Daily Breeze

January 23, 2003 

Mayor: Gang problem stretches beyond L.A. 

By TOBY ECKERT
COPLEY NEWS SERVICE 

WASHINGTON — Los Angeles’ resurgent gang problem reaches far beyond the
city limits and should be “an issue of paramount national importance,”
Mayor James Hahn said Wednesday.

While Los Angeles has the dubious distinction as “the gang capital,”
Hahn said, the FBI has reported that more than 150 communities “are
being impacted by L.A. street gangs” that export members or serve as
models.

“We think making a statement in Los Angeles, pulling together a
coordinated program and bringing it to national attention is going to be
helpful to many, many other communities across the country,” Hahn said
after a closed meeting on the issue at the U.S. Conference of Mayors’
winter meeting.

Hahn and Los Angeles Police Chief William Bratton wrapped up two days of
discussions here on Los Angeles’ gang-fighting efforts. They received
assurances of further assistance from federal agencies, Hahn said.

“We need help. We need partners. We need resources. Local government
cannot do it alone,” Bratton said.

He called the gang problem “an urban form of terrorism” linked to 300
murders in Los Angeles last year.

Mayors from Lynwood to Fargo, N.D., and Charlotte, N.C., said gangs are
a problem of varying degrees in their communities.

While Lynwood, with a population of 72,000, has 40 active gangs,
Charlotte is just starting to grapple with an upsurge in gang violence,
Charlotte Mayor Patrick McCrory said.

“It’s a new and disturbing trend being introduced to our Sunbelt cities.
I’m here to learn from cities that have had this problem,” McCrory said.

But even as they ask for more federal assistance, the mayors are
fighting efforts to cut some crime-fighting programs, including one that
helps local governments pay for additional police officers. Those
programs were “key to the success we had in the 1990s in bringing crime
down,” Hahn said.

On another fiscal matter facing Los Angeles and other cities, Hahn
welcomed the prospect of a new federal program to help airports offset
some of the estimated $2 billion cost of installing bomb-screening
equipment.

“We’d like to get that funding assured,” Hahn said. “Everybody’s
strapped for funds and this has added to it.”