Monday, 11 January 2010

feud between two factions of the same street gang

Crime seems to have become a sporting event of its own.

The crime wave is the presumed result of a feud between two factions of the same street gang. The neighborhood -- Nickerson Gardens -- is Los Angeles' version of no man's land; one of the city's most dangerous and volatile housing projects. And five dead gang-bangers in Watts don't count for much in a city celebrating a drop in crime that has made Los Angeles its safest in two decades.Enter the Wrecking Crew for Christ Holiness Church Trauma Center. I'm not making that up. That's the name of a South Los Angeles congregation heavy on reformed ex-cons. About 50 members staged a march through Watts' housing projects on Saturday, on a mission to stop the carnage.There was Pastor Michael L. Rowles with a megaphone, hawking his redemption mantra. Middle-aged women in sweat pants, waving and shouting Hallelujah. Young men with tattoos on their necks, their baggy white T-shirts scrawled with "Jesus is Real."When all else fails, we pray, I thought. I grabbed a notebook and fell in line.
Too many have died. We've come to let you know that somebody cares. . . . We must not be afraid.Cops on bicycles cleared traffic. An LAPD car led the march into Nickerson Gardens, a marcher waving a giant cross from the front window.
Cooperation between residents and police is being credited for part of the city's crime drop. But gang crimes are tough to crack; the LAPD has not made arrests in the Nickerson Gardens killings.Fear is the culprit, the marchers told me. "If you go into Nickerson Gardens after 6 o'clock, you wouldn't think anybody lives there," said Carl Lee, a former drug dealer, now a minister and fitness trainer. "People are too scared to go outside."
Scared to be shot by gang-bangers; scared to be questioned by the cops.The police "are doing the best they can," Lee said. "But you have five killings and people are afraid to talk. You'll be known as a snitch; you'll wind up dead; you'll have to find another place to live."That's why we as a church have to go over there and begin to pray."As we walked, residents trickled out of their apartments. Some waved and shouted their thanks. Others looked on blankly, unsure what to make of the raucous display."One thing's for sure," one marcher told me. "With all these police officers around, there ain't gone be no shooting for at least this hour."
The devil is alive!The killing must stop. The things going down in our community are wrong. . . . Oh God, turn our sons around.John King knows prayer isn't enough. He grew up in the neighborhood and works now as a project director for the city's Housing Authority. He told me he felt inspired marching. The demonstration of faith "helps people internally," he said. "They can look in the mirror and say, 'I can make better decisions.' That's the first step toward change."But the second step relies on resources to restore programs like King's Vocabulary League (every basketball player had to bring a vocabulary word to games and practice) lost during a decade of shrinking funding.


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