The unit is slated to be “decentralized” under George Gascon‘s leadership, with a number of prosecutors in the Hardcore Gang unit expected to be transferred to other units. The unit currently has around 700 active cases.
Branch offices will get a “Special Trial Lawyer/Gang Coordinator” to assist prosecutors in absorbing the cases. No new gang or gun allegations will be filed.
Critics of the move argue it will result in more violence in communities.
In a statement to FOX Los Angeles, Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva called the move a “suicide pact.”
“While gang members are busy driving up LA County’s homicide rate, DA Gascon is now dismantling the Hardcore Gang Unit that works with local law enforcement,” he said. “This is not reform, this is beginning to look more like a suicide pact.”
Prosecutors also had sharp words for Gascon.
“It is a sad day for LA. The Gang and Narcotics units have both been slashed in half,” Los Angeles prosecutor Jonathan Hatami tweeted Wednesday.” This will lead to more violence on our streets and more victims in our communities. And it puts public safety at greater risk.”
Prosecutors working gang cases will be asked to set up community liaison relationships working with relevant police agencies to target specific gangs and gang members in an effort to reduce community violence, the source said.
The source said that prosecutors in the unit were told to wait for a phone call about their new assignments. If they chose to not remain in the new unit or whatever unit they are transferred to, a request for reconsideration will be honored.
“None of us will be asked to do anything we don’t want to do,” the source said.
The controversial changes come amid a series of criminal justice reforms implemented in the months since Gascon took office that have sparked nationwide backlash but also praise from criminal justice advocates.
In addition to halting efforts to charge juvenile suspects as adults, Gascon has also barred his prosecutors from attending parole hearings to oppose the release of prison inmates, from seeking the death penalty and has done away with enhancement charges, which add a significant amount of time to the prison sentences of convicted criminal suspects.
Recently, Gascon’s office blocked one of his prosecutors from filing gang enhancement charges against an MS-13 gang member accused of viciously assaulting a transgender woman inside a park.
Loved ones of crime victims have repeatedly blasted the chief prosecutor for not supposedly favoring the rights of criminals over victims.
“He’d be a great public defender,” Desiree Andrade told “Fox & Friends” earlier this month. “The district attorney’s office is about protecting us victims. I feel like… nobody has our back and it’s sad.”
In his first 100 days, his office has withdrawn 77 motions to transfer minors to adult court. Gascon and his backers argue the reforms reduce recidivism and systemic inequities within the criminal justice system.
Fox News’ Sam Sullivan contributed to this report.
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