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South-Central Murders: Change Laws, Ourselves

January 29, 2003

Re "The Untold Agony of Black-on-Black Murder," Jan. 26: Whose city is this anyway? As I sit here and try to absorb Jill Leovy's sad-but-true article on the black-on-black homicides of young black men, the thing that tears at me is that this has been going on in South-Central Los Angeles for years and no one really seems to care.

As long as the term "South-Central" is attached to this carnage, those deaths will be a footnote to day-to-day living in L.A. Why hasn't there been a mandatory jail sentence for possession of an illegal or unregistered firearm instituted here in L.A.? Los Angeles Police Chief William Bratton should be familiar with that law since he hails from a state, Massachusetts, that was the first in the country to make it law. We can all sit here and point fingers, hold town meetings and give the appearance to those who have lost a child that we are addressing the problem, but in reality -- let's face it -- the city politicians have no plan.

There is going to come a time when they run out of bodies to count in South-Central and those who are the cause start extending their drive-bys to Beverly Hills, Los Feliz, Brentwood, Woodland Hills.

I guess when that starts happening we will be inundated with plans, policies or whatever our city politicians can put into effect to bring law and order to their streets.

Jeffrey L. Walker

Los Angeles

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As a black American and former law enforcement executive, it is my sincere wish that your article on murders in the black community will serve as another wake-up call to black Americans: When it comes to crime in our community, the enemy is "us."

Donn Burwell

La Verne

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Anyone with a pulse should be deeply troubled by the pain and agony of the South Los Angeles residents who suffer regularly from a seemingly endless cycle of violence. Unfortunately, the blood will continue to flow until a strong majority of residents is willing to support something akin to a social and spiritual revival of the area.

While deeply necessary, something much more than an acceptance of iron-fisted law enforcement is needed. Teen pregnancies, broken families, contempt for education and a popular culture that seduces young minds with the inane beat of self-destructive music are a breeding ground for the next generation of killers.

Bill Haney

Thousand Oaks

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"Where Was Child Services?" (editorial, Jan. 24) asks an appropriate question when examining the circumstances surrounding the sad death in Compton of 7-year-old Horace Ray Ferguson Jr. He died in a home that was the subject of frequent police calls and was a known gang battleground.

Yet blaming our L.A. County social service workers was the wrong call. They handle caseloads that allow them to look at the life circumstances of one child perhaps one time every three months or so, and it's a cursory glance at that. Even when a problem exists, what are their options? The editorial pointed out the lack of viable choices.

The sad fact of the matter is that we live in a state that pays little attention to the plight of our children. Many of them live on the streets, in circumstances far worse than those of Horace Ray. Those children often end up in the county morgue as well. What can we expect when we live in a state paying only lip service to the social service programs needed to rescue children like Horace Ray? It's obvious that none of us care very much about our children, otherwise we'd be doing something about this.

Perhaps it's time to stop saying "they" should do something about this. Perhaps "we" should do something about this.

Stan Conger

Bishop, Calif.

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