A Political Geography of Civil Abatement and Gang Injunction Strategies in Southern California

Alejandro Alonso, University of Southern California

In Los Angeles and other urban areas throughout the United States, the formation of street gangs and associated violence has reached epidemic proportions during the 1980s and 1990s. In Los Angeles, gang membership increased from 30,000 in 1980 to approximately 150,000 countywide in 1998 consisting of approximately 1,000 gangs (Alonso, 1999). With gang membership increasing, gang-related crimes in the late 1980s and early 1990s in Los Angeles County reached unprecedented levels.

Despite this sharp steady decrease in gang crime, strategies to suppress gangs have become increasingly popular among Los Angeles prosecutors. The district attorney's office claimed that the drop in gang crime could be attributed to the implementation of civil abatement strategies - most notably gang injunctions. There are very few empirical studies concerning the impact of gang injunctions. This research attempts to is address the impact that gang injunctions have had on crime and whether displacement has been a result. A large-scale GIS analysis of crime in and around 24 gang injunction areas in Los Angeles County will be conducted. Secondly, using the crime data and drawing from 1990 and 2000 Census data, this research will attempt to describe and characterize what types of communities are subject to gang injunctions and how certain communities are selected for this action. Preliminary findings suggest that characteristics of the surrounding community can influence the implementation of an injunction against an adjacent gang.

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Updated 05/20/2006