Authorities in Los Angeles are cracking down on gang members charging "rent" to street vendors -- a practice that may be thriving despite an overall decrease in crime.
Last month gang members allegedly shot a merchant in a crowded marketplace when he refused to give them $50 rent.
The vendor was hospitalized and a stray bullet struck and killed a 23-month-old boy.
The Los Angeles Police Department has reportedly received 23 extortion complaints this year, compared with 10 for all of 2006.
Officials believe many cases go unreported because vendors are often illegal immigrants and reluctant to go to the police.
City officials and prosecutors are considering installing video cameras in shopping districts and assigning more officers to work with street vendor-related crime.