Gangs LAPD

Charlie Beck’s Enlightened Gang War


Los Angeles has had a big drop in murders this year.
LAPD Chief Bill Bratton says that if the numbers continue to hold, 2007 will end with the lowest number of homicides in 37 years.

Bratton believes some of that change has to do with smarter and more targeted policing. But, with the numbers diving the most dramatically in certain South LA neighborhoods—nearly 50 percent in Watts—the change may have more to do with a new, enlightened approach to gang policing recently embraced by the head of LAPD’s South Bureau, Deputy Chief Charlie Beck.

Today, the LA Times has a good story about the homicide decline, and the strategy that Beck has been using:

….In its most radical shift, the LAPD is putting aside decades of suspicion and turning for help to gang intervention workers, many of whom were gang members.

“For the first time, we’re requiring captains
to call the gang interventionists, give them the word on the shooting and get out there and avert another homicide,” Deputy Police Chief Charlie Beck said.

We are pretty good at solving homicides, but we are trying to get better at preventing the next homicide.”

When I saw Beck a few weeks ago, he talked in more detail about some of his thoughts on gang policing.

“Gang homicides are the hardest to solve
,” he said, “and they’re the kind of homicides that generate future homicides—next week, or next year. We’d been doing a pretty good job on the enforcement piece. But that hadn’t gotten us the kind of results that we’d like. So we started working with some of the hard core intervention people in an effort to prevent the next homicide.”

Now, Beck says, with every homicide, South LA officers contact the gang interventionists immediately. “We’ve been doing this for almost a year now, and we’ve been getting results.”

But the LAPD is a department that has spent the last quarter century using an us-versus-them philosophy of gang enforcement, and changing that mind set has not been all that easy, says Beck. His biggest problem has been getting his officers to work amicably with the gang intervention people.

“Intervention and enforcement
are by nature mistrustful of each other,” he says. “I was a CRASH officer 25 years ago, and I thought of intervention as a way of hiding people that I needed to put in prison. But,” he laughs, “I’ve gotten a little older and wiser.”

So Beck resorted to therapy-like exercises between officers and gang intervention workers. “We had them do roll playing together and that sort of thing. And every time we get a group together, I tell them that they have much more in common with each other than they think. But it isn’t always an easy sell,” he says.

Still, something seems to be working. Homicides in South Bureau over all are down 20 percent, and in Watt’s more than 40. What is more, South LA community members who, for decades, have been suspicious of police are starting to talk to officers, even at times giving them tips.

“Recently we had a homicide in Nickerson Gardens
where it was guaranteed that there’d be a retaliation,” he says. “But through gang intervention, we were able to buy some time, and we made an arrest, in part due to information we got from the community.”

But, Beck is realistic. “One year of success is nice to talk about, but it doesn’t prove anything.”

Yet he admits he’s pleased with the progress. “Locking people up is a solution,” said Beck. “But it certainly hasn’t been the solution.”


  • Let us put the praise where it belongs. Bratton picked Beck. Bill Bratton has been a breath of fresh air in the leadership of a department that was too insular and hidebound. We’re very lucky and thanks should go to Jim Hahn who made this possible. Its been a far more important act than anything that Villaragosa has done.

  • Being the old cynic I am, the number of dead bodies may be down but I don’t trust the LAPD Compstat numbers for other crimes such as, shootings, assaults, burglaries. I have personally seen to many crimes go un-reported. I have seen many different small groups of gangsters assault a kid and it goes unreported. I was in downtown pumping gas across from a night club parking lot, a fight and starts and gun shots ring out, everyone scatters and the police never show up. Another night I decide not to pay outrageous $20.00 parking fee at the Staples Center and park on the street, I return to my car which has a busted window and missing stereo, I call police maybe they will show up in about 2-3 hours to take useless report, of course I just go home. I did buy a new stereo with an IPOD connection (Woo,Woo)

    And I hear the same type of stories from other people so the number of kills may be down, but I’m not so sure about the attempted kills.

  • Agreed, RLC. Not only did Bratton pick Beck (and people like him that are similarly well situated in the the department), but he gave and continues to give them the encouragement/permission to try new things.

    LA Res, I have a similar distrust of Compstat. But, whether we’re seeing exactly the right numbers or not, there’s no question that the murder rate is down—even if the amount of the drop might or might not be open to question.

