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Experts dispute claim LA gangs cooperate against police

Graffiti is seen on a sign near a new townhouse construction site March 3, 2009 in Compton, California.
Graffiti is seen on a sign near a new townhouse construction site March 3, 2009 in Compton, California.
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Some gang experts dispute claims that Southern California street gangs are cooperating with each other more now than before.

The claim headlined a Wall Street Journal article that quoted an L.A. County Sheriff’s detective.

Sheriff Lee Baca backed up his detective. He told KPCC’s Patt Morrison that a small number of gangs are working together in ways they have not in the past.

"Their alliances are to consolidate their energy and go out into the more affluent neighborhoods of Southern California and burglarized houses," said Baca.

The sheriff attributed some of the drop in violent crime to rival black and Hispanic gangs’ cooperation on drug and gun sales — that led to fewer shootouts.

U.C.L.A. Public Affairs Professor Jorja Leap, who advises Baca on gangs, is less certain about this.

"They may form alliances from time to time, but it’s idiosyncratic and it’s temporary which means short-lived and temporary."

Leap said gang alliances are fluid, and based on making money.

"People who are in leadership positions in gangs often make business decisions. They don't make decisions based on violence or acting out," said Leap. "I'm not about to call it organized crime. I’m about to call it disorganized crime."

Other experts say more local and federal anti-gang efforts have reduced violent crime.

They also suggest that gangs have learned the more they shoot, the more police apply heat that’s bad for criminal business.