COPS SEEK ALLIES PUBLIC CALLED KEY TO BEATING GANGS.
Conceding they cannot reduce crime by enforcement efforts alone, Los Angeles' top cops called on Thursday for civic, school and community leaders to help them curb violence in the nation's gang capital.
During what he called a summit meeting at the Los Angeles Convention Center, Sheriff Lee Baca said the Seattle-based Pacific Institute has been enlisted to train law enforcement officers and community leaders in ways to direct young people away from gangs.
``Teaching people how to succeed, as opposed to how to self-defeat, is the big challenge today when it comes to gangs,'' Baca said. ``There are solutions. There are ways to get young people back on the right track.
In an interview later in the day, the Los Angeles Police Department chief proposed a program similar to one he implemented when he was police commissioner in New York City. Instead of a ballot measure just to hire more cops, LAPD Chief William Bratton he said he wants a property-tax proposal on the November 2004 ballot to finance a broad program to combat gangs.
``We need a broad safe-streets initiative,'' Bratton said. ``Ask any chief and they will tell you they support after-school programs to keep kids engaged and alternatives to gangs for kids by finding them jobs.
``We are at a point that hiring more officers alone won't do the job. You can't just arrest your way out of the situation.''
Officials estimate there are 96,000 gang members in Los Angeles County, including 50,000 in the city of Los Angeles - 1,500 of them in the San Fernando Valley.
Through early October, gang-related violence has claimed 198 lives in the city of Los Angeles this year, including 32 in the Valley, and 155 lives in the Sheriff's Department's jurisdiction outside L.A. boundaries, officials said.
``From a national perspective,'' Baca said, ``Los Angeles is the gang capital of America.''
Assistant Chief George Gascon said the LAPD has several effective gang- intervention programs but is open to the more-collaborative approach offered by the Pacific Institute.
``We're intrigued by it,'' Gascon said. ``We've sent several officers to be trained. We're exploring how it fits into the big picture.''
The Pacific Institute was initially contacted by Pete Carroll, head football coach at the University of Southern California, who became alarmed by gang-related slayings near campus.
John McNeil, vice president of implementation and design for the Pacific Institute, said representatives have been to some of the world's most-volatile regions in efforts to get people to take constructive approaches in defusing conflict.
Institute personnel hope to train 40,000 community members on changing attitudes, beliefs and expectations in South Los Angeles, where gang violence is most prevalent.
``One of the biggest issues is that we need to help people focus on the future they want,'' McNeil said.
Staff Writer Rick Orlov contributed to this story.
Jason Kandel, (818) 713-3664