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L.A.'s Budding Mogadishus

By Constance L. Rice, Constance L. Rice is a civil rights attorney in Los Angeles.

In Brazil's favelas, murder is the leading cause of death for 10-year-olds. In these urban hyper-barrios, police patrol in helicopter gunships. Any delusion of crime prevention gave way to containment and suppression long ago. At night, black children hide from both rogue cops and gang members; the rich venture from their fortress homes nearby only in armored vehicles or private planes. In the midst of Rio de Janeiro's splendor, favelas are at a tipping point — on the way to joining Mogadishu as wholly failed "feral" cities, engulfed by gangs, black markets, rapacious crime and dysfunction.

Could Los Angeles be headed down this road? No, not anytime soon, at least for the vast majority of the city. But the hot spots of underclass Los Angeles are well on the way. If ignored, they will metastasize, and eventually pose a real danger to the larger region.

L.A.'s hot zones are tiny, intensely dangerous areas where nothing works, where law has broken down and mainstream institutions simply fail. Places where mail carriers and meter readers balk when the bullets fly. Where paramedics and firefighters are hesitant to enter because of the crossfire. Where police officers go in only heavily reinforced or with helicopters; in the LAPD's South Bureau there was an 80% increase in sniper fire on police in 2004, according to a report by LAPD Chief William Bratton.

These zones are often found in and near public housing projects, although the worst privately owned slums — like the gang-ridden apartment complex at 69th and Main that was recently ordered evacuated by the city — mirror the conditions.

In Jordan Downs, for instance, one of three gang-dominated housing projects in Watts, the predominantly African American Grape Street Crips routinely beat Latinos (among others), engage in regular home-invasion robberies and have been known to murder residents who dare report their activities. When the LAPD set up a police kiosk in Jordan to quell rising crime, the gangs blew it up; the LAPD left and did not return for more than a decade. In the Ramona Gardens housing project, the last three black families didn't survive long enough to suffer the perpetual abuse that residents of Jordan have endured: Latino gangsters firebombed them out of their units.

Schools near these complexes boast 70% dropout rates, violence-related lockdowns and children with post-traumatic stress disorder levels as high as those seen in civil wars. The neighborhoods host hundreds of prison-brutalized men wed to cults of destruction and the hyper-masculinity of the powerless. Ex-cons who try to change must defy a dehumanizing dragnet that draws 70% of them back into prison. All face relentless search-and-destroy policing. With job prospects virtually nonexistent and few other exit ramps from the prison-parole hamster wheel, escape is rare.

Years ago I asked gang members what happened to kids who "just said no" to the Bloods or V-18s. They brought me a videotape other gang members had made for a 14-year-old boy who had refused to join them. The tape showed gang members raping his 13-year-old sister. The boy joined the gang so that its members wouldn't return to kill her.

Is there no one in this city to protect these children? A city that leaves its children to predators is on the road to Mogadishu.

But what is to be done? Though violence and gangs pose a terrible menace to residents and cops, it is deadly error to confuse them with the root cause. They are merely the toxic byproducts of malignant poverty and deprivation that we apparently do not have the will to end.



Until recently, our leaders either ignored this uglier L.A. — the City Council, for example, focused last year not on Jordan or Ramona but on forcing the LAPD to waste time responding to thousands of false home alarms in middle-class neighborhoods — or enacted small and isolated test programs. That's the equivalent of flossing when a root canal is needed instead.

Lately, a few L.A. leaders appear to have recognized that smarter solutions are way overdue. Councilman Martin Ludlow has proposed an urban affairs department to coordinate and elevate the city's scattershot programs into more sophisticated and aggressive gang intervention strategies. Bratton and county Sheriff Lee Baca are calling for more cops — but they also agree that cops must switch to problem-solving policing, and they champion restoration of the $1 billion a year in prevention funds lost since Proposition 13 passed in 1978. Equally critical, Rob Reiner led voters to back universal preschool, and all-day kindergarten is now on the drawing board.