    When I looked at the FBI figures for 2005 to 2006, (they don’t have 2007 yet) robberies for the state of CA seems to be the main stat that’s on the rise, with violent crime statewide, dropping. This is particularly true for LA. (Interestingly, Compton’s murder rate dropped precipitously from ’05 to ’06), so what does that mean?)

    (Tulare, CA, however, seems to be loaded with firebugs as its arson rate is through the roof!!!)

  • My personal experience and knowledge, all these people that credit the drop in murder numbers strictly on interventionist goups is somewhat very misleading. No one talks about the changing ethnic demographics of the area and how it has affected the crime rate positively – going from mostly Black to a latino population (like in Watts, Lynwood, and Compton).
    Plus LAPD or Sheriff wont ever count the murders that are done outside their respective jurisdiction but connected back to their area of responsibility. These gangsters are moving to Moreno Valley, Perris, Lancaster, ….ect. Where do you think these gangster end up traveling to shoot someone these days?
    I am okay with the interventionist groups as long as they follow a few basic rules.

    Dont go into court and testify on behalf of an adult facing felonies that is related to some shotcalling EME relative (or Drug Cartel son).

    Dont hire people that are currently on Parole, Probation, or fighting a case. They should not work with our youths while being on any supervision or facing charges themselves.

    Dont favor one specific gang or cover criminal activity for them because they are either related to you or your childhood gangmember homies (you go fishing with them and invite them over your house for BB-Qs).

  • The Mayor will be holding a press conference announcing how he is solely responsible for the drop in the murder rate. It is partially due to Mayor Villaraigosa’s excellent management of gang intervention programs and support for and from the police department rank and file officers on the street. Mayor Villaraigosa has personally provided training to all police Deputy Chiefs, Commanders, Deputy Commanders, Captains, Lieutenants, Sergeants and even the cops on the street. ABC, CBS, NBC, Telemundo, Univision, Azteca T.V. will all be covering the press conference in English and Spanish. No questions about Mirthala Salinas will be fielded and much less answered.

  • Here’s a new program that Woody will like (don’t know about L A Res/Cynic/Mayor’s Ofc.), announced tonight in the L A Times: parents of taggers will be hauled into the Sheriff’s Dept. to “feel the shame” of allowing or not stopping their kids from tagging. “I never met a tagger who’s homeless,” said Baca. “They all live somewhere and with someone, but the parents haven’t been accountable.” Parents who seek help controlling their kids will be given assistance, whatever that means, exactly.

    Concurrently, Gloria Molina is setting up a separate court system to deal specifically with taggers and other juvenile issues. Sounds like a good idea. It does sound like a lot of the problem is that parents just don’t have or know how to exercise control, once kids get to the point of being in a gang. Maybe they even fear their own kids? Maybe these kids need to know that they AND their parents (mostly moms, probably) will be embarrassed and held accountable for their bad choices. Will it matter?

  • Coincidentally, last night I had dinner with a relative who teaches fourth grade in a public school in the Atlanta area. That day, he had to confront one of his illegal Mexican students, who had marijuana and was showing it off to the other students, who told the teachers.

    Before the student was confronted, he ditched the drug into the cafeteria trash cans and claimed that he simply was showing oregano (I guess for seasoning the school cafeteria’s mystery meat.) But, when questioned, he proved that he didn’t really know what oregano is. This student had been hanging around gang members, who were likely using him and who taught him to say that the drug was oregano if he was caught.

    His parents had to work all of the time at whatever jobs they can find to support the family, and their time limitations appear to prohibit them from adequately raising this child (which they should have considered before conception.) The kid has already missed twenty days of school in the first month-and-a half!

    Ths story gets a lot longer, but the school will ask the parents to come in for a conference. They are going to tell the parents to properly deal with the situation or DEFACS (Department of Family and Children’s Services) will have to deal it, which could mean that the child will be taken away from them.

    I don’t support pulling parents in for “humiliation.” I know some good parents who are doing everything that they can with a child who is beyond control. I’m not sure if that solves anything except to upset people and to look good for the press.

    Two of my dear friends were brutally murdered with kitchen knives by a girl, for whom they accepted guardianship a few years earlier, and her girl friend. This happened because my friends told her that she could not go to the beach that weekend. The girls were simply animals and should have been handled by hunters rather than the police. Pulling that couple in earlier wouldn’t have had any effect on the situation. They had already laid down the law and had even forbid her from being with the bad influences. Some people are just evil, and it’s not always the fault of those who are supposed to be in charge.

