Today's LA TIMES (7/3/04) reports that City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo just imposed another gang injunction. This time against 18th STREET and the ROLLIN' 60s. The purpose of this one is to prevent 18th STREET from recruiting new members. Godd luck on that one, Rocky. It's a dopey reason because recruitment doesn't happen on the street. The Times quotes their go-to guy, Father Greg Boyle. Boyle says this particular injunction is impossible to enforce and, "It's also not how people join gangs." They don't, "set up a recruitment table at high schools and an announcement goes out: '18th STREET is recruiting today.' " Boyle is absolutely right, of course. If the real purpose of the injunction is to stop recruitment, it's a non-starter. Recruitment happens in back yards and living rooms and it starts years before the kids become visible on the street as gangsters.
Boyle is on record as actually being in favor of injunctions. In the past he said that injunctions can work. In an LA WEEKLY piece he was quoted as saying that "The day after the injunction went into effect, my office was full of kids asking for a job." He described it as the "heat and light" approach. You apply the law enforcement heat and the kids see the light.
While the anti-recruitment aspect of this injunction may be dubious, the section that deals with preventing ROLLIN' 60s homies from driving together into enemy territory may have some value. I'll use the language of the activists on this one. "If it helps save the life of one child, then it's worth it." If it can stop one carload of knuckleheads from shooting up a street corner, let's put it out there and see what happens.
Of course, all injunctions can lead to police abuse. There probably isn't a single law in the penal code that can't be abused. The key to making injunctions work is to use them like a scalpel, not a hand grenade. And the way to wield that scalpel is with what the military calls "actionable intelligence." Street coppers have to know the names, affiliations, crimies, road dogs, drug connections, family connections and personal beefs of the shot callers and crew chiefs of the sets in their jurisdiction. It's a holistic approach that has to analyze every gang and set as a functional sub-culture. That sub-culture is closed and seemingly chaotic, of course and will resist analysis. But it can be teased apart and the pieces laid out for examination.
Despite the nasty rap CRASH got thanks to Rafael Perez and his crimies, the CRASH model can work. Unfortunately, thanks to the consent decree, SEU operators can't stay on that assignment longer than three years. Which means that by the time they get really good at the job, they're shipped out to other assignments. Which means there's no "corporate memory" and it's re-inventing the wheel every time a new copper joins the unit.
It's been my experience that solving gang murders, and in some cases preventing them, is a lot easier when the street cops and detectives know the sets, the players and the set politics as well as they know their own families. The really effective cops do.
One last thing. The LA TIMES piece states that 18th STREET has spread to Mexico and Central America. Just FYI, sets claiming 18th STREET are also in places like SALT LAKE CITY, BOSTON, VANCOUVER and TORONTO. Talk about imperialist hegemonic expansion.