Thomas Watkins and Christina Hoag of the Associated Press have an interesting piece on the role of racism in LA gangs. We excerpt it below.
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In dueling newspaper opinion pieces last year, Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca maintained that race fueled gang violence while Los Angeles Police Chief William Bratton said skin color was seldom a factor.
“If you do a survey within the African-American community . . . you are in constant fear that your young male offspring is going to be killed because of the color of his skin,” Baca said in an interview after his piece appeared in the Los Angeles Times.
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Baca, an elected official, says his opinion comes from running the county jail system where he has to segregate inmates because of gang affiliations that break along racial lines.
Bratton works for a politically appointed commission and the Los Angeles Police Department has traditionally dealt with black gangs more than Latino gangs, though that is rapidly changing.
“Is there racial crime committed by gang members? Yes, of course,” said Deputy Police Chief Charlie Beck, head of detectives under Bratton. “But if you are asking me if race is a primary factor in gang crime, the answer is no.”
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Most gangs are formed along racial or ethnic lines, so turf battles can easily be construed as racist, though they’re usually driven by desire to control lucrative drug territory or other gang business.
“Every time you see one case, it’s easy to blow it up into a hate crime,” said Malcolm Klein, a University of Southern California social psychologist. “I tend to downplay that.”
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