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Lost Opportunities

Gang enforcement is a political football that's been fumbled by some police administrators and government officials.

May 28, 2010  |  by Wes McBride

Number Games

To further convince the public that the authorities are winning the war on gang crime, some departments have initiated critique sessions of subordinate units and their commanders by executive command staff, emulating the New York Police Department's CompStat (computer statistics). Ideally, the purpose of CompStat is to identify high crime areas by examining crime statistics, officer levels, command decisions, and other factors that could contribute to criminal activity. The department executives can then, after examination and deliberation, bring resources to bear in an effort to assist the local command in alleviating the problem.

Unfortunately, in some agencies executives have become sidetracked from the initial purpose of CompStat and have used the proceedings to publicly castigate and ridicule unit commanders. Once they are subjected to or witness such treatment, many unit commanders bend statistics and reclassify criminal activity in order to meet their numbers.

With regard to gang-related criminal activity, CompStat manipulation has resulted in a skewed and unrealistic decline of gang crime and allowed for diverting necessary resources away from gang enforcement. But the public that lives in gang-infested areas is not fooled and claims of declining gang activity have led to a credibility gap between what police officials are saying and the experience of people on the street.

Some departments used fudged CompStat numbers to cut their gang units. Hence without needed personnel to input names and update information about gang members in gang files, the gang count numbers have artificially continued to decline particularly in those databases that have automated purge systems. In such databases, a certain amount of activity is required for subjects to remain active. Unfortunately, much of the inactivity triggering these purges is based simply on a lack of intelligence gathering due to fewer resources being allocated to gang units. Many gang officers have complained that they have stacks-crates in some cases-of data to be entered into the files but simply do not have the time or resources to do so.

No Funding, No Peace

One of the most crucial problems facing local governments as they attempt to curb gang activity, particularly given the current economic disaster, is obtaining funding. Traditionally, law enforcement gang units are formed by "borrowing" officers from other divisions within the department. Thus when cuts are necessary, the gang units are among the first to go.

Federal and state funding for law enforcement anti-gang units or prevention and intervention projects is also subject to the whims of political processes and it has few advocates. This necessitates funding by local governments already burdened with budget shortfalls and myriad other demands.

Local citizens don't want to absorb the tax hit to fund anti-gang efforts. In Los Angeles, recent attempts to raise taxes to fund anti-gang programs have failed. Some of these failures arise out of the fact that most middle class taxpayers are not witness to gang-related crime except for those incidents portrayed in the news.

When there are gang crime incidents that capture the attention of taxpayers, politicians pander to voters' momentary concerns with placating legislative ploys and fiery speeches, but there is little follow-up or continued interest after the media event. Consequently, meaningful local gang programming is sidetracked.

State and federal funding for gang issues is spotty and inconsistent due to the shifting winds of political agendas. The lack of consistency and continuity of federal assistance projects gives local governments pause when considering cooperation. Local governments must be in the long-range mode of gang control to maintain community stability and support, where typically federal law enforcement agencies tend to be focused on particular targeted aspects of a case and are not geared for long-term commitment. When the targeted issue is resolved, they move on to new targets, leaving a void in continued operations that the locals must absorb.

CONTINUED: Lost Opportunities «   Page 2 of 3   »

Comments (1)

Displaying 1 - 1 of 1

SAM551974D @ 5/30/2010 6:55 PM

(Excellent Article)…and a great (Follow-up) vision from a veteran who talked of this in the 2000 book Gangs by Dr. Al Valdez, the chapter was titled Gangs in 2010-Full Service Gang Unit (FSGU). As a nation we would have been better off today had we heeded this advice then on Action, Trust, Credibility, actionable intelligence, rather than word games which lead to denial of the issues needed “teamwork” which continues today. Somewhere along the line some lost the vital virtues or were cast aside for PC reasons. The fortitude, courage, honesty, integrity, intuition, patience, humility, generosity of service which balances taking care of others and self! The last paragraph is still the path forward for success, as those who listen, learn and act (Apologia). A warrior master once told me it is about a person who teaches what he lives and lives what he teaches and that influences the people around him, friend and foe alike Sgt Phil Messina, Ret NYPD Modern Warrior. We must recover this fumbled football and head toward the goal line once again.

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