Malibu Locals Only: "Boys Will Be Boys", Or Dangerous Street Gang? Why the Criminal Justice System's Failure to Properly Identify Suburban Gangs Hurts Efforts at Fighting Gangs


In the last several years, a group of youths calling themselves Malibu Locals Only or MLO has performed several violent crimes, intimidating many people in the area around Malibu, CA. Despite the gang-like appearance of these youths and their crimes, Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department officials insist that MLO is not a gang. This article examines MLO, its history, and its current state in the context of California anti-gang legislation.

The article theorizes that the criminal justice system's failure to call a group like MLO a gang while waging war on other groups, primarily in lower income, heavily minority areas, hurts the effort at fighting gangs in two ways. First, it places too much emphasis on factors like poverty, institutionalization and the media, which have been traditionally thought to be the greatest influences on youths' decisions to join gangs. This improper emphasis, in turn, causes society to ignore more relevant factors like missing support from family members and other responsible adults. Second, the failure to classify MLO as a gang while aggressively attacking primarily minority gangs makes the anti-gang tools that law enforcement uses, such as the STEP Act and civil gang injunctions, constitutionally questionable.

In conclusion, the article will propose solutions to address both of the above concerns. In particular, society must address the "missing protector factor" to keep youths from joining gangs in the first place. In addition, the criminal justice system must ensure that it enforces laws equally or provides explanations for distinctions so as to allow tools like the STEP Act and civil gang injunctions to pass constitutional muster.


Civil Rights and Discrimination | Constitutional Law | Criminal Law | Criminal Procedure | Juvenile Law | Law | Law and Society

Date of this Version

August 2006