    If there were easy answers to crime and gang activity, then we wouldn’t have what we do now.

  • I don’t know enough about the details of the Sheriff’s plan to defend it or not, but keep in mind that it includes provisions to “help” parents like the ones you mention who can’t control their kids. There might be things to try before resorting to the extremes of having them taken away by Social Services (which just means they go to someone paid to care for them, an option I never see as particularly great, either). However, your saying that “some people are just evil” doesn’t mean that parents (even adoptive ones) should wash their hands of these kids; you are right that it is the result of being with others who are “bad influences” that makes them this way. (Which is why I believe that people who work hard to afford a good lifestyle and pay more in taxes for our crappy schools than they would for good ones in most other cities in the country, should have the opportunity to send their kids to local schools with others like themselves. I’m not going to send a kid who’s concerned with how he holds a fork and knife when we go to a nice restaurant or Europe, or more importantly is sensitive to others’ feelings and emotional well-being, to school with kids who are “bad influences” already from how they grew up.)

    Kids are the product of their environments, and many parents who can’t pull their kids out of bad ones, need help coping. To me, the test of this program is how effective that is. But if the parents need a wake-up call to understand that tagging is part of a much deeper and more dangerous process, so much the better. The implication is that some parents are persuaded by their kids that “hey, we’re just hangin’ and using a little paint, what’s the big deal.” But those who read this blog know that’s definitely not all it is.

  • Woody, what a terrible and devastating story about your friends. I truly don’t know how to adequately explain people like that. I have on a couple of occasions met people who are so fundamentally broken that they seem unhinged from what we might call conscience.

    In terms of the “oregano” kid, of course they should call the parents in, but not to threaten or humiliate them, rather to figure out what to do to intervene in this kid’s life. The fact that the school would threaten to call social services is flabbergasting. Surely there’s more to the story.

    Maggie, the sheriff’s program seems very interesting, as we know he’s anything but a hard ass and is enforcement minded, but also very much in favor of appropriate and productive intervention and rehabilitation. I intend to find out more about it.

  • Woody writes ………….

    His parents had to work all of the time at whatever jobs they can find to support the family, and their time limitations appear to prohibit them from adequately raising this child (which they should have considered before conception.) The kid has already missed twenty days of school in the first month-and-a half! don’t support pulling parents in for “humiliation.” I know some good parents who are doing everything that they can with a child who is beyond control. I’m not sure if that solves anything except to upset people and to look good for the press.


    This is going to be along story, expression of frustration, vent session, rant, ramble and ….

    What a shock !!!, I agree with Woody on the idea of “humiliating” the parents is probably not going to be that effective but is more of a feel good idea. There are probably more parents who are over-whelmed with work and the problem kid. Most parents probably already know they have a problem kid but don’t have the resources or don’t know how to deal with the problem kid.

    This goes back to why I’m against the new idea of a global economy, and giving away our good jobs. Years back, more men worked in jobs where the man of the house could support his family, and keep a roof over their head. I grew up in the day when the mother stayed at home and raised her kids. My mother did not even graduate high school, but was one hell of a dedicated hard working mother. My mother worked 24-7 sending us to school, church, baseball and etc. If anybody asks me or my siblings how we overcame obstacles and became “successful” we all have the same answer, our mother.

    We have more families where both parents work and the kid is left to his own vices. And unfortunately anybody over the age of 50 knows and sees how society has changed, more violence and graphic sex on T.V., radio, music etc, a cultural where gangs and thugs are glamorized. This is a long list which I’m sure everybody can add to the list.

    If he had storks only delivering babies to good parents who had the time and resources that would make a huge difference. Since we can’t have storks, we need more parenting classes in schools, young kids need to be taught by example, fear, shock and whatever other methods the consequences and responsibility of having babies. The other thing we need to teach young kids is the affect drugs have on our society not just on the person using them. I know many college students who are casual users of drugs, not all drug users are the homeless crack head. Look at the “war on drugs” and what a failure that has been. I only see more gangs selling drugs, law enforcement and courts and people in jail, because of drugs. I am a big believer in spending more money on schools, after school programs, boys and girls clubs, state funded colleges, trade schools and etc., instead of spending even more money later on cops, courts and jails.

