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Drug Profits and Gang Wars

Drug Profits and Gang Wars I read with sadness your articles “War and Peace in Watts” and “Avenues of Death” [July 15–21] and was moved by their clarity and honesty. At the risk of overgeneralizing, many of the killings attributed to the Crips, Bloods and Avenues gangs may not be out of hate, but perhaps are offshoots of drug trafficking. It may very well be that the so-called “victimless crime” of recreational drug use is bankrolling the black-on-black violence in Watts as well as the brown-on-black atrocities in Highland Park. I don’t know if gangbangers read the L.A. Weekly, but I’d be willing to assume that a significant portion of casual drug users do. Gang violence touches us all, and I’m asking that we all consider the effects of our self-medication choices as we read with revulsion about the bloodbaths in our ghettos and barrios. It’s the least we could do.

—Rafael Nieto Montebello

Policing Policies It amazes me that Michael Krikorian’s story [“War and Peace in Watts,” July 15–21] never drew any connection between the demise of the L.A. Housing Authority Police Department (or HAPD, which provided police services to L.A.’s low-income housing projects and was disbanded for “budgetary” reasons in December 2003) and the rise in violent crime in Watts. As a former sergeant with the HAPD, I can tell you that we were a very effective deterrent. We had several officers who actually grew up in the projects. Once an officer joined the HAPD, he was assigned to work the projects. Period. None of this transferring from Venice Beach to Brentwood and then to Watts for a year or two. We worked the projects and developed relationships with our residents that can only be forged after many years of mutual trust and respect. Unfortunately, the Housing Authority (against the advice of everyone from the City Council to the LAPD) decided to shut its police department down in favor of funding other, somehow more important sections of the organization. The most tangible result of that decision is the predicted rise in crime. Not that the HAPD could have mitigated the issues that led to the breakdown of the truce, but we could have saved several lives just by our mere existence/presence. Everyone at HAPD told the Housing Authority repeatedly that the residents would be the ones who paid for the shortsightedness of then–Executive Director Don Smith, but they refused to believe it. It gives none of us any pleasure to have been dead right about that. I wonder if Mr. Smith ever goes to any of those young people’s funerals? Or if Mrs. Ozie Gonzaque (the former chairperson of the Housing Authority Board of Commissioners and longtime resident of Watts for whom the Gonzaque Village projects were renamed) ever bothers to at least send flowers? Talk about irresponsible leadership of a large organization. At least the CEOs of Enron and WorldCom never got anybody killed with their recklessness.

—George Holt Los Angeles

Where’s the Outrage? I’m surprised the L.A. Weekly did not raise howls of “violation of church and state” and “theocracy” when reporting that Councilman Bill Rosendahl brought his 35-year-old Bible into the City Council and then began speaking about his religious experience [“Council Bliss: L.A. Unites on Gay Marriage,” July 15–21]. “In my struggling to come to my understanding of my relationship with God,” Rosendahl said, “I finally realized that God created nature, and God makes no mistakes. So we’re not a mistake, we’re not an accident, we’re just another expression of God’s will.” Clearly, Rosendahl is violating the separation of church and state by injecting his religious views into government policy. And who is he to speak for God? Was he elected to speak for God? Funny, I didn’t recall getting to vote on that. Why is the L.A. Weekly sitting quietly in the proverbial pew while an L.A. city councilmember enforces his religious views on the rest of us? Where is your progressive left-wing outrage? If Rosendahl were of the religious right, I imagine the Weekly would be writing no less than a 3,000-word alarmist feature accusing him of trying to establish a “Bible-thumping theocracy” in Los Angeles city government, but since he apparently speaks from the religious left, there is not even a whimper. Clearly the L.A. Weekly doesn’t oppose the mixing of religion and politics when the religion/politics matches its own views. Thank you for all the years of your “sincere” fight to keep the two separate (wink, wink).

—Michael Allen Los Angeles

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