Los Angeles has seen a rise in gang violence, with an increasing number of gang crimes which appear to be driven by racial hatred, police sources said.
There is a trend that Latino gangs are indiscriminately targeting African American residents in what appear to be campaigns to drive blacks from some neighborhoods, according to the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD).
Numerous communities across the area have reported rises in racially motivated gang attacks, said Khalid Shah, executive director of Stop the Violence Increase and the Peace Foundation.
"What is happening is similar to small earthquakes taking place along a major fault line," said Shah. "Ultimately the danger is that there will be an explosion, particularly, I think, if we put our heads in the sand and try to act like this issue isn't real."
The vast majority of the most serious gang crime remains intra-racial: Latinos attacking Latinos, blacks attacking blacks.
Last year there were more than 2,700 black-on-black or Latino-on-Latino incidents compared with slightly more than 500 interracial attacks.
In cases where gang-related homicide, aggravated assault or robbery crossed racial lines, LAPD tracking shows an 11 percent jump in incidents from 2002 to 2006; from 213 to 240 black-on-Latino attacks; and from 247 to 269 Latino-on-black attacks. As those interracial crimes rose, intra-racial gang attacks fell by 23 percent, from 3,577 to 2,780.
Of homicides, aggravated assaults and robberies committed by black gang members, about 2 in 10 are against Latinos. About 1 in 10 of the crimes committed by Latino gang members are against blacks.
Police find it harder to determine the intent behind the attacks -- without an admission of motivation, and often without even a suspect to question, the Los Angeles Times said.
Knowing why a victim was targeted by a gang member is difficult: Was it skin color? Did they or family members have direct ties to gangs? Was it just bad luck? Mistaken identity?
For the most part, though, the role racial animosity has played in gang crime has gone unexamined, largely undocumented in crime statistics and often tamped down by politicians and law enforcement officials anxious about inflaming tensions, said The Times.
In a city where blacks and Latinos make up 96 percent of known street gang members and often live in proximity, it would not be unexpected that the two groups account for the vast majority of interracial gang crime, said the paper.
Latinos and blacks are not equally represented in either the city's population or documented gang membership. About 49 percent of Los Angeles residents are Latino and about 10 percent are black, according to the most recent Census Bureau estimates.
Of the city's estimated 39,000 street gang members, the LAPD reports about 56 percent are in Latino gangs and about 40 percent in black gangs.
(Xinhua News Agency January 22, 2007)