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Community Law Enforcement And Recovery (CLEAR)

The CLEAR Approach to Crime
By Chief of Police Bernard C. Parks & Lieutenant Richard Papke

In September 1995, three-year-old Stephanie Kuhen was shot and killed by members of the Avenues gang when her parents became lost while driving in a gang-controlled neighborhood in northeast Los Angeles. Mayor Richard Riordan tasked his Criminal Justice Planning Office (CJPO) with developing recommendations for combating gang crime. The CJPO completed a concept paper proposing the creation of the Los Angeles City/County Community Law Enforcement and Recovery (CLEAR) Program. The concept paper was submitted to the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) and launched the President’s Anti-Gang Initiative, which provided funding for 15 anti-gang programs nationally, including Los Angeles’ CLEAR Program.

The goal of the CLEAR Program is to reduce gang activity in Los Angeles. The target areas are selected based upon the severity of gang crime in that area. The Program utilizes an operations team consisting of representatives from the following five agencies: the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD), the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, the Los Angeles County Probation Department, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office, and the Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office. Each operations team is housed at a site within the target area. The operations team handles all gang crime within the target area. The Program includes the formation of a Community Impact Team (CIT), comprised of community members and representatives of the operations team. The CIT assists the operations team in prioritizing community problems and developing strategies to deal with each problem.

The first CLEAR target area was located in the LAPD’s Northeast Area. The Program was highly successful in reducing gang crime in that area, including the arrest and conviction of Stephanie Kuhen’s murderers. Since the inception of CLEAR in 1996, the Program has been expanded annually and now encompasses six target areas.

Another example of a CLEAR operations team is located in LAPD’s Foothill Area, which is housed in a modular trailer within the target area. The LAPD component includes one uniformed sergeant, eight uniformed officers, and two detectives. There are three prosecutors from the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office and two Los Angeles City Attorney prosecutors. The Los Angeles County Probation Department provides three officers, two for enforcement purposes and one to develop and coordinate the CIT.

The focus of the police component is to implement gang enforcement strategies, in terms of intelligence-gathering, visible patrol, arrests, and the investigation of gang crimes. The officers work with Probation and Parole officers in conducting probation and parole searches. Intelligence information is gathered from a variety of resources, to identify members of gang hierarchy. Liaison is maintained with numerous gang intervention organizations to divert "at-risk" youth from gang involvement. The officers work closely with schools and school security to identify gang members and reduce gang crime in and around the schools.

The District Attorney component is charged with the aggressive prosecution of all gang members arrested for committing felonies in the target area. The District Attorney also coordinates the prosecution of gang members arrested for committing felonies in other parts of Foothill and in the City of San Fernando, which is geographically surrounded by Foothill Area. This coordinated approach prevents these other communities from becoming a safe haven for targeted gang members.

Prosecutors from the District Attorney’s Office maintain files of gang members placed on felony formal probation with conditions prohibiting gang association which assists the Probation and Police components in enforcement efforts. They aggressively prosecute violations of probation and the State of California’s Street Terrorism Enforcement Act. This legislation provides sentencing enhancements and probation restrictions for convicted gang members. The prosecutors focus on the development of the police officers assigned as expert witnesses for court testimony.

The Deputy District Attorneys assigned to CLEAR take an active role in community outreach programs initiated by the Probation component. They interact with community-based organizations and work with the Police, Probation, City Attorney, and the CIT to effectively document, investigate, and resolve gang problems at locations designated by members as clusters for gang crimes.

The City Attorney component is charged with the prosecution of all gang members arrested for committing misdemeanor crimes in the targeted area. The City Attorney coordinates with the District Attorney and Police components in securing misdemeanor filings and convictions of gang members. The Deputy City Attorneys assigned to CLEAR strive to obtain sentences prohibiting gang association and containing search-and-seizure conditions on all gang members. They coordinate with the Police and Probation components in conducting searches of gang members sentenced to probation with search conditions. The City Attorney strives for sentences that include graffiti abatement to fulfill the community service component of the sentence. The City Attorney is also provided information on premises used for gang activity and can then focus on the construct of an abatement case. Gang injunctions in target areas have proven to be a successful enforcement tool.

Members of the City Attorney component collaborate with the Probation component in developing the CIT. These two units recruit representatives from government entities, as well as community members to jointly identify and solve community gang problems and quality-of-life issues in the target area.

The Probation component maintains an aggressive program of probation officer ride-alongs with police officers. Emphasis is placed on conducting probation searches of gang members with search-and-seizure probation conditions, curfew enforcement, and gang activity suppression. Probation officers actively promote parental involvement in juvenile gang member families by providing weekly group counseling and instruction for parents at local community-based organization facilities. They also promote cooperation with the community in the target area by regularly meeting with community-based organization representatives. The Probation component maintains a misdemeanor probation database for all gang members in the target area.

The CIT is comprised of a panel jointly chaired by a member of the community, a Deputy Probation Officer and a Deputy City Attorney. The CIT’s mission is to assist in the identification, prioritization and resolution of community problems in the target area. Quality-of-life issues are brought to the attention of CLEAR personnel, as well as the other government entities that participate in CIT meetings. In addition to this forum, the CIT provides ongoing training and education of community members regarding the availability of City and County agencies to solve quality-of-life issues.

Statistical information indicates that the CLEAR program has had a significant impact on Part I crimes and gang crime in the target area. As of October 1999, year-to-date reports from the Foothill Area Crime Analysis Detail indicate a 24% reduction of Part I crimes and a 40% reduction in gang crime in the target area, as compared to the same time period in 1998. Over 60 firearms, ranging from handguns to assault weapons, have been taken from gang members. Significant sentences have been levied against gang members convicted by the courts.

Many collateral advantages of the CLEAR Program have been recognized. In a large city such as Los Angeles, criminal prosecution is not vertical. Ordinarily, one prosecutor files criminal charges, another conducts court arraignments, still another conducts the preliminary hearing, and a trial prosecutor handles the trial. The CLEAR Program institutes vertical prosecution. One prosecutor handles all phases of the prosecution. This creates ownership of the case and allows the prosecutor to be in constant contact with all entities involved in the investigation.

District and City Attorneys are available to provide advice and training to CLEAR enforcement personnel. Probation officers riding with police personnel provide information on gang members with search-and-seizure probation conditions and assist in searches. The results of these searches have been the recovery of numerous firearms, narcotics, and significant intelligence information on gang crimes ranging from graffiti to murder. Probation officers are empowered to add gang probation conditions in the field.

Tangible results of the Program’s efforts thus far are encouraging and certainly make the CLEAR model of law enforcement an effective tool in the criminal justice system. Preliminary indicators of success are the increase in gang arrests, cleared cases, convictions, school attendance, youth program participation, and the reduction of gang activity. The ultimate success of the CLEAR program in achieving its stated goal will require time and future evaluation.