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CRENSHAW : Crenshaw Blvd. Goes on Cruise Control

July 03, 1994|ERIN J. AUBRY

When Chae Gross ventured out to Crenshaw Boulevard recently to join the legions of cruisers who regularly parade up and down the thoroughfare, he was shocked by what he saw.

Gone were the traffic snarls, rowdiness and bikini-clad girls standing up in convertibles who lately have caused a ruckus on the boulevard.

Instead, there were "barricades, detours, policemen rerouting everyone," said the 22-year-old, incredulity in his voice. "I hung out for a while on the side streets, but it wasn't the same. I left after about 15 minutes."

After years of complaints from businesses, residents and police, the city is trying to drive home a point that cruising is not welcome on Crenshaw. The City Council recently passed an ordinance allowing police to block off a 3 1/2-mile stretch of Crenshaw on Sunday nights between 9 p.m. and midnight--peak cruising hours.

Police are barricading Crenshaw from Adams Boulevard south to 78th Street, the border with Inglewood.

Only area residents, emergency vehicles and patrons of local businesses are allowed through, although traffic on east-west streets intersecting Crenshaw, such as Vernon Avenue, is not affected. The area between Adams and Jefferson Boulevard will remain open until 10 p.m.

Sgt. Leslie Wilbanks of the Police Department's South Traffic Division said cruising had simply gotten out of hand and needed to be checked with drastic measures.

"It's just gotten worse every year," he said. "Residents are upset because of the noise, the music, the fact they can't get in or out of their driveways. . . . The problem is not just on Crenshaw."

Resident Charles Williams says he favors any solution that works. "It is a drastic step, but if this is what it takes, fine," said Williams, who lives near Crenshaw and 74th Street, long a favorite cruiser hangout.

"People are tired of seeing beer cans on their lawns, getting caught in that traffic."

Police representatives have met with Young and other residents and business owners since February to discuss the problem and map out a strategy. Most were in favor of the blockade.

Tony Marco, manager of The Boys Market at Crenshaw and Rodeo Road, supports the blockade. "Cruising has just killed our night business," he said. "Customers are scared by kids hanging out in the parking lot and acting wild."

But Yum-Yum Donut manager Carlos Palencia expressed concern that business at his shop at Crenshaw and Exposition boulevards will be adversely affected by the absence of cruisers, who frequently meet there. "We're open 24 hours, and we do pretty good business Sunday nights," he said. "I don't know. Maybe we'll close during those hours."

Anthony, a longtime cruiser who asked that his last name not be used, said he doubts that the barricade will stop a Crenshaw tradition that dates to the early '70s and attracts young people from as far away as Nevada.

"I don't think it'll make a difference," he said. "People will still drive on, park in different spots on different streets or in parking lots. I stayed out till 2 a.m. last week, and Crenshaw was closed. People find ways around it."

Likewise, Gross says he and other die-hard cruisers will defy the barricade by convening on side streets.

"Most people out there are just having a good time," he said. "People now got new cars for graduation and want to take them out and show them off. They'll be there."

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