Violent gang-related crimes in the west San Fernando Valley increased 63 percent from 2014 to 2015 but held steady last year, according to a new analysis by the Los Angeles Police Department.
Gang-related homicides in the West Valley, which includes the LAPD’s Devonshire, Topanga and West Valley divisions, more than doubled from three in 2014 to eight in 2016, according to the report. The Topanga Division saw the sharpest increase, with five gang-related homicides in 2016, up from zero in 2014.
There was also a total of 848 gang-related crimes reported in the west San Fernando Valley in 2016, up 33 percent from 2014.
“It’s validating and providing evidence on what we suspected. We have some serious gang activity in the West Valley,” Los Angeles City Councilman Bob Blumenfield, who represents the area and requested the written report, said Tuesday. “It’s important to document it, so we can get appropriate resources in terms of (crime) suppression and intervention.”
Part of the spike could be attributed to the San Fernando Valley experiencing one of its lowest periods in violent crime from about 2012 to 2014, following years of steady declines starting in about 2000, said Lt. Brian Morrison, gang coordinator of LAPD’s Operations-Valley Bureau.
Any time there’s an increase in victims or crime, “it’s a cause for concern,” Morrison said. But he noted that gangs go through cycles that are driven by various factors.
“It could be motivated by money, narcotics sales, other criminal enterprise,” he said. “It could be a prolific member of a gang who has been locked up and is released, starts recruiting again.”
There are some 16 “active street gangs” that claim territory west of the 405 Freeway in LAPD’s jurisdiction of the Valley, including one currently under gang injunction in the Canoga Park area, according to the report.
But just because an incident is classified as a gang-related homicide, doesn’t mean a gang member committed the crime or that it was committed because of someone’s gang affiliation. For example, these homicides include those in which only the victim is a gang member. They also include homicides committed by gang members for reasons that have nothing to do with their gang, Morrison said.
“We code it that way because there’s a higher likelihood that they have a propensity for violence,” Morrison said. Advertisement
Among the gang-related homicides in the West Valley last year was a “domestic violence love triangle” that left two dead in Canoga Park, a fatal house party shooting where a suspected gang member was targeted in Granada Hills, and a shooting at a Canoga Park strip club that left two armed gang members, who may have been trying to rob the place, dead, Morrison said.
While gang-related homicides are up in the West Valley, there’s been a decrease in gang-related slayings in the entire Valley from 31 in 2015 to 25 last year, or about 19 percent, said Lt. Mike Kozak of Operations-Valley Bureau Homicide.
The West Valley also saw 15 gang-related victims shot in 2016, down from 18 the previous year but up from 12 in 2014, according to the report. Morrison said he believes that number is “most telling.”
“Our officers are stemming the tide and trying to get a hold of what may be going on,” Morrison told the Los Angeles Police Commission on Tuesday.
The city of Los Angeles currently has one Gang Reduction and Youth Development zone, which provides prevention and intervention resources to at-risk communities and youth, in the west Valley. The Mayor’s Office of Gang Reduction and Youth Development is also developing a juvenile re-entry program in the area to help juvenile offenders transition from county juvenile probation camps back into society, according to the report.
Blumenfield said he’s hopeful that the data in the report will help the West Valley get a larger share of funding for these types of programs.
“Having this information from the original source ... is helpful to me and others as we push to try to steer resources to the West Valley,” he said.
The councilman is holding a “public safety town hall” at 7 p.m. on April 4 at Taft High School in Woodland Hills. Bob Green, former LAPD deputy chief of the Valley, and John A. Sherman, current deputy chief of the Valley, will be featured speakers during the town hall conversation focusing on crime and crime prevention in the West Valley, he said.