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Hope Takes Hold as Bloods, Crips Say Truce Is for Real

May 21, 1992|ANDREA FORD and CARLA RIVERA | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

He had been shot one other time in his life, he said, by a Crip who was also at the Nickerson Gardens celebration.

"I saw the brother just a little while ago," Jerry said. "He was kind of leery of me, but I told him he didn't have to be leery."

Gang members also contend that gang crime has been vastly overstated by police. They say people who are not gang members are labeled so by officers and that gang members are accused of crimes they did not commit.

Most of those who do break the law, according to the gang members, realize they are in a losing battle.

"You've got the RICO Act they throw at you now," said Box, referring to the federal statute originally designed to combat organized crime.

"If I'm out with five buddies and I want to get into something and my buddies are thinking like me, then they say we're a conspiracy. There's a lot more at stake now. If the feds get you, you're gonna be gone for a long time."

Worse, some gang members alleged, some police officers appear to be trying to sabotage the truce by harassing gang members, hoping to provoke a violent reaction.

Terry Jones said that shortly before he joined the truce effort, a friend was picked up by police from a corner near Western and Slauson avenues and deposited in territory claimed by Bloods.

"They took him there and expected him to be killed," said Jones.

The episode, he said, led to a reconciliation between rivals. "We're all tired of running people away from our neighborhoods," he added. "We want to bring people in."

Lt. Don Shirey, who is in charge of the LAPD's anti-gang unit for the department's South Bureau, denied that officers are fomenting conflict among gangs.

But he acknowledged that since the riots, officers have been out in force and are more likely to stop almost anyone.

"We are very sensitive to the fact that it could be people out there trying to spark another riot," Shirey said.

Despite the reconciliations, many residents in areas that have been terrorized by drive-by shootings are buoyed by the possibility of an end to the bloodshed.

Frances Reed is one of them. A 31-year-old mother of two young children, she lives near the intersection of Normandie and Gage in a gang-claimed neighborhood, and said she relishes the "new feeling of safety" near her home.

"I don't hear as many gunshots around here," she said, cradling her 7-month-old niece. "You don't worry as much about whether your child will be coming home from school."

William Scott, 49, who grew up in Watts in a house half a block from Imperial Courts and still lives there, said of the huge parties at the housing project:

"I'm glad they were over there enjoying themselves. It's better than them shooting all night. In the past when the war was going on it was every night. It was a combat zone over here."

Staff writers Louis Sahagun and Amy Wallace contributed to this story.

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