On a more controversial track, City Atty. Rocky Delgadillo has stepped up the use of collective neighborhood strategies like injunctions and mass evictions. Last week, a judge ordered the eviction of all the tenants from a complex that gang members had used as a headquarters for 20 years.

Though eviction of the innocent is rarely defensible, the instinct to check virulent violence with vigorous remedies is right. Eviction, if it is done, must be a last resort, and it must include full compensation, including money for relocation to an available apartment in the same neighborhood for all evictees.



But these smarter strategies, however welcome, will not be enough. L.A.'s danger zones require radical vision, scaled-up remedies, sustained and strategic investment, and a level of leadership and will that currently do not exist. In the end, remedies that attack symptoms but leave root causes intact do nothing but create future blowback.

We must build a city where gangs can't get near a single kid under 16 and where any gang member who wants out can exit la vida loca — and live. Then let's get really radical and actually end the malignant poverty that drives the violent dysfunction. Choose this road or join Rio's trajectory toward Mogadishu.
 

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Garand said:
...We must build a city where gangs can't get near a single kid under 16 and where any gang member who wants out can exit la vida loca — and live. Then let's get really radical and actually end the malignant poverty that drives the violent dysfunction. Choose this road or join Rio's trajectory toward Mogadishu.
No, 'we' must kill rabid dogs where we encounter them. This ain't rocket science; a dead predator is no longer a threat.
 

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There are many good people who have plenty of "anti-rabies" vaccine.

RIKA
 

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I don't but the "poverty is the reason for this" argument. Lots of poor people that DONT have to worry about crime. It's cultural, IMO. If the good people there band together, they can take their neighborhoods back.

These sheep have turned over the responsibility for their own safety to the police.

The police HAVE NO OBLIGATION TO PROTECT -->ANYONE<-- NOT IN THEIR CUSTODY.
The "supreme" court has said so. Anyone that depends on the PD to save them is a FOOL.

So, the sheep are being sheared (if they're lucky) or being led to their slaughter.
 

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John in AR said:
No, 'we' must kill rabid dogs where we encounter them. This ain't rocket science; a dead predator is no longer a threat.
To the uninitiated, this may sound like a drastic solution. However, in my opinion, this is the only solution to a non-curable societal disease.
 

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I'd vote for the terminal relocation of everyone in the danger zone over the age of ten.

Braggadocio aside what's a workable solution?

Maybe remove everyone who isn't legally employed for a minimum 25 hours/wk or has attended school for a min of 95% of the last year.

Or just dust off & nuke 'em from orbit.It's the only way to be sure.

It's for the children.
 

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Kent said:
I don't but the "poverty is the reason for this" argument. Lots of poor people that DONT have to worry about crime...
As the man said, "You got that right". Here in Arkansas, we have high poverty and low crime; something that the left-wing social architects seem to think mutually exclusive.

The few 'high crime' areas we do have show the true correlation: high population density and the anonymity it provides. When you have a large enough number of people in a small enough area, there's inevitably the 'needle/haystack' effect; ie, a ferret can hide easier among a thousand rabbits than he could among a dozen. (Notice how the "career" criminals tend to live in cities, and not in rural areas. Without the camouflage of crowds, ferrets are too vulnerable...)

The problem isn't too many rabbits; the problem is that people act like rabbits in the first place, relying on someone else to protect them from the ferrets of the world. Domesticated rabbits, at that; in nature, even rabbits know better than to live with ferrets.

Some humans aren't even as smart as rabbits. That's a shame.
 

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It's been said before, but I'll chime in.
You need an exterminator to get rid of the pests.

This is what happens when the populace is disarmed.

Many of you might disagree, but shit like
The tape showed gang members raping his 13-year-old sister.
needs to be dealt with swiftly and brutally. There needs to be bodies hanging from light posts. There needs to be a red streak where these fucks were dragged down the road. There needs to be an epidemic of lead poisoning.
 

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Magnum88C said:
It's been said before, but I'll chime in.
You need an exterminator to get rid of the pests.

This is what happens when the populace is disarmed.

