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Watts Gang Task Force Making Life Safer for the Community

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The community of Watts seems to be undergoing a shift in atmosphere, reports the Daily News, as the area's gang violence has been decreasing, thanks in part to the Watts Gang Task Force. In terms of statistics, homicides were halved last year from the year before--11 in 2007 as compared to the 24 in 2006, and 2007 saw "a three-month stretch without a single slaying. Gang homicides for the approximately 1-square-mile home to an estimated 2,000 gangsters dropped from 13 in 2006 to eight last year." The larger area, known as the South Bureau, which includes 35,000 Watts residents, also saw a marked decrease in homicides from 2006 to last year.

Residents and officials alike are aware of the fact that life these days seems safer in Watts, particularly in housing projects like Jordan Downs, where many of its over three thousand residents are now experiencing a more peaceful daily life, and allowing their kids to go outside and play with less trepidation. There, residents endured only one homicide last year, compared to many more in previous years.

This is not to say, however, that Watts has eradicated gang-related violence, but instead has learned how to more effectively deal with it. These strategies include increased community participation, including increasing the involvement of gang interventionists, and bringing in community leaders, politicians, the police, and any other concerned individuals to work together under the banner of the Watts Gang Task Force. The work they are able to do means that if there are less violent gang-related incidents, the law enforcement personnel can focus on other crimes in the area, as well as work with more focus on solving cases. The Daily News explains that "early last year, the Operations South Bureau Criminal Gang Homicide Group was created to bring about 75 homicide investigators together at 77 th and allow more investigators to flood murder scenes."

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What is taking place right now in Watts is hopefully the beginning of a more long-term solution, but one that is reliant on a community-wide concentration on bringing about signifcant change. LAPD Deputy Chief Charlie Beck, who serves as commanding officer for Operations-South Bureau "said the task force has been key in Watts but also agreed with [Connie Rice, a civil rights attorney] that an even deeper transformation is needed within communities so violence is no longer tolerated." Beck continues: "It's still a high-crime area, and there's a lot of work left to do, but my take is, we're headed in the right direction."

For more about Watts on LAist, including much about the area's gang activity, check out our Neighborhood Project: Watts.

Photo of the iconic Watts Towers by FrogMiller via the LAist Featured Photos Pool on Flickr