Patterico's Pontifications

12/19/2007

L.A. Weekly on L.A. Gang Life

Filed under: Crime,General — Patterico @ 9:42 pm

Peter Landesman has an eye-opening piece in the L.A. Weekly about gang wars in South Central L.A.:

I asked [Grape Street Crip Ronny] Pugh if he’d taken part in the string of drive-by murders in Nickerson Garden[s] that started over Christmas. “I’m a part of everything and anything, put it like that,” he said, almost eagerly. “If I’m out here, you do it.” He stopped, looked around and said, “I love this right here. I love this life. I can’t even see myself abandoning this. I don’t care if I got money, or work Monday through Friday. I just go shoot a motherfucker on the weekends. If that’s what need to be done to keep my hood and my young ones around here safe, then that’s what to get done.”

Under the right circumstances, that could make a nice set of admissions at a trial — that is, if Mr. Landesman didn’t end up recanting it when he got to court, as often happens in gang cases. Does Mr. Landesman have anything to worry about? You tell me:

Two hours after I left Pugh, my cell phone rang. I knew the caller, and he told me my conversation with Pugh had been overheard. He’d been told to tell me I’d been “green lit” in Jordan Downs — if I went back there, I’d be killed.

Life in Watts is dangerous:

Every yard, doorway, shop and parking lot is the fiefdom of one of Watts’ 65 gangs and their roughly 15,000 hardcore gang members. In that area alone, gang members shoot 500 people a year, and kill 90. Nearly every citizen living there is enjoined by membership or affiliation; those who try to stay out of the life incur their local gang’s wrath, sometimes with fatal consequences. The average American has a 1-in-18,000 chance of being murdered. In this area of Los Angeles, the chances are 1 in 250.

On New Year’s Eve so much automatic weapons fire pours into Watts’ airspace that LAX air traffic control must divert the flight path of incoming planes.

And dysfunctional:

Today, 75 percent of Watts’ adult black male population will at some point go to jail or prison.

Innocent people get caught in the crossfire:

Gangbangers call the innocents among them “mushrooms” because they pop up in the way of their bullets.

Landesman tells of visiting the Nickerson Gardens housing project, home of the Bounty Hunter Bloods, with a fire captain. As he nears the projects, he dons a Kevlar vest, on the advice of the captain. He talks about how residents “keep their lights off at night to avoid becoming targets in drive-by shootings,” and says that the captain

was relieved when we got out of there. “I probably shouldn’t have done that,” he said.

You could get the impression from all of this that Watts has no good people in it. That the projects are filled with nothing but criminals. That South Central has nobody that deserves to be protected.

You would be wrong.

I visited Nickerson Gardens a while back in order to take pictures at a crime scene. Bounty Hunter Bloods patrolled the area, clearly annoyed that the police had invaded their space and temporarily disrupted their drug trade. Some stared at us. Some played dice and screamed obscenities.

But when we entered the residence where the crime had occurred, the tenants, who had recently moved in and were unaware of the murder that had occurred there, were as nice as they could possibly be. They apologized for the mess — really, it wasn’t bad at all — and allowed us to take pictures of their home. They asked why we were there, and when we told them, the man of the house started ticking off all his family members who had been murdered: his dad, his cousin . . . the list went on. We needed to crawl out onto a second-story ledge at one point, and the residents next door were similarly hospitable, letting me climb on their bed to hoist myself out the window for the pictures I needed to take.

As we walked across the street, three young Hispanic girls greeted us with a smile and a friendly “hi.” I smiled and said hi back — and silently hoped the Bounty Hunter Bloods hadn’t noticed. Jack Dunphy has written movingly of what can happen to kids who are caught being nice to law enforcement.

I am on my third tour in Compton; my first tours were 1999-2001, before and after my juvenile rotation. I used to go to Rosecrans Elementary School and talk to fifth graders about the justice system and the importance of staying out of trouble. Every year, I would invite a judge to speak to the kids. My favorite was the judge who had gone to school there, who told the kids that if he could study hard and become a judge, so could they. I told this story about the school in November 2003, but it still seems relevant:

I was teaching a weekly class about the criminal justice system, and there was a skit that involved someone being shot. I asked the students to raise their hands if they had ever heard gunfire from their houses.

Every hand in the room went up.

I asked them to raise their hands if a family member or friend had been shot.

Every hand but two went up.

So don’t tell me that these areas are lost. They aren’t. You look out at a classroom of 10-year-olds and tell me that they aren’t worth protecting.

Go click on the link and read about gangs in L.A. It’s a great article.

And when you return, remember: the ACLU says we’re cracking down too hard on the poor gangs.

Why, we might be interfering with Ronny Pugh’s right to “go shoot a motherfucker on the weekends.”

