Los Angeles police Chief Charlie Beck was asked if one of the reasons gang crime was low in the city because gang members are getting too old to get down. He didn't think so, telling a town-hall gathering of listeners of KPCC (89.3 FM) that "gang membership is not down -- gang violence is down."
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Beck said police were targeting trouble-makers, not necessarily gangs themselves. And he gave an endorsement for the city's new, $200,000 gang intervention training academy. He called intervention "the primary thing" that "will eventually be the solution to gang violence that gets exported out of L.A."
Beck made the comments on-air Thursday on Patt Morrison's "Ask The Chief" segment, which aired before a live audience.
Beck is banking on gang intervention in part because he has a limited number of officers, and the city budget doesn't seem to bode well for an increase in the number of badges at the department. Also, the state has been ordered to release 40,000 prisoners to relieve overcrowding. A plan by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to meet the federal order was recently approved, but it's not clear when the convicts will reach the streets.
Experts believe that many of those released will end up in Los Angeles County, and that many are gang members. Beck has said if the community does not reintegrate them in a constructive way, gangs will take them in in a more-destructive way.