DS
via email

Watts Is North Of The Border

Re “Greetings from Tijuana,” by Michael Hemmingson, Cover Story, August 7.

Greetings, Michael,

December 12, 2007 — Peter Landesman wrote in the LA Weekly: “The average American has a 1-in-18,000 chance of being murdered. In this area of [South Central] Los Angeles” — two hours north of San Diego — “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. The U.S. military sends its medics to train at local trauma hospitals because the conditions in their trauma units so resemble live warfare.… LAPD Chief William Bratton declared the Jordan Downs–Nickerson Gardens area ‘the most violent community in the country. This is now the most dangerous place in America.’ ”

“The modern American gang was born here” — the Bounty Hunter Bloods and Grape Street Crips. “At last count, Los Angeles County had more than 714 gangs and 80,000 gang members. That makes one of every hundred county residents either a hardcore soldier in a gang or an ‘associate’ — the getaway drivers, lookouts, ‘cookers’ (people who know how to turn cocaine into crack) and ‘hooks’ (people who direct customers to drug houses) — or an ‘affiliate,’ a gang member with no specific duties.…

“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 paramedics wear Kevlar vests.

“It wasn’t always this way. Originally, L.A.’s street gangs were social and support organizations for immigrants and packs of neighborhood pals. Mostly their crimes were petty, and scores were settled with fists.… All that changed forever in the late 1980s, when crack cocaine hit Los Angeles and neighborhood affiliation became secondary to what all the gangs now really wanted: a piece of the drug business.” Does it sound familiar?

“In America’s urban ganglands, and in L.A. in particular, the ferocity of the thuggery has surged; gang members, their victims and police long on the gang beat tell me the fighting has become more codeless, more arbitrary and more brutal than ever.

“And it is everywhere. According to the Department of Justice, today America has at least 30,000 gangs, with 800,000 members, in 2,500 communities across the United States. (Gang experts at the University of Southern California claim the number of American jurisdictions with gang problems has reached 4,000.) Federal, state and local law enforcement across the country agree that street gangs connected to or mimicking the L.A. model have become a national epidemic.”

It is “spreading to formerly safe middle-class communities, or, ‘to a neighborhood near you.’… The bigger and more dangerous portion of the country’s 800,000-odd gang members are disaffected and marginalized youths looking to identify with something.”

“Almost anywhere in America a migrating gangbanger lands, he is fairly sure to find a receptive supply of recruits. ‘Trying out gangs is becoming more and more popular’…‘Now gangs are fads, it’s cool to be a Crip and Blood,’ ” report experts, or, say, part of the MS-13 (Mara Salvatrucha). Will those Americans have ties across the border? Sure do. Crime is not apart from globalization.

“Shootings have become so routine in parts of Los Angeles that most never make the newspapers or television, leaving much of the community oblivious to the magnitude of what is happening on the streets,” wrote Kenneth B. Noble in the New York Times.

It is outrageous the level of corruption in Mexico. Society is taken as a hostage.

I never had any problem south of the border, crossing at least twice a week for the last six years. Neither had I any when I visited Sabato Rodia’s Watts Towers (or Nuestro Pueblo).

After all, it is Tijuana, Michael. It is cynical to say that the situation is very different down there. Scary, isn’t it?

J.G.
via email

The LA Weekly article can be read in English at http://www.laweekly.com/news/news/la-gangs-nine-miles-and-spreading/17861/ and in Spanish at http://www.elpais.com/articulo/paginas/infierno/angeles/elpepusoceps/20070826elpepspag_6/Tes — Editor

The Cop Gang

Your August 7 cover article on Tijuana murders (“Greetings from Tijuana”) was time-compressed from more than 20 years, making it look worse than it is, which nevertheless is pretty bad. My wife and I, both U.S. citizens and Anglos, lived in Colonia del Rio for 17 years, ending last month, and all our children grew up there. The murders got closer to home in the last few years (since Mayor Hank brought his Mexico City police friends, aka gangsters, up north). My family learned caution but was never fear-ridden. My daughter completed Tijuana high school.