18 Responses to “L.A. Weekly on L.A. Gang Life”

  1. “Civil rights” attorneys are also quite worried about two recent injunctions against OC gang members from associating with each other. Why, it might, might, prevent innocent non-gang members from talking to even a family member?

    Patricia (f56a97)

  2. Not in a gang? doesn’t mean much

    #1 daughter got her nursing degree tonight. One of the reasons I’m really happy is that she is hanging up her ambulance/ems/paramedic keys. She rolled in some of the meanest areas of the Inland Empire …sometimes with police escort, sometimes not … and got harassed and threated by gangbangers.

    Darleen (187edc)

  3. One of the great mysteries is what benefit the civil-rights crowd gets out of supporting crime and helping to ensure that poor people continue to live in terrifying conditions. I don’t for a moment believe that it is really just that they care so much for these poor disadvantaged gangsters. If they really cared, if they were really motivated by compassion, then they would care for the victims of those gangsters and would not be constantly fighting to send them back to victimize again.

    Sometimes I wonder if it’s really as simple as that they want to make sure they keep a convenient supply of drugs flowing so that they can always find what they need for a party.

    Doc Rampage (ebfd7a)

  4. At what cost is anyone worth it?

    Are Darfurians not worth it? Innocent Palestinians?

    I am not being snotty. What cost is enough?

    Do we all lay our lives down for another – is that the end game?

    Ed (fa0851)

  5. If this country actually followed the laws that have been in place for decades and, the judicial system wasn’t so uberleft, we might have begun to see some improvement. There were gangs over fifty years ago when I was a teenager but they were confined to small areas. That had been the case for decades, too. When we, as a society, believe that that civil rights, equality and freedom of felons and murderers are more important than the lives of 10-year olds, then we cease to be a society and instead become exactly what we fear the most….them!

    Sue (f523aa)

  6. Surely there are plenty of trained military snipers that could in a matter of weeks clean out these hell holes. It’s obvious to everyone who the gange members are. They should be cut out like a cancer and eliminated. Am I proposing military death squads in america? You bet. The country would be better off.

    mantis (2a8465)

  7. Doc, my information is that the ACLU was partly founded by communists, the strategy of enabling crime is aimed at creating the conditions for a Marxist revolution.

    The poor are just pawns.

    LarryD (feb78b)

  8. On New Year’s Eve so much automatic weapons fire pours into Watts’ airspace

    I really doubt that there are many, if any, automatic weapons in Watts.

    cdeegan (4fd387)

  9. Just finished reading the article – thanks for the link to it, Patterico!

    After reading it, I came away with a few thoughts (I grew up in the OC in the 70’s and early 80’s):

    1. We as a country need to take a stand and stop enabling the mindset of “providing aid to the disadvantaged”. Each program needs to be looked at and some sort of metric used to justify funding it…if the goals are met, the the program receives funding for the next year. The entitlement mindset needs to stop, and we need to put those that condone it (read Jesse and Al and their followers) need to be put out of business for good.

    2. Militarize the border – don’t just go with the fence and sensors, maybe even consider laying a minefield to keep illegal immigrants from coming in the front door. Until Congress and the White House get serious about this issue, those that protect the border need any help that they can get.

    3. The Gang Culture – MTV and the recording industry are promoting this crap, and our kids see it every day. A couple of years ago, my wife and two daughters thought that Kanye West was the “bomb”, that his music was real…until I pointed out to my wife that Kanye was not from the ‘hood, but a middle class neighborhood in the Chicago area (and mom worked at a local college). The daughters got the message when I told them that the crap on MTV was that…and that if they thought that it was “hip”, that I would be more than happy to take them to Watts or Compton to see life in the ‘hood “up close and personal”. As a friend of mine once said – “the closest that you’ve been to the ‘hood, is that thing on the back of your sweatshirt”.

    LA and the other areas in the country that are dealing with the gang problems are seeing these “ghettos”, “barrios” or other areas slowly circling into into areas of urban warfare – mini Beruits or Somalias for lack of a term – where law enforcement is seriously outgunned and outmanned (the part in the story about the three cops fighting it out with 300 gang members was shocking). Maybe it’s time to call out the guard and have them provide help in sweeping known gang areas (don’t know of too many people that would want to fight it out against a Apache helicopter or a Stryker vehicle with a .50 cal machine gun). Money is not going to solve the problem – it hasn’t since the 60’s and it wont now. Give the people hope – so they can take their neighborhoods back from the thugs.

    fmfnavydoc (affdec)

  10. I really doubt that there are many, if any, automatic weapons in Watts.

    It’s nice to have doubts, but that’s not one I’d hang my hat on. I’m absolutely certain there are plenty of automatic weapons in Watts and other neighborhoods. Probably even yours. Some certainly may have been illegally modified, but don’t doubt that they are there.

    patrick (5903bd)

  11. How many of those 10 year olds will be shooting the gun in 3 years? Six years? Ten years? How do you stop them from sitting in a class room looking cute one day, and doing a stone cold imitation of Ronny Pugh the next. I am convinced nothing from the outside will stop it. It must come from within. Good luck with that as long as education is a middle class thing.

    quasimodo (edc74e)

  12. cdeegan, your really doubt it?

