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Aquilla
Yesterday police departments for the cities of Los Angeles and Burbank joined with federal agents in a massive, and I do mean massive sweep in the east San Fernando Valley to round up members of a particularly violent gang called the "Vineland Boyz". (Vineland is the name of a street in the area). Some 1,300 law enforcement personal were involved in the operation. Here's the article about it from the LA Times. (requires free registration). From that article.......

QUOTE
More than 1,300 federal and local police officers descended on the east San Fernando Valley before sunrise Tuesday, arresting nearly two dozen suspected gang members for allegedly operating a criminal enterprise that authorities blame for the murders of two police officers and a 16-year-old girl.

[snip]

At a morning news conference, Bratton said he had made good on his promise. The suspects picked up in the raid would become "the poster boys for what would happen to any gang that kills a police officer," Bratton said.

At an afternoon news conference outside Burbank police headquarters, U.S. Atty. Debra Wong Yang said the raids, one of the largest recent multi-agency operations in the region, and the 56-count federal indictment that accompanied it "effectively crippled the gang."

Twenty-three suspects named in the federal grand jury indictment were arrested Tuesday, mostly in the Sun Valley area. The 159-page indictment accuses the suspected gang members of violating federal drug and weapons laws as well as RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act), a statute traditionally used to target Mafia organized crime families.

Thirteen other suspects had been taken into custody earlier, while seven remain at large.



This is an interesting use of the RICO statutes, and to my knowledge the first time they've been used against a Los Angeles street gang. RICO was originally written to combat organized crime, specifically the Mafia and has been used quite successfully to that end. But, it has also been used in civil lawsuits as detailed here.

Now, apparently the Los Angeles Police Department is going to invoke RICO laws against street gangs and I suspect that this raid was just the beginning of what's to come. So, the questions for debate are as follows.......

1. Is this a proper use of the RICO statutes?

2. Do you think this will be an effective tool against street gangs?

3. Do you view the RICO statutes as too powerful in the first place? (mainly for the Libertarians out there)
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aevans176
QUOTE(Aquilla @ Jun 22 2005, 02:22 PM)
Now, apparently the Los Angeles Police Department is going to invoke RICO laws against street gangs and I suspect that this raid was just the beginning of what's to come.  So, the questions for debate are as follows.......

1.  Is this a proper use of the RICO statutes?

2. Do you think this will be an effective tool against street gangs?

3. Do you view the RICO statutes as too powerful in the first place?  (mainly for the Libertarians out there)

*



1. The RICO statutes were first used to prosecute activities that are very to similar to those of street gangs.
for example:
In plain English, section 1962(a) generally makes it unlawful for a person to use an enterprise to launder money generated by a pattern of racketeering activity. Lightening Lube, Inc. v. Witco Corp., 4 F.3d 1153, 1188 (3d Cir. 1993).

2. I definitely think it's an effective tool against street gangs. When you consider the facts that:
a. Leadership of gangs may not actually be on the streets commiting crime
b. Attacking the leadership of street gangs may slow/stop total operation
c. Arresting the lower echelon of said gangs is probably largely ineffective and doesn't hinder overall operations.
Basically, it's like attacking a General or a Colonel on a battlefield as opposed to shooting the soldiers. Once the officers are killed, the men often lack direction and discipline. Conversely, shooting privates or NCO's often doesn't stop the battle. RICO laws against gangs that sell drugs and guns are a wonderful way to break down the hierarchy of such organizations.

3. Are RICO laws too powerful?? (I know this was mainly intended for Libertarians)
I believe not. Is the law enforcement community attacking innocent organizations? I doubt it. It would make front page news on every channel... so that being said, if these laws are taking down people that Americans would rather not live next door to, then so be it. I know, I know... there are people out there that believe that the RICO laws are far too vague, and incriminate those whom may or may not have involvement in truly criminal activity. Take a look...
http://www.ricoact.com/ricoact/nutshell.asp#constitutes

So, how do we establish complicity? The Mafia is a great example of how the RICO laws were effective. The Godfather wasn't actually on the streets selling illegal goods, shooting people, or doing anything else otherwise illegal. However, he did direct said criminal activity. This is why we need these laws.

I believe it's like homeland security. Let's be better off safe than sorry. In the event that you live in an area that runs rampant with gang activity that you'd rather not come in contact with, I'm sure the RICO laws are welcome...
loreng59
1. Is this a proper use of the RICO statutes?
Let's see, a street gang is a group of criminals banding together to increase their criminal activities. So yes it is very proper, in fact it fits the definition to a 'T'.

2. Do you think this will be an effective tool against street gangs?
That remains to be seen. Most of these street gangs seem to continue to operate inside of state prisons. I hope the federal government has better success.

3. Do you view the RICO statutes as too powerful in the first place? (mainly for the Libertarians out there)
I lean heavily toward the Libertarian side myself. I have some problems with portions of the RICO statutes. No question there, I do not like handing the government so much power, but compared to the organizations that they are going up against. Well sometimes when faced with massive force, the only weapon that works is counter massive force. RICO gives the DAs that type of force.
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