Friday, March 09, 2007

Starting right now until the middle of next week, I'll be away from the computer. Therefore, I can't post or even moderate comments. But since I don't want to leave you voiceless or cause a spleen backup, I turned off the comment moderation. I know for sure this will turn the comments section into a freak show. So be prepared. Before I return next week, please put the funiture back where it belongs, throw out the beer cans, clean up the ashtrays and wipe the blood off the walls. To the readers who aren't completely insane, accept my apologies. The comments do not reflect the opinions of this blog and the opinions expressed are strictly those of the commenters. See you next week.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Since I already had something in mind about this issue, I'll start off with a comment from one of our many anon. commenters. I wish you guys would invent some interesting handles so I can keep you straight in my head, but whatever.

"To Wally,You used to tell us how the L.A. times did not cover gang news or racial motivated shootings but lately it seems they are giving a lot of coverage to all these topics. I’m not sure if it is because Mayor V., Chief Bratton, and Rocky D. are all trying to make gangs high priority and profile."

The commenter goes on to link the latest Times pieces on crime and gangs. Obviously, it's not just me that's noticing an increase in crime and gang coverage. And it's not just the Times. It's all the media in LA. I still stand by what I said back when this blog started. There was precious little coverage of the subject. There were stories (like the racial killings, the Eme's vertical integration initiatives, neighborhood expansions and various beefs) that were totally below the radar. This was one of the reasons I started blogging. It was to publicize stories that were being ignored.

When the city was looking for a new police chief, Rick Caruso said that addressing the issue of gangs and crime should be the new cheif's first priority. Dead silence. When Chief Bratton was hired, he said in one of his early public announcements that his first priority was addressing the same issue. Some of our local papers derisively started calling him Bill "War on Gangs" Bratton. As if trying to reduce the body count was something bad.

Now those same papers are writing stories about the Mexican Mafia being the 400-lb. Gorilla in the room, greenlight lists, taxation, regulation, shot-callers and, of course, ethnic cleansing. Big turnaround in attitude.

What happened?

Several things, the most prominent being the Federal hate crime indictment of Bird, Lucky, Sneaky and Dreamer from Avenues 43. Regular readers will recall that prior to that indictment, this blog was the only source of information about the Wilson, Bowser and Prudhomme murders. And it was the only source on similar events in Pomona, the SF Valley, Compton, Watts, Long Beach etc. When I approached some of the local papers about these homicides, I was given a less than enthusiastic reception. They basically showed me the door. That's a long story that will eventually be told.

It's easy to ignore one guy. It's impossible to ignore a Federal indictment. The media was frankly overwhelmed by events. When a release from the US Attorney's Press Office hits an editor's desk, you can't pretend you don't know. And you suddenly have to start caring.

Honest to God true story. I was sitting with a Northeast Homicide cop one day soon after the Avenues indictment came out. This cop knew I'd been trying to sell the thing to the media for years. It was somebody from a local free paper wanting to know about the Avenues case. He chatted with the person for a few minutes and when he hung up he looked at me and said, "Where they f*** have they been for the last three years?" Good question and rich irony. I'd been in the caller's office a month earlier in a futile and what proved to be my last ditch effort to get that paper to run my piece.

The truth is, I wasn't alone in banging on doors and rattling media cages. The families of murder victims were doing the same and getting the same "Not interested" response. Tony Prudhomme's mother got herself knocked silly having various media doors slammed in her face.

Over the next week, this cop's phone started ringing and wouldn't stop. The LA Times, Newsweek, CNN, Fox News, CBS, BBC, the local free papers (natch), and various freelancers all wanted in on the Avenues case. Then in the last week of the Federal trial, a Hispanic football player was shot and killed defending his black teammate on Avenue 40.

By then of course, after the world learned that "Avenue 43 Kills for Thrills," the media had given itself permission to go ahead and write about the thing that could not be named. In rapid sequence we had the Connie Rice report, the spike in gang crimes, four Hispanics executed Sadr City style on Harvard by black shooters with AKs, Kaytlin Avila wantonly shot in the chest by a guy who went out of his way to come back and kill her, the cop conference with LE from south, way south and way, way south of the border and then there was Cheryl Green. And after that we got Najee Ali with the phony truce, Bob Mueller, a Task Force, Feinstein asking for $1 Billion for gang suppression/intervention, Rocky sort of wanting and not wanting a gang Czar, the Drew Street dope house slamdown, Shadow Cambero from 43 making it to the Ten Most Wanted list, Garcia extradited back to the US, LA Bridges under scrutiny, Weasel getting shot, Tony V. lobbying the AG for money and bodies and now the Guv and Rudy G. meeting to get something done. That's not the exact order, but you get the picture. This confluence of events resulted in what the commenter has accurately assessed as increased coverage of the subject. "Holy cow, Batman. We got a real problem."

Is all this coverage a good thing or hysteria? I say it's about time.

Monday, March 05, 2007

I have to publicly credit Sam Quinones at the LA Times for single-handedly re-orienting my attitude about the paper. In the previous post, I expressed some concern regarding Jill Leovy's take on the significance of the racial component to the homicide rate. While I agree that the racial aspect isn't "driving" the homicides to a huge degree, her opinion leaves one wondering what's the bodycount threshold for starting to take the racial aspect seriously? Is ten percent not enough? At what point in the stats does race homicide become worthy of James Byrd or Matthew Shepard levels of public outrage?

In the Sunday edition, Quinones revisits Harbor Gateway, digs deep, and comes up with the real goods. Unlike a lot of what we see in print, it's clear Quinones didn't phone it in. Having been there and done that, I know you can spend a week working your jaw and knocking on doors to come up with one good quote. And he's got lots of them.

Clearly, the staff at the Times is not monolithic in perception and attitude and I can only assume, based on these dissimilar stories, that there's some healthy dialogue happening on Spring Street. All the for the better. Quinones, by the way, is the first reporter I can think of that makes an unequivocal connection between Eme policies and the race homicides. Read the story, download it and save it. This one is a seminal piece of reportage that, in light of the inevitable future events, will prove to be spot on the money.