The Community Context of Gang Homicide: Comparing Latino and African-American Gang Homicides in Two Los Angeles Neighborhoods

Rebecca Owen, University of California, Irvine
George Tita, University of California, Irvine

ABSTRACT
This research examines the social organization of gang homicides in two policing areas (precincts) within the City of Los Angeles. The first area, Hollenbeck, represents a stable, traditional Latino community with a long and storied gang history. The second area, Southeast, contains the neighborhood of Watts and has many long-standing African American gangs. However, Southeast has experienced dramatic changes in the racial/ethnic composition of the populace as Latinos have displaced African-American residents. This has lead to a rise in the number of Latino gangs in Southeast. Using data collected directly for LAPD homicide files (1990-2000), we compare homicides involving gang members across the two neighborhoods. Does the role of drugs, turf and/or honor play different roles in motivating gang violence in the different settings? How do victims and offenders differ with regard to demographic features? Are there distinct patterns of inter-gang versus intra-gang violence across neighborhoods? In addition to focusing on gang homicide across the two locations, we also examine whether homicides involving Latino gang members in Southeast resemble those involving Latinos in Hollenbeck, or whether they are more closely related to the homicides committed in Southeast that involve African-American gangs.

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Updated 05/20/2006