Many of you might disagree, but shit like needs to be dealt with swiftly and brutally. There needs to be bodies hanging from light posts. There needs to be a red streak where these fucks were dragged down the road. There needs to be an epidemic of lead poisoning.
Damn MAG, why don't you tell us how you really feel.

I have read, without knowinghow true it is, that in some Brazilian cities the police have started unofficial death squads, because of they are tired of dealing with repeat offenders.
 

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Magnum88C said:
Many of you might disagree, but shit like needs to be dealt with swiftly and brutally. There needs to be bodies hanging from light posts. There needs to be a red streak where these fucks were dragged down the road. There needs to be an epidemic of lead poisoning.
Well said. I agree.

But it won't happen until the sheep take off their wool and show some fangs.

THeir needs to be an ultimatum to the PD. Either take care of this or WE WILL! AND MEAN IT!

It will be status quo until that happens.
 

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I agree with Kent this kind of crap can only happen if the population turns a blind eye to the dogs and low lifes commiting the crimes.
 

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The police in LA are faced with a double edge sword,a damned if you do/damned if you dont situation if you will. They are supposed to be the peace keepers but at the same time they are always making news when they "get to rough" with suspects.
Can you get to rough with gang members that have just raped a thirteen year old girl? Can you? I couldn't get rough enough. While something needs to be done about folks like this nothing will/can be done until the police are alowed to take a more heavy handed aproach. The media jumps all over a Rodney King type story. They have the thug's momma on there saying what a good boy he was an how he was in church with her just last Sunday but momma didn't know he was out gangbangin' and raping little girls.
When I was a young boy and I done wrong I got diciplined. I came to know that the next time I acted in the same way I was gonna be in trouble again with my dad. Because of this dicipline I feel like I have grown to be a better person than I would have been if there was never a consequince for my actions.
I said all this to say that there needs to be an athoratative figure {the police} in place to enforce rules and teach these misguided youth of Americas inner cities a little dicipline and as long as there is a media crew ready to tear down any reputation that a police department has with tales of brutality there can be no decipline. These departments have the ways and means of donig something about this and more than enough man power if they were only to exercise thier authority.

Just my two cents.
Steve
 

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Stillwater said:
Damn MAG, why don't you tell us how you really feel.

I have read, without knowinghow true it is, that in some Brazilian cities the police have started unofficial death squads, because of they are tired of dealing with repeat offenders.
I have a friend who grew up in Rio and is now a proud US resident. He has told me that there are death squads and that they target bad, repeat offenders like you mentioned, Stillwater. I've no doubt that they are also in it for the money, and therefore are probably involved in the underworld as well, and might well be called out to silence people who are going to rat them out, such as in the journalist in the article Kent posted the link to.
 

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When I was a little girl I heard the adults talk about how the cops would take a real bada$$ out behind the station for a little visit. They said that when they brought the offender back in he was "walking old and talking old". They beat the crap out of him and put the fear into his heart. We have only ourselves to blame for criminals being coddled because we are spineless. Every time I talk about this I think of the Death Wish movies. Only problem is that the Paul Kerseys of this world would be caught and treated more harshly than the real criminals.

RIKA
 

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Rika,it's interesting that you bring up vigilantism.

I wonder where the vigilanties are?100 years ago I'd of expected a town to look after itself w/ or w/o a local law authority.

Where are the people w/a moral backbone?Do they only live in "red" states?
 

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Jeff, I think that we as a people are pretty much brainwashed - by the state, by the schools and by the churches. Also I think that most of us are pretty much distanced from any real close up and personal experiences with crime. If it isn't our personal problem then its all to easy to let the law take care of it. Law enforcement has to operate within their limits so I'm not faulting them. They do the best they can but why bust your butt when the courts (operating both inside and outside their confines) turn the criminals loose.

I'm not sure that there is an answer until enough people are personally harmed by criminals. SHTF would sure level the playing field and the robbers, dope dealers, murderers and rapists would be dealt with quickly and terminally once the penalties for dealing directly with them are gone.

Enough of my mutterings.

RIKA
 

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