@petejamison


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