Race an Increasing Factor in Gang Slayings, L.A. County Sheriff Says

Andrew Blankstein, Los Angeles Times, June 19, 2008

Even as gang-related homicides have been dropping in the last several years, the proportion of such killings in which race was a factor has increased, Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials said Wednesday.

Sheriff’s homicide investigators reported that race “played a role” in 16% of the 207 gang-related killings in 2005, rising to 19% of 133 gang slayings last year, said sheriff’s spokesman Steve Whitmore.

In the first six months of this year, 25% of the 56 gang-related slayings involved either blacks killing Latinos or vice versa.

That compares with 13% for the same period last year.

Whitmore said officials examined all gang-related homicides over the last three years, in jurisdictions where the department investigates those crimes, to determine what role, if any, racial hatred played. Whitmore said it is as much an element in the slayings as such other factors as gang clashes, drugs and turf.

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Los Angeles Police Department officials have disputed that contention, saying race remains a rare factor in gang killings.

A Times examination of slayings in 2007 largely backed Police Chief William J. Bratton’s assertion about the racial factor in gang killings.

The Times analyzed the circumstances of 562 Latino and black homicides from 2007 in which the race of the suspects was known, including all LAPD and sheriff’s cases, plus those of smaller police agencies such as Long Beach and Inglewood.

The analysis found that nearly 90% of both black and Latino homicide victims had been killed by suspects of their own race.

Last week, Baca wrote in a Los Angeles Times opinion piece that “some of L.A.’s so-called gangs are really no more than loose-knit bands of blacks or Latinos roaming the streets looking for people of the other color to shoot.”

In the piece, the sheriff argued that the same racial animosity that was permeating the county jail system was spilling onto the streets of Los Angeles County.

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