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Hardcore Gang Investigations Unit—Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office



Hardcore Gang Investigations Unit, a prosecutorial gang suppression program, was created by the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office in 1979 and is still operating today. It targets habitual gang offenders countywide and prosecutes them either in juvenile or criminal courts. Its predecessor unit, Operation Hardcore, was the first prosecution program to target serious and violent juvenile gang-related offenses. The Hardcore Gang Investigations Unit’s distinctive features include vertical prosecution (the prosecutor who files the case remains with it throughout the prosecution process), reduced caseloads, additional investigative support, and resources for assisting victims.

An independent evaluation of Operation Hardcore showed that fewer dismissals, more convictions/adjudications (including more convictions/adjudications on the most serious charge), and a higher rate of state prison commitments/secure confinement dispositions were achieved for cases subject to the program than for cases undergoing the normal prosecutorial process. Selective targeting of the most violent offenders and vertical prosecution appeared to be key factors accounting for these outcomes.

In a more rigorous analysis than was used in the original study, two key findings were identified. First, cases prosecuted by Operation Hardcore were less likely to be rejected; i.e., gang-related homicide cases prosecuted by the specialized unit were more likely to advance to the next stage of adjudication. A case prosecuted by Operation Hardcore had a 22 percent chance of rejection, compared with a 51 percent chance if not. Second, the more victims, the less chance the case would be rejected, dropping from 64 percent for one victim, 27 percent for two victims, 7 percent for three victims, and 2 percent for four victims. These findings were observed after taking into account a number of factors specific to the suspect, the victim, and homicide(s).

Risk Factors


Gang involvement in adolescence

High alcohol/drug use

High drug dealing

Illegal gun ownership/carrying

Physical violence/aggression

Violent victimization


Availability and use of drugs in the neighborhood

Availability of firearms

Exposure to violence and racial prejudice

Feeling unsafe in the neighborhood

High-crime neighborhood


Association with gang-involved peers/relatives

Gang membership


National Gang Center and Crime Solutions: Effective program


Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office
210 West Temple Street
Los Angeles, CA 90012
Phone: (213) 974-3680
Fax: (213) 974-1484


Pyrooz, D. C., Wolf, S. E., & Spohn, C. (2011). Gang-related homicide charging decisions: The implementation of a specialized prosecution unit in Los Angeles. Criminal Justice Policy Review, 22, 3-2.

Dahmann, J. (1995). “Operation Hardcore, A Prosecutorial Response to Violent Gang Criminality.” In M. A. Klein, C. L. Maxson, and J. Miller (eds.), The Modern Gang Reader. Los Angeles, CA: Roxbury Publishing Company, pp. 301–303.

Date Created: April 7, 2021