    Maggie – I’m not sure the city really has enough programs to help the parents with problem kids. If this new idea, can help a few parents then it’s worth a try. And if we take the kids away from lousy parents we also don’t have anyone to takeover the parenting job. You should do a little research into the juvenile hall system in Los Angeles. I have heard many horror stories about drugs, gangs and violence in juvenile detention centers in L.A.

  • maggie, I don’t really know what “tagging” is. Any actions taken by the Sheriff to make people better parents is as likely to succeed as much as the upbringing of the parents themsleves, religious influences, advice from friends, laws, experience, counseling, etc. I suspect that such programs by the Sheriff would be futile.

    Celeste, those murders were about four years ago, but we’re still very, very sad about them. The girls were caught at the beach, where they were determined to go, hanging out with a couple of guys and blood still on them. Now, they’re spending the best years of their lives in prison to reflect on what they did.

    I suspect that a lot of people in gangs are just looking for group identity, which they may not get from their families, friends, and church–but, they could. Once in a gang, though, they come under the influence or threats of some of the “evil by nature” people.

    I cannot explain psychopaths, even though I’ve had to deal with some. If someone is totally wacked-out, then maybe we’re better off if they spend their lives in prison.

  • Oh yes, Celeste, I meant to address the school and DEFACS with you. My relative and the school are very kind and sympathetic. They want to help and not threaten. My relative has even stayed at school until 5:30 PM regularly simply to stay with kids whose parents cannot afford after-school care but who are afraid of going home by themselves because of break-ins.

    Bringing in DEFACS, as I understand, isn’t a choice of the school’s but is a State requirement. Now, I have heard of many cases where authorities seem to go a little overboard on taking or keeping kids from parents. But, what do you expect from government?

    However, private enterprise is also not faultless. A friend took her kid to the doctor and the kid decided that the waiting room was the best place to start acting like a brat. My friend applied a well-place hand to the kid’s backside to remind the kid who was in charge and about the rules. Next thing you know, the county authorities are in the waiting room threatening the mother because the doctor’s receptionist called them saying the child was being abused. The authorities told her that if they get called again, then they will have to take the child and require a hearing. My friend found a new doctor.

    Actually, some of the DEFACS problems may be something to consider for an article on justice. Many parents unreasonably have their kids taken from them.

  • Maggie,

    I have not heard of attempts by west-side residents to incorporate into their own city and dump Los Angeles. Just like the San Fernando Valley tried to do.

    Look at small cities like Arcadia, Monrovia and Duarte and they each have their own school district, police service and etc. And they seem to manage them more effectively since they are so small. Arcadia has the best school (highest scoring) school district of the three and also has the most expensive homes. These cities only have about 30-36 thousands residents living in them and enough revenues to survive. And police response is about 2 min because the cities are so small, two freeway exits per city. I wonder why more of California is not modeled like this area, the only down side I have seen is that you have to remember more city names.

  • The L A Times even has a “Readers Weigh In” opinion blog on the Sheriff’s proposal, and last time I checked, readers were supportive. In fact, many wanted parents to pick up the tab for repainting graffiti (Woody, “tagging” is when gang members paint either clean private property, or paint over murals and other genuine works of art, with their gang symbols to “claim” the area), instead of making taxpayers foot the bill; making taggers themselves and other kids convicted of any juvenile crimes do it themselves (good idea); or making parents reimburse the city after their kids deface property (not likely to happen, too hard to enforce and many are too poor).

    A handful feel the kids, not parents should be held responsible, because parents are too overwhelmed to make a difference anyway. A few advocate measures too harsh to consider seriously (“deport the illegals and much of the problem will disappear” is a common chorus, also throwing them AND parents with repeat offenders in jail). Some, like me, would like to see a backup to truly educate parents without making them afraid to report their kids for fear they will just be given a rap sheet, jailed or taken away. Right now, it seems many desperate parents who need “help” are in essence agreeing to let their kids be incarcerated “to teach them a lesson.” That sets up a lifelong distrust, even hatred, between parents and kids.

    In general, I note that blogs tend to attract the more negative and conservative commentors, so this may be a self- selecting group of people. But clearly there is a lot of frustration over what is going on in the city, and the perceived laxity with which these youths are treated by their parents and the juvenile court system.

