.Homicide in Hollenbeck

Homicide in Hollenbeck
CNN.com, Air date: April 10, 2005

Gang violence can be viewed as a form of domestic terrorism. It is a growing problem in both large and small cities where armed gangs traumatize entire communities. In Los Angeles, the nation’s gang capital, 34 gangs fight for turf in a single police district — Hollenbeck. CNN’s Anderson Cooper documents the corrosive effects of gang violence there in “Homicide in Hollenbeck.
Fertile gang territory

The Los Angeles Police Department’s Hollenbeck Division covers 15 square miles east of downtown. A predominantly Latino community, nearly a third of its 194,061 residents live in poverty, and unemployment is twice the national rate. In 2003, 768 violent gang-related crimes were reported in Hollenbeck. Even though that number dropped to 608 in 2004, gang-related homicides rose in that period from 18 to 21. As of March 31, 2005, there have been 14 homicides in Hollenbeck.

A mother’s grief

Soledad Brock raised two sons in Hollenbeck. She tried to keep them close to home, involved in sports, and away from gangs. Ronald joined the Marines. Angel joined a gang. Despite her efforts, she now grieves for her sons. Angel and Ronnie were shot and killed in front of their home in separate gang-related incidents.

The gangster

White Fence is one of Hollenbeck’s oldest gangs. Its name is said to come from the white fences that used to run along the main streets in Hollenbeck. The gang traces its history back to the late 1930s, when it began as a church sports team. Now one of Hollenbeck’s most notorious gangs, White Fence has 700 members and associates, according to police. Kiki, who was interviewed by CNN, has been a White Fence member since he was 14 years old.

The police

The LAPD’s Hollenbeck Division has officers specifically assigned to gathering gang intelligence. The unit monitors gang graffiti in the neighborhood and tracks which gangs are feuding over territory. Information the unit collects on the street goes into a database called Cal-Gangs, which lists 214,000 California gang members and associates. But even the most optimistic police officers say the best they can do is suppress gang activity, not eliminate it.

Homeboy Industries

Father Greg Boyle founded Homeboy Industries in response to the gang violence in his parish. The employment agency helps gang members find jobs, either in the private sector or at one of Homeboy Industries’ own small businesses. Asked why he is willing to give gang members a second chance, Boyle responds, “Who gave them their first?”

A choice

Sixteen-year old Benny grew up around gangs. Both his parents were gang members and Benny is now tempted to join a gang. His mother, Maria Nunez, fears he will end up dead or in jail. Attracted by the guns, money, clothes, and cars of the gangster lifestyle, Benny’s choice will have consequences for the rest of his life.

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