    Do you understand how trivial it can be to convert a weapon to semiautomatic?

    Did you know that Los Angeles is in Southern California, which places it near Mexico? And that Mexico is not very good at curbing an enormous contraband economy that included drugs and weapons?

    There are so many AK47s in the world, and $200 can get you one. Sure, for me there a ton of paperwork involved. For some guy in Watts, that is not the case.

    The sad thing is that the gun control advocates are worried about the pistol in my and preventing me from taking it to the mall than they are about the automatic weapons that are a danger to airplanes.

    I don’t have all the answers, but people are dying out there, and we need something like “the surge”. We need to send in armored vehicles, armored law enforcement, to secure this area. The gangs will relocate, so we need to follow them. Make sure they, at the very least, can never be comfortable in one place for long. We also need some new deal style jobs. Take that money away from West Virginia and Alaska, and get some government jobs in that area. I don’t like entitlements, but a bunch of these kids will not join gangs if they have a chance to get a nice cushy job.

    Who am I kidding? That crap would probably just cost lives and money and accomplish nothing. I hate to admit it, but perhaps what we need is more abortion clinics.

    Dustin (9e390b)

  13. Of course we have the ability and the law necessary to defeat gangs. We don’t have the will: the will has been replaced by self-hate for the “oppression” that “causes” gang crime.

    Patricia (f56a97)

  14. diverting aircraft…
    In the world of the media (LAWeekly, etc) any self-loading weapon (what knowledgable people would call a Semi-Automatic) is an automatic weapon.
    If these ‘bangers were using full-auto AK’s, etc., this would be reflected in the data on weapon confiscations/trace data from the BATFE, and we would be seeing these numbers in the DogTrainer (they couldn’t pass up the opportunity to castigate the NRA over data like this).
    Perhaps Patterico could send a quiry to LAPD asking how many full-auto weapons they have impounded/confiscated in the “Watts” area in recent years?

    The best Civil-Rights program we could initiate in most central-city areas, would be to put Gen. Patreaus in charge of cleaning the cess-pools – no questions asked!

    Another Drew (8018ee)

  15. Education is a middle class thing, quasi? Care to expand on that thought?

    JD (eadb61)

  16. well, i grew up just a few miles east of there (and a bit north), and i’m here to tell you that back in the 80’s & early 90’s, new years eve & 4th of July were more impressive than being on the Malone Range Complex at the Harmony Church School for Excitable Boys…… i *know* what full auto sounds like, compared to fast semi, just as i can tell between large and small caliber and the boom of a shotgun. rather than coming from a few sources in measured amounts, the gunfire was continuous in all directions for hours, building to a climax at midnight, and going for at least 15-30 minutes after that.

    there were some auto weapons in earshot, not that many, but since it’s illegal to own any in CA…..

    i haven’t been down there on those days in awhile, but to make up for that fact, i did w*rk as a car reposessor from 84-5 to 1990, mostly in and around that area. we got stopped by LAPD one night, pulling out of the Nickersons, where we had cruised through, looking to see if we saw our unit. not surprisingly, we didn’t, and likely wouldn’t have done much about if we had, but that was the j*b. the cops wanted to know what the hell we were doing. we showed them our id and told them. they said they figured it was that or buying drugs…. then they asked us if we were armed, which we weren’t. they said “you should be.”, but admitted that if we had been, they would have had to arrest us.

    i have another story about being chased in a repo by an AMC Pacer with a couple of crack dealers in it, shots fired, from just south of the Nickersons up to Imperial, and through New Years Eve afternoon traffic, all the way to Imperial & Alameda where i lost them in a real life Duke’s of Hazard move over the tracks…. %-)

    needless to say, i don’t doubt the general truth of this story as reported.

    redc1c4 (dcc4d4)

  17. The solution is to destroy those neighborhoods. Old Mayor Daley did it with Chicago’s Little Italy, the home of the Black Hand. He tore it down and built University of Illinois at Chicago Circle. His son tore down Cabrini Green. Of course, those displaced people will have to go somewhere. How do you feel about scattered site housing in your neignborhood?

    nk (6061ba)

  18. so gangs? wow i guess none of you have ever seen a gangster

    John (641bc2)


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