Some think releasing the list could result in even more bloodshed. Jose Ramon, a barber in Gardena, worried that the list could inspire gangs to “go on a killing spree” just to get on the list. “I think the gangs that weren’t nominated might try to do something crazy so they can get nominated next year,” said Ramon, whose girlfriend lives near Jordan Downs, domain of the “nominated” Grape Street Crips.
The executive director of the California Gang Investigators Association is against publicizing the list, which he feels is flawed. “No, these are not the 11 worst gangs in the city, but they had to pick some from a variety of divisions,” because of political pressure to spread the list over a broad geography, said Wes McBride.
“If you are going to name the top 11 worst gangs, then name the 11 worst gangs. But my problem in naming the 11 worst gangs is that the 12th worst gang might get upset.”
McBride said there is no definitive list of the top 10 or 11 worst Los Angeles–area gangs. “It’s like a top-10 restaurant,” he said. “They might be one of the best restaurants in the city, but then the chef leaves and it’s not the same. Same with the gangs. They might be very active and then a couple of their shot callers [gang leaders] get busted and the gang is put in shock.”
Daude Sherrills, a former Grape Street Crip turned community activist, agreed, saying, “I seen that funny-ass list, but it didn’t amount to nothing, just some more political rhetoric.” Sherrills said his family moved into the tough Jordan Downs housing project when it was new, in 1942. Today, he said, “They spend a billion dollars to arrest a motherfucker, but they don’t spend enough to educate a motherfucker.”
Sherrills’ brother, Aqeela Sherrills, said the list is a waste of taxpayers’ money. “It’s ridiculous that they are making this top-11 list like they are taking on the Mafia,” he said. “They are making it like these gangs are centralized organizations. I wish they would just go after the most violent individuals rather than put a whole community down.”
Former Grape Street gang member Kmond Day, 32, was in a parking lot near Building 47 at Jordan Downs talking to older homies about the list, which he found bizarre.
“I can understand why Grape [Street] is on the list, but what I don’t understand is why are we the only one around here on it,” said Day, who says he volunteers his time to stop gang activity.
Bow Wow, 28, another former gang member, said putting Grape Street on the list won’t make a bit of difference in Jordan Downs: “We already got a gang injunction on us. They got helicopters flying over here all the time. They got these million-dollar security cameras all over this place. What else can they do?”
He suggested that Bratton and Villaraigosa, rather than issue a meaningless list crafted with racial politics, geographic politics and media coverage in mind, “get four, five respected individuals from each project and have them run some good training programs. They got the money to do it, but they sending it to the wrong people.”
With so many complaints about the city’s supposed worst 11, the L.A. Weekly crafted its own Dirty Dozen list of worst gangs, based on crime statistics and numerous interviews with LAPD gang experts, officers in gang details, homicide investigators, gang members and community leaders. The results, roughly in order from worst to not as bad:
Rollin’ 60s Crips
Grape Street Crips
Hoover Street Criminals
18th Street Westside
Black P. Stones Bloods
East Coast Crips
Main Street Crips
Several sources said the Bounty Hunters, a Bloods gang from Nickerson Gardens public-housing project in Watts, should be on the list. However, crime is down substantially in Nickerson Gardens, with three 2006 homicides in the general area, as well as 45 robberies and 53 assaults. It’s not a safe place. But it’s a far cry from 1989, when the area was racked by 11 homicides, 139 robberies and 162 assaults. By 2003, the violence had dropped to six homicides, 52 robberies and 153 assaults.
Behind these stats are concerned Nickerson Gardens residents and workers who volunteer their time reaching out to younger gang members and youths who haven’t yet joined gangs.
Respected community leader Donnie Joubert, 46, said he was proud of the work that “younger brothers have done to make things better in Nickerson Gardens.” Standing in front of the project’s gym one recent evening, he added, “We are not trying to say Nickerson Gardens does not have problems, but we’re trying to make it better, and we have had some success in dealing with the gang members. I thank God we were not on that list.”
In the end, the top-11 list announced with great fanfare by Villaraigosa and Bratton, and accepted largely without question by Los Angeles media, has resulted in a curious outcome: gangs, antigang activists and police say it’s packed with politics. In a matter of days, the Weekly crafted a more realistic list, sans politics, according to the rank and file — not the brass, but the officers and detectives who know the gangs and deal with them on the streets every day and night.