Amid residents' increasing concerns about losing their streets to gangs, Los Angeles city and police officials have vowed to fight against multi-generational gangs that for years have terrorized parts of the city.
As part of the plan to rein in gangs, the city is working to work with other agencies to incarcerate gang members in other states, including Maine and Alaska, to break up a handful of families that run powerful local gangs, authorities said on Sunday.
There has been an up-tick in gang violence recently in parts of the city. The most recent was a Feb. 21 gunfight that started when gang members opened fire, killing a man near an elementary school in northeast Los Angeles. The killing led to a standoff between gang members and police, in which one gang member was shot dead and another wounded.
Residents acknowledged they are so fearful of gangs that they sometimes use code names when calling police to report gunfire on their streets.
"It took 60 years to get in this mess we're in," Los Angeles Police Chief William Bratton said. "Sixty years of gang growth in families that aren't breaking the cycle."
"We know who these families are," he said. "We are committed to putting them in prison."
"We're finally reaching the point where we have the resources on the suppression side," Bratton said, referring to additional Los Angeles Police Department officers and the city attorney's efforts to prosecute gangs.
"We're still struggling with our intervention effort," he said. "Today in the city, there's a great debate over how to control and measure and manage these resources."
City officials said they are intensifying efforts to find additional money for gang prevention. Less than one penny of every dollar spent on suppression goes toward intervention now, they pointed out.
"If we do not figure out how to cut off the supply of young people who see gangs as their only choice, we will never stop this," said Jeff Carr, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's anti-gang czar.
"We have to get those 15 percent of kids who are at risk of joining gangs," Carr was quoted by The Los Angeles Times on Sunday.