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"Race" an increasing factor in gang slayings News Team…

Even as gang-related homicides have been dropping in the last several years, the proportion of such killings in which race was a factor has increased, Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials said Wednesday. Sheriff’s homicide investigators reported that race “played a role” in 16% of the 207 gang-related killings in 2005, rising to 19% of 133 gang slayings last year, said sheriff’s spokesman Steve Whitmore.

In the first six months of this year, 25% of the 56 gang-related slayings involved either blacks killing Latinos or vice versa. That compares with 13% for the same period last year. “Critics have said race is a major factor in the violence in county and state prisons, and is a problem on school campuses. But they say, ‘Baca was wrong to say those factors are at play with gangs on the streets,’ ” Whitmore said. “The numbers lend credibility to the argument that the racial component be examined along with other factors, including drugs, territory and money, in these crimes.”

A Times examination of slayings in 2007 largely backed Police Chief William J. Bratton’s assertion about the racial factor in gang killings. The analysis found that nearly 90% of both black and Latino homicide victims had been killed by suspects of their own race.

In the piece, the sheriff argued that the same racial animosity that was permeating the county jail system was spilling onto the streets of Los Angeles County. But sheriff’s officials said efforts to segregate the races in jail contributed to a decrease in violence behind bars. The next year, after sheriff’s officials reorganized the jail facilities, including segregating them by race, such disturbances fell to only 15. In the first six months of 2008, there have been just four reported incidents.

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