Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies working to end a deadly racial gang war in an unincorporated neighborhood just north of Watts have made 230 felony arrests and seized 130 weapons since April, Sheriff Lee Baca announced Friday.
The law enforcement push was made possible by a 57-member task force assembled to saturate a 3 1/2—square-mile area between Florence Avenue and Firestone Boulevard where gang shootings had left more than 40 people dead and 200 wounded during an 18-month period.
The rise in violence, authorities said, dates to the beginning of last year, when a dispute over drugs between the Eastside Crips, a predominantly black gang, and Florencia 13, a Latino gang, escalated.
Areas of the county patrolled by the sheriff have seen a 30% increase in gang killings this year, compared with the same period a year ago.
At the same time, both the gang and homicide units have remained chronically understaffed, each about 10% under authorized budget levels, according to their captains.
The increase in homicides has been concentrated in three small areas of the county: Compton; Century Station, which includes the area where the gang war was targeted; and East Los Angeles.
From January 2004 through June of this year, Baca said, warring gang members in the Florence-Firestone area killed 44 people. About half of those killed had no gang affiliation, he said.
“Violence took a certain turn and became racial war,” Baca said at a news conference at sheriff’s headquarters, where he was flanked by confiscated weapons and photos of arrested gang members.
“They were going back and forth and killing innocent people on the street,” he said. “People were killed only because they were black or they were brown.”