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Compton is a city in southern Los Angeles County, Californiamarker, United Statesmarker, south-southeast of downtown Los Angelesmarker. The city was incorporated in 1889. As of the 2000 census, the city had a total population of 93,493.

An inner suburb of Los Angeles, Compton has seen an increase of middle-class residents in the last few years, due to its affordable housing and the reduction of crime. Compton is still seen as a primarily African-American city, although in the 2000s Latinos became a plural-majority as a result of immigration and shifts in ethnic populations.

Neighborhoods in Compton include: Sunny Cove, Downtown Compton, and the Richland Farms.


Compton, 1914.
In 1784, the Spanishmarker Crown deeded a tract of over 75,000 acres (304 km²) to Juan Jose Dominguez in this area. The tract was named Rancho San Pedromarker. Dominguez's name was later applied to the Dominguez Hillsmarker community south of Compton. The tree that marked the original northern boundary of the rancho still stands at the corner of Poppy and Short streets. The rancho was sub-divided and parcels were sold within the Californios of Alta Californiamarker until the lands were ceded after the Mexican-American war in 1848. Americanmarker immigrants acquired most of the rancho lands after 1848.

In 1867, Griffith D. Compton led a group of American settlers to the area in search of the mild climate. The city was incorporated on May 11, 1889 and was named for Griffith D. Compton.

Aerial view of Compton, 1920.
Compton grew quickly in the mid-1900s. While it would soon be home to a large number of African Americans, in 1930 there was only one black resident. In the late 1940s with the dismantling of segregation, middle class African-Americans began moving into the