LOS ANGELES (AP) — Anti-gang legislation and police crackdowns are failing so badly that they are strengthening the criminal organizations and making U.S. cities more dangerous, according to a report being released today.
Mass arrests, stiff prison sentences — often served with other gang members — and other strategies that focus on law enforcement rather than intervention strengthen gang ties and further marginalize angry young men, according to the Justice Policy Institute, a D.C. think tank that advocates alternatives to incarceration.
“We’re talking about 12-, 13-, 14-, 15-year-olds whose involvement in gangs is likely to be ephemeral unless they are pulled off the street and put in prison, where they will come out with much stronger gang allegiances,” said Judith Greene, co-author of “Gang Wars: The Failure of Enforcement Tactics and the Need for Effective Public Safety Strategies.”
The report is based on interviews and analysis of hundreds of pages of published statistics and reports. Although it is valid and accurate, the ideas raised in it are not new, said Arthur Lurigio, a psychologist and criminal justice professor at Loyola University of Chicago.
“These approaches, although they sound novel, are just old wine in new bottles,” he said. “Gang crime and violence in poor urban neighborhoods have been a problem since the latter parts of the 19th century.”
Wes McBride, executive director of the California Gang Investigators Association, dismissed the findings of the report, which he said was written by “thug-huggers.” The association is a professional organization for police officers.
“Are they saying we can’t put a thief in jail, we can’t put a murderer in jail, that we should spank them, put a diaper on them, pat them on the bottom, hug them and let them go?” Mr. McBride asked.