Gang Wars Push L.A. Murder Rate

ByABC News
November 21, 2002, 9:23 PM

LOS ANGELES, Nov. 22, 2002 — -- The nation's second-largest city is experiencing a killing spree fueled by gang violence that threatens to make it the nation's homicide capital.

A five-day shooting spree that began a week ago left 14 dead and turned the spotlight on the gang wars playing out in the streets of South Los Angeles.

"I need this city angry about gangbangers shaping the perception of Los Angeles," LAPD Chief William Bratton told the Los Angeles Times.

Police officials believe that the victims or assailants in 10 of the 14 recent homicides were known gang members. Overall, authorities hold the city's estimated 150,000 gang members responsible for 25 percent to 50 percent of homicides in Los Angeles.

"Most of it is over turf, which is usually drug-related, and generational hard feelings. 'We hate this gang because we hate them,' like in Northern Ireland and the Middle East," said police Captain James Miller of the 77th Street Station.

The recent killings bring the city's homicide tally for this year to 596. That's the most since the 10-year low in 1998 of 419, but is still below the all-time high of 1,092 homicides in 1992, which was the year that LAPD officers were acquitted for beating motorist Rodney King.

Nationally, violent crime is creeping up. According to recently released FBI crime figures for 2001, serious crimes rose 2.1 percent and murders increased 2.5 percent.

The FBI figures show significant regional differences. Crime rose 3 percent in the West while it dropped 1.9 percent in the Northeast. The murder rate in the greater Los Angeles area rose 3.4 percent from 2000 to 2001 while it dropped 3.6 percent in New York City.

Tuesday night in Los Angeles was particularly violent. Shootings of seven people in the southern part of the city left one man dead and two others critically wounded within a 35-minute period.

The night's violence began at approximately 6:45 p.m. when Ernest Williams, 17, was shot in the head. Williams, who died from his injuries, is not known to have any connection to gangs.