    One thing I like about this proposal is that Molina’s parallel juvenile court can make youths more directly and quickly accountable than in the slow-moving adult or main juvenile system, and hopefully penalize kids without putting these first offenses on their record to where it hurts them in life. Like Celeste, I do trust Baca’s intelligence enough to believe he can tweak this thing to take into account these various nuances, more than your average black-and-white “law and order” Sheriff.

    (P. S. To L A Res: There places you mention which have their own small cities and school systems are middle-class economically and more middle-of-the-road politically on average. Those are places where many average people can still afford a house with stay-at home moms like you recall fondly. There isn’t talk of Westside succession because we are such an integral part of the city; some would like more local control over the schools, but because we do pay so much of the taxes to support LAUSD, the Board and city leaders would do everything in their power to prevent that from happening. That’s a nonstarter. Plus, many of the wealthier “limousine liberals” mentally dissociated themselves from the hoi polloi who go to public school, and most others just can’t expend mental energy trying to change a system which has excluded them for decades now — it takes all ones energy to educate our kids and pay for and schedule their other activities. Lots of people do just move to places from Beverly Hills to Palos Verdes, and are replaced by gay couples or empty nesters who move back to the city for the amenities. But where there ARE schools, people with kids would stay or return from the suburbs, as is shown by what happens in the very few areas that have a decent elementary school. Plus, what is overlooked, is that if these people were in the system, they could help improve the whole system by raising money — saved from private schools — sweat equity in classrooms and playyyards, etc. E.g., one better local public elem. school had its parents build and pay for an expensive new playground by getting volunteer architect parents, others with various areas of expertise, kick in, and having everyone do planting, etc., and many making donations — feeling that even one-two thousand a year per family, was a small fraction of private school.)

  • $1.1 million sounds like middle class housing for California, until people wake up and move to the real world. I remember when an L.A. company relocated to our town and people were shocked to find that they could get more house for one-third of the money.

    On the other hand, some middle class people in small towns live in trailers.

    But, you can’t always go by averages. There’s an athlete who lives up the street from me in a $45 million house. I tell people that the average cost of our houses is over $22 million.

  • Woody, since I know you are such a big supporter of unions especially government employee unions here a story from Los Angeles, you might enjoy this story, complete with employee names and salaries and a comment section with public opinions.

    More than 13% of DWP workers are paid $100,000 and up
    L.A.’s best jobs: Average utility employee earns $76,949 per year

    BY BETH BARRETT, Staff Writer

    Article Last Updated: 09/30/2007 12:14:57 AM PDT

    SEARCH: See for yourself the salaries of DWP workers using our searchable database.
    LADWP: Current job openings

    SOUND OFF: Has the DWP shown that it’s worth the taxpayer dollars it receives? What — if anything — should be done about it? Discuss at our Reader Response blog!
    Editor’s Note: If you read only one story today, I hope it will be this one. The DWP’s bloated salaries, poor management and soaring rates are the most glaring example of what’s wrong with Los Angeles city government. We think this is so important we’ve put up the salaries of all 8,500 employees here at See how your pay compares with theirs. – Ron Kaye, editor

  • Guys, my sister lives in a posh suburb of Atlanta, where she and her husband bought a very nice four bedroom, four bath with den etc., for about %500 thousand recently. Even their old “starter” house purchased for about @$200,ooo ten years ago was very nice, with an enormous yard. On the other hand, there are suburbs outside NYC and CT, Bethesda, MD etc. where prices rival L A. But I remember a story about the Clintons’ new house “in the country” not that far from NYC, which they bought for about %1.5 after moving out of the White House, and it was featured in the local L A Real Estate section as about equivalent to what you’d have to pay $8 million for here. So I’m more than aware how high our prices are compared to what we get for city services — which is why I think it’s literally insane that we are just brushed off by the LAUSD and civic leaders turning a blind eye, as a financing cash cow who should be happy to send our kids to scary schools, or else we’re branded elitist and worse. Gee, the nerve!

    So why stay? I like my house, it has a lot of TLC in it and is quiet as far as L A goes. Plus I hate the heat and added smog of the Valley, and coastal communities are too crowded. The way houses are right on top of each other at the beach?

    L A, I wrote a comment in newest post Celeste added based on this — call me the Cynic on this one, re: posting DWP names and salaries, and jumping to judgment on the situation.

  • Molina is stupid as always. She can ask the Court to CONSIDER a specific Juvenile Court to hear all the vandalism cases, but she has zero power in “creating” anything separate. All political B.S.

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