Community Resources Against Street Hoodlums
|Community Resources Against Street Hoodlums|
Patch of the Los Angeles Police Department CRASH division
|Motto||"To Protect and to Serve"
"We Intimidate Those Who Intimidate Others"
|Superseding agency||LAPD Gang and Narcotics Division|
|Legal personality||Governmental: Government agency|
|Operations jurisdiction*||City of Los Angeles in the state of California, United States|
|Size||498 sq mi (1,290 km²)|
|Legal jurisdiction||City of Los Angeles, California|
|Police Officers||Approx. 300|
|Parent agency||Los Angeles Police Department|
|* Divisional agency: Division of the country, over which the agency has usual operational jurisdiction.|
Community Resources Against Street Hoodlums (CRASH) was an elite but controversial special operations unit of the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD), tasked with combating gang-related crime.
CRASH was established by LAPD chief Daryl Gates to combat the rising problem of gangs in Los Angeles, California. Each of the LAPD's 18 divisions had a CRASH unit assigned to it, whose primary goal was to suppress the influx of gang-related crimes in Los Angeles, which came about primarily from the increase in the drugs trade.
In 1973, in 77th Street Division of the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD), street gangs were quickly becoming a problem. Deputy Chief Lou Sporrer, commanding officer of South Bureau, responsible for 77th Street Division operations, and ultimately responsible to Chief of Police Edward M. Davis, created a unit of uniformed officers and a plain clothes intelligence section, combined to be identified as 77th Street Division TRASH.
TRASH was an acronym for Total Resources Against Street Hoodlums; with the idea that LAPD didn't want to glamorize gangs. Activists began efforts to abolish the TRASH unit stating the name itself hurt the image of these youth. Sporrer agreed to a name change and the "T" became a "C" and TRASH became CRASH.
In addition to gang-related crime prevention, CRASH officers also had to obtain information about a specific gang that was assigned to them and relay that information between districts. The CRASH officer's "freedom of movement and activity" and "gung-ho" nature has led some of them to incite controversy among themselves and the whole CRASH unit.
In March 2000, CRASH was gradually diminished and replaced with a similar anti-gang unit. This unit's minimum requirements for enlistment are higher than was CRASH's, requiring recruits to have a sufficiently high amount of experience and a low number of personnel complaints. Major categories of crime offenses and attempted crimes in 2000 in Los Angeles increased over those of the previous year, when CRASH was at full staff. In the 1980s, gang violence began to increase dramatically as a result of the drug trade, specifically the introduction of crack cocaine.
Operation Hammer was a CRASH-led initiative that began in 1987 to crack down on gang violence in South Central Los Angeles. As a result of increasing gang violence and a drive-by killing resulting in the deaths of seven people, then-Chief of Police Daryl Gates responded by sending CRASH officers to arrest suspected gang members. At the height of this operation in April 1988, 1,453 people were arrested by one thousand police officers in a single weekend. While considered successful by some, this operation and the LAPD were maligned with accusations of racism; some believed that Operation Hammer heavily employed racial profiling, targeting African-American and Hispanic youths that were labelled as "urban terrorists" and "ruthless killers." However, proponents of the operation counter that it was not discriminatory as each gang member arrested had warrants for their arrests.
Rampart Division CRASH scandal
Every LAPD patrol division had a CRASH unit stationed in it. One of the most prominent CRASH units was stationed in the Rampart Division.
On February 26, 1998, Rampart CRASH officer Brian Hewitt was suspended and later stripped of his job when allegations arose of a cover-up of the beating and asphyxiation of Javier Ovando, an 18th Street gang member. Hewitt was accused of choking Ovando in an interview room when the suspect refused to provide evidence of gang activities. When Ovando reported his beating at a hospital, the evidence implicated Hewitt and led to his termination at a Board of Rights hearing.
In August 1998, the same month that Chief Bernard Parks claimed that the Christopher Commission reforms were "essentially complete", officer Rafael Pérez, a nine-year LAPD veteran, was arrested on charges of stealing six pounds (2.7 kilograms) of cocaine from the department's Property Division. Pérez was initially tried on one count of possession of cocaine for sale, grand theft and forgery each. After a mistrial on December 7 of that year, more reports of cocaine theft by Pérez arose. In September 1999, in exchange for partial immunity from prosecution, he testified about a pattern of abuse and misconduct involving seventy CRASH officers, threatening to overturn thousands of criminal convictions.
As part of his plea bargain, Pérez implicated scores of officers from the Rampart Division's anti-gang unit, describing routinely beating gang members, planting evidence on suspects, falsifying reports and covering up unprovoked shootings. As of May 2001, the Rampart investigation had brought fifty-eight officers before an internal administrative board. Of these, twelve were suspended, seven resigned, and five were terminated.
- "Gangs: Additional Resources". Los Angeles Police Department. Retrieved 2006-06-26.
- "CRASH Culture". PBS Frontline. Retrieved 2006-06-26.
- "Interviews: Gerald Chaleff". PBS Frontline. Retrieved 2006-06-26.
- "LAPD's Anti-Gang Unit is Disbanded Following Widespread Corruption Scandal". CNN. 2000-03-12. Retrieved 2006-06-26.
- "Rampart Scandal Timeline". PBS Frontline. Retrieved 2006-06-26.
- "Crime Statistics - Year 2000" (PDF). Los Angeles Police Department. p. 2. Retrieved 2006-06-26.
- Kevin Starr, Coast of Dreams: California On The Edge, 1990-2003 (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2004), 92.