The Hollenbeck Initiative was a replication of Boston, Mass. Operation Ceasefire of the 1990s, which used problem-oriented policing to reduce gun violence and youth gang activity. The program was successful in reducing youth gang-related homicides, and the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) hoped to achieve similar results. The original goal of the program was to increase the cost of violent behavior to gang members by applying sanctions and increasing the benefits of nonviolent behavior by providing social services to offenders. However, the intended goal was not able to be achieved after a triggering event prompted a rapid implementation of the program. The goal then shifted to targeting the gangs responsible for the event.
The Hollenbeck area was chosen as the target site for the initiative because of its high rates of gang activity and violent crime; gangs were predominantly composed of Hispanic members. Hollenbeck is a 15-square-mile area east of downtown Los Angeles that contains the communities of El Sereno, Lincoln, and Boyle Heights. The community urged law enforcement officials to take immediate action after the violence reached a new level of urgency: in 2000, a 19-year-old gang member and a 10-year-old girl were killed in a gang-related double homicide in Boyle Heights. This event triggered swift implementation of the Operation Ceasefire program in Boyle Heights, located in the southern area of Hollenbeck.
The Hollenbeck Initiative used collaboration among law enforcement agencies, community organizations, and institutions to design the Operation Ceasefire program. These partnerships provided information and support necessary to implement the program. Originally, these organizations planned on providing such services as tattoo removal, substance abuse treatment programs, and job training. However, in the wake of the Boyle Heights shooting, the plan was changed to better address the situation.
After the shooting in Boyle Heights, the LAPD quickly allocated additional resources to the known territories of both Cuatro Flats, the offending gang, and The Mob Crew (TMC), the victimized gang. The department increased patrols within the five reporting districts near the site of the homicides and in Cuatro Flats and TMC territory. The LAPD also deployed police officers from specialized units to the area, including Metro Unit and the SWAT team, the Operations Central Bureau (OCB) Special Enforcement Unit, and the OCB Traffic Bureau. Each weekend for the following 2 months, two officers on horseback patrolled the local parks and the adjacent public housing development within the targeted area. Officers also visited the residences of known Cuatro Flats gang members and enforced outstanding warrants or parole violations and seized illegal drugs and weapons. While making these arrests, officers made it clear that their actions were a direct result of the violence committed by members of the Cuatro Flats gang.
In addition to the immediate actions taken against members of the two gangs involved in the event, several other measures were used. Activity in health and welfare agencies and housing units in the territories of both gangs was scrutinized for suspicious activities. Rewards were offered to the public in exchange for information leading to arrests in the triggering event and other events involving these gangs.
Los Angeles Police Department officers, special units in LAPD, collaboration of criminal justice agencies, and community partners including social service agencies.
It was found that the majority of homicides in Hollenbeck were a result of gang disputes relating to respect and territory wars, rather than drug disputes or other types of crime. Thus, an initiative was designed to specifically target problematic gang activity in the area. Gang activity is usually concentrated in small areas in cities with high levels of disorder, drug dealing, and violence. Since gangs are often spatially concentrated in their own areas, known as “turfs,” the intervention could theoretically be concentrated on these specific areas.
A theory of “collective accountability” was used to apprehend gang-affiliated offenders—that is, all gang members would be held accountable for the actions of any individual member. Police officers emphasized this message whenever an arrest of a gang member was made, to communicate a message of zero tolerance for gang activity and to deter future violence.