Prosecutors join anti-gang effort

first_imgSeeking to close a revolving door of gang members who re-enter the United States illegally after being deported, Los Angeles officials unveiled two policies Thursday to toughen prosecutions. District Attorney Steve Cooley said he is assigning three deputy district attorneys to boost efforts by federal prosecutors to target gang members who have been previously deported, then illegally re-enter the U.S. “This is an initiative I have decided to undertake and encourage because a good chunk of our gang problem in Los Angeles County is committed by individuals who have been previously deported and then re-entered the country,” Cooley said. “We have already drafted a letter to the interim U.S. attorney’s office suggesting this program. But we are also going to be lobbying for this concept at a higher level of the Justice Department.” Los Angeles City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo also announced a new policy to give the U.S. Attorney’s Office the names of documented gang members who are convicted of violating gang injunctions. The move will allow federal officials to check the residency status of convicted gang members and determine whether they should be deported. “We believe this new policy will significantly aid our efforts to get convicted criminal gang members off our streets and out of our communities,” Delgadillo said. Since taking office in 2001, Delgadillo has increased the number of gang injunctions from eight to 33, covering 50 gangs and more than 61 square miles of the city. Matt Szabo, spokesman for Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, said the Mayor’s Office supports the policy as part of a two-month-old citywide gang crackdown. Gang violence increased 14 percent citywide last year and more than 40 percent in the San Fernando Valley. “They have moved into the area traditionally occupied by organized crime,” Delgadillo said. “They are the new Mafia.” In addition, the county Sheriff’s Department has assigned eight custody assistants to interview foreign-born jail inmates to determine whether they should be turned over to immigration officials for deportation. Sheriff’s spokesman Steve Whitmore said more than 20 percent of the county’s jail population – or about 4,000 inmates – are illegal immigrants. But even as officials hailed the new policies, some said a number of details still must be worked out, such as whether overcrowded jails and federal deportation centers will be able to cope with additional inmates. “That’s part of the complexity of designing a program like this,” said Richard Doyle, director of the District Attorney’s Office’s Bureau of Specialized Prosecutions. “It’s far from a done deal. It’s something we are trying to figure out: Is this a good use of resources and is it possible?” Virginia Kice, spokeswoman for U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement, said the agency has access to about 30,000 detention beds nationally. “We won’t allow violent criminal aliens to be put back on the streets,” she said. “We’ll find a place to put them.” But Kice conceded that immigration courts already have large caseloads. “In some instances, we might be able to deport a person the day we take custody of them,” Kice said. “But there may be cases where immigration proceedings extend for months or years.” (213) 974-8985160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img

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