– US officials announce charges against 13 members of the “Grape Street Crips”
– Indictment comes on heels of spike in gang-related violence in Los Angeles area
– Despite efforts by officials, gang-related activity will continue to plague Los Angeles and nearby areas in the long-term
In recent months, Los Angeles, California has experienced a spike in gang-related violence resulting in the death of both gang members and innocent civilians. In an effort to reverse this trend, authorities have focused significant attention on the issue and announced various plans to stem further violence.
Despite these efforts, we believe that ongoing gang-related activity will continue to plague Los Angeles, as well as other nearby areas, in the long-term.
Indictment Announced Against “Grape Street Crips”
On March 26, 2008, US officials announced charges against 13 suspected members of the “Grape Street Crips,” following the completion of a long-term joint law enforcement operation. The members of the gang are accused of manufacturing and distributing large quantities of phencyclidine (PCP) in the local vicinity, as well as other parts of the country, with 12 of the defendants facing potential life sentences if convicted.
During the investigation, authorities seized large quantities of PCP as well as precursor chemicals used to manufacture the drug. Officials also uncovered a laboratory in Landers, California where the defendants were making over 40 gallons of PCP, with a street value of over US$1 million. Members also maintained a business in San Bernardino, California, that served as a front to acquire and store precursor chemicals.
Spike in Violence
The indictment was announced on the heels of a recent spike in gang-related violence in the Los Angeles area. Incidents have occurred in several of the city’s neighborhoods and include: the shooting of a high school student athlete, the injury of a six-year old who was riding in a family car, and the shooting of eight people (including five children) at a bus stop. Of particular concern to officials was the random nature of these gang-related incidents, which did not appear to target rival gang members but instead innocent bystanders.
Officials Respond to Gang Activity
Local police officials have called for increased police forces on the streets, with the Los Angeles police chief indicating his desire to hire an additional 400 officers in the next two years in response to the recent surge in gang violence. Authorities are also increasing forces in so-called “hot spots” where gang activity is centered.
Additionally, in early March 2008, city officials and community leaders attended a Los Angeles Urban Policy Roundtable forum to discuss the surge in gang killings. The meeting focused on reducing racial tensions, which some have argued is one of the driving factors in the rise in gang activity.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) recently announced the creation of a new Safe Streets Task Force to combat gang violence in the Central District of California, bringing the number of these task forces in the district to six. The force, one of the 185 task forces throughout the US that are part of the FBI’s Safe Streets Violent Crime initiative, will work with local officials to target violent crime and gang activity.
US officials have made significant gains against gangs operating in the Los Angeles area, as well as around the country, in recent years, and have continued their efforts to stem violence and halt the proliferation of these organizations. Yet, despite these successes, challenges remain. Gangs have continued to operate, and have found new avenues and means to carry out their activities- a trend that will likely continue in the future. We believe gangs will continue to seek to expand their operations and reach, underscoring the need for officials to devote additional resources and continue to cooperate in order to reduce gang-related violence.