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

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

LA Weekly