Take the tour of South Central LA, join the gang

Posted on 2 February 2010
By Pierce King
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A team of former LA gangsters have started a tourism business guiding a bus through the most notorious gang land areas of the city with regular stops for snap happy holidaymakers.

Passengers must sign indemnity forms acknowledging they are putting their lives in danger on the “Los Angeles Gang Tour” with the group of ex-gangsters who act as guides and protection.

The reformed gangbangers have negotiated a ‘ceasefire’ with active gangs in the notorious South Central district, which are still widely considered no-go areas, allowing the bus to pass in safety.

South Central is the birthplace of the infamous Crips and Bloods and the tour includes a stop off at the county jail in the impoverished Skid Row area and the place where the Black Panthers were founded.

It also takes in the scene of an infamous 1974 shoot-out between the Symbionese Liberation Army and 400 police officers, the 1965 Watts Riots in which 34 people died, and the Watts riots over the acquittal of officers in the Rodney King beating.

Tourists take snaps of the sign for Compton Avenue, scarred by a bullet hole.

The bus also passes the spot where a gang called the ‘Mass Transit Assassins’ created the longest graffiti tag in the world – the letters MTA could be seen from space and cost the city £2.2 million to remove.

The tour is the latest in a series of efforts to revitalise South Central, which was renamed South Los Angeles in 2003 in an attempt to change its deep association with urban strife.

Those behind it they are trying to build a business venture that provides a glimpse into gang life while showcasing efforts to improve conditions in gang-plagued communities.

An early idea by tour marketeers was for residents to shoot water guns at the bus and sell “I got shot in South Central” T-shirts was abandoned.

Alfred Lomas, 45, a former member of Latino gang Florencia 13, leads the tour and details how 10,000 people have been killed in gang warfare over the decades.

Mr Lomas, who left gang life about five years ago, says the tour would bring jobs to communities along the route.

He said: “We don’t glamorise violence. This is a chance to tell the stories of individuals who have made an effort to change.”

But the nature of the tour has been questioned by some local politicians, City Councilman Dennis Zine said: “It’s a terrible idea.

“Is it worth that thrill for 65 bucks? You can go to a gang movie for a lot less and not put yourself at risk.”

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