The solution to this problem is trivial and obvious, and someone needs to say it. Ninety percent of the murders are drug-trade related. The issue, as in all the third world, is money. Legal dollars only come in the form of loans, imposed on an ever-poorer populace whose raw-material wealth is (except for oil) in long-term decline. The only dollars that don’t have to be paid back twice are the ones from America’s soft underbelly, its drug hunger.

All third world countries including Mexico should legalize drugs and their export, and tax them. The United States should concede this lost war and make drug trade among adults a misdemeanor, punished only by loss of any rights to get welfare or collect on insurance, including medical insurance. Income based on the drug trade will drop sharply and then stabilize, and young people in Tijuana and Afghanistan can begin to look elsewhere for hope. The members of the U.S. drug culture will either snap out of it or die, attended cheaply by trainee nurses and medical students. Chicago saw all this long ago, in Prohibition and its aftermath.

More from SDReader

More from the web

Comments

Michael Hemmingson Aug. 23, 2008 @ 1:16 p.m.

"..." -- David Foster Wallace, The Broom of the System

0

msanthropist Aug. 23, 2008 @ 6:17 a.m.

Reply to Bryan Varela (The Language of Politics): It is a common misconception that the Clinton administration was responsible for NAFTA. It was actually proposed and put in the works by Shrub's daddy George H.W. Bush in 1991. He just couldn't get it passed in a single term. (Not to defend the Dems - just more proof that there's not that much difference between them and the repugnicans...)

0

Barbarella Fokos Aug. 20, 2008 @ 5:46 p.m.

So says Mr. Changer of Locations.

Signed,

Miss Contradiction. ;)

0

Ollie Aug. 22, 2008 @ 7:16 a.m.

Somebody go wake Shepard, Potter, and Brizzolera's asses up and get them in here. I want to know what MORE Reader writers think of my skipping around and Barb's quotes.

0

Ollie Aug. 21, 2008 @ 8:23 a.m.

I'm nothing but a dirty skipper-around-er, it's true.

Since you're a fan of quotes here's one: "Do I contradict myself? Very well then I contradict myself, (I am large, I contain multitudes)." - Walt Whitman

0

MsGrant Aug. 21, 2008 @ 8:50 a.m.

My goodness, you Reader writers are on a slippery slope, what with Ollie moving around like a hobo, Jay fabricating up a storm, not to mention Barbarella, you contradicting little minx, you. Steve, Dean and Susan woke up on the wrong side of the bed together.

0

Barbarella Fokos Aug. 21, 2008 @ 9:33 a.m.

You are right, my friend, I love a good quote. Here's another along the same lines:

"The only man I know who behaves sensibly is my tailor; he takes my measurements anew each time he sees me. The rest go on with their old measurements and expect me to fit them."
-George Bernard Shaw

0

Jay Allen Sanford Aug. 21, 2008 @ 9:47 a.m.

I did indeed see a lot of concerts during my various homeless periods, a few of them notable enough to now be story-worthy -- check out my recent blog "How I Snuck Into Around 100 Local Concerts" for a tutorial ---

0

Ponzi Aug. 21, 2008 @ 11:12 a.m.

I saw many free concerts, comedy shows, plays and other events by working as an usher. No pay was involved, sometimes some free drinks and snacks. But I really enjoyed those times, helping people and being able to see sold out acts for free.

0

Josh Board Aug. 21, 2008 @ 11:59 a.m.

Stephen: You're an idiot. Why do you even care? I was just at a party in National City where a guy said that Off the Cuff was the only thing he reads. Off the Cuff recently had The Mole in it. It had Nikki Sixx of Motley Crue, Michelle Shocked, and other celebs. Not to mention, it was shown a few times on The Tonight Show. And so many newspapers and weeklies have this type of "man on the street" feature.

Cheech & Chong may be more known for comedy but they do songs, too. And Blurt has radio station news, celebrity news, etc.

Bill: I would've interviewed them if I saw them. I had quotes and things that were edited for space. If families felt they couldn't go to the beach because people there drank alcohol, that is about as stupid as the logic of people that felt they couldn't drive because a few bad drivers were on their cell phones instead of driving.

Barb & Ollie: Do you guys have a book of quotes by your computer or do you just pull them out of your head? If that's the case, you need to go on Jeopardy!

0

Sign in to comment