In the late 1980s, the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) launched a series of anti-gang campaigns with the aim of combating what it called “poverty pimps.” These were individuals caught on video in Los Angeles city limits—typically in front of a liquor store—touting criminal activity, like drugs, as a means to get by.
It did this largely because of the LAPD’s long-standing relationship with alcohol distributors and liquor retailers. In fact, for decades, the LAPD would go back to the 1930s to purchase booze from liquor distributors, to ensure that police could arrest and incarcerate gang members and other offenders in cases of “poverty-prose” (a term developed from the 1940s “pimps and prostitutes” campaign).
As part of the LAPD’s anti-poverty campaign, officers would use their authority to knock on doors and knock back the liquor sales. The officers often called it the “pimps and prostitutes” campaign. It was a tool to stop members of the Latino communities from using gangs to obtain alcohol and other illicit substances.
In 1988, Mayor Ronald Reagan used the LAPD’s anti-poverty campaign to create “Operation Green Ribbon” in Los Angeles. Operation Green Ribbon used several strategies, and it’s still used today by law enforcement agencies and others to keep Los Angeles’s youth off the street and out of prison.
Operation Green Ribbon has helped to reduce gang membership. In a study by the RAND Corp., researchers found that the use of Operation Green Ribbon could reduce the incidence of violent crime among Latino youth by 25 percent. In addition, Operation Green Ribbon led to a decrease in teenage involvement in crime, increased police-community relations and lower levels of violence.
Operation Green Ribbon was one of the most successful anti-poverty programs of the 1990s, but the policy was eventually superseded by Operation Ceasefire. Since its inception in 1981 over 15,000 units of Operation Ceasefire have been implemented.
The goal was to take young men and women from youth gang activity to jobs or schools by providing them with job-relevant education and job training. It also served to prevent gang members from remaining in the gang when they were 16 or 17 years old. And Operation Ceasefire was able to reduce the rates of gang violence in Los Angeles by 73%.
Unfortunately, the end of Operation Green Ribbon and the use of Operation Ceasefire led to the increased use of force and police harassment of the
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