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Standing Up Against Crime : Los Angeles needs more people like Viviana Guerra

August 05, 1993

A violent North Hollywood street gang made 50 documented efforts to intimidate Viviana Guerra into silence, but the single mother of seven went on reporting crimes and suspicious activities to the authorities. Other apartment managers in besieged communities around the nation have sometimes knuckled under to criminals by ignoring illicit activity and by allowing the crooks to use their buildings as refuges. Guerra, whose job was to manage the London Manor Apartments, was different.

To patrolmen, detectives and prosecutors, she was the consummate ally whose testimony had put five of the gang's members behind bars. To a judge who marveled at her bravery, she was "a true hero." To the California attorney general's office, which gave her a commendation, she was a crime-fighting example for the rest of the state. Today, she must wonder whether any of it was worth it. Today, she is just another Angeleno with a pink slip.

The reasons for her firing as apartment manager bring new meaning to the term "Catch-22." Because of the street gang--which almost no other citizen was willing to fight--apartment vacancies are common in Guerra's community. Park Place Management of Northridge fired her because of what it called too many vacancies in her building: seven units out of 20.

She was fired for also "making negative comments" about the neighborhood to prospective tenants. We suppose that she might have kept her job by touting the area as a serene place, great for families with children.

We have some ideas for the next manager. Gunshots? Oh, that's just the skeet shooting range out back. No, those fellows aren't really stripping that car; they're rehearsing for a police training film.

One hopes this case will not be mistaken for an example of the futility of helping law enforcement authorities. We hope instead that Viviana Guerra will be long remembered as the woman who stood up against crime and would not be silent. Some business person would be very fortunate indeed to have her back in the job of managing a property.

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