D.A. reorganizes unit that prosecutes gang members

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Wave Wire Services

LOS ANGELES — District Attorney George Gascón has announced that the office’s Hardcore Gang Division has been re-named the Community Violence Reduction Division as part of a reorganization that will embed prosecutors in some of the most challenged areas in the city of Los Angeles.

By embedding our prosecutors in the communities that we serve, we will be able to get better results reducing and preventing crime by working with all of our community, county and law enforcement partners,” Gascón said in a written statement April 20 announcing the reorganization. “This community-first model will eventually be used throughout Los Angeles County to ensure our approach is reflective of the particular needs of individual communities.”

Experienced prosecutors will initially be assigned to three Los Angeles Police Department divisions — 77th Street, Foothill and Newton — with the “highest level of violence” to investigate and prosecute the most troubling incidents of street violence, according to a memo from Gascón.

It is expected that the same model will be rolled out to other LAPD divisions, the county and smaller departments in future phases, according to the memo.

The division will also seek to proactively prevent crime by working with community-based organizations and county partners that deal with violence prevention, victim services and public health, according to the District Attorney’s Office.

The district attorney has also established a community violence prosecution coordinator program that will serve each of the county’s branch courts and central trial offices, in which prosecutors assigned to the program will evaluate, file and try violent crimes that are not handled by the Community Violence Reduction Division. They also will mentor and train less experienced prosecutors who have expressed interest in prosecuting those types of cases.

Our goal is to significantly reduce the rising violence in our communities and to provide timely and much-needed resources to crime victims. Together, we can make lasting changes that will dramatically improve our lives,” Gascón said.

Eric Siddall, vice president of the Los Angeles Association of Deputy District Attorneys, the union representing county prosecutors, spoke out against Gascón’s plans earlier this month.

The remarkable change is that at a time when gang murders are reaching levels that we haven’t seen in 10, 20 years, [Gascón] has decided to cut the gang unit to fulfill a political promise that he’s given to fringe groups,” he said.

It is typical of what this administration does. It does not make decisions based upon public safety. It does not make decisions about what is good for the case,” said Siddall, who spent five years as a prosecutor in the gang division. “It makes decisions based upon what it feels will poll well with the public.”