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CRENSHAW : A Once-Rowdy Boulevard 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 that 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 the 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. The area between Adams and Jefferson Boulevard will remain open until 10 p.m.

Only area residents, emergency vehicles and patrons of local businesses are allowed through. Sgt. Leslie Wilbanks of the Police Department's South Traffic Division said cruising had simply gotten out of hand.

"Residents are upset because of the noise, the music, the fact they can't get in or out of their driveways," he said.

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.

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

"Cruising has just killed our night business," said Tony Marco, manager of the Boys Market at Crenshaw and Rodeo Road. "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 will be adversely affected. "We're open 24 hours, and we do pretty good business Sunday nights," he said.

Anthony, a longtime cruiser who asked that his last name not be used, said he doubts that the barricade will stop a 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 find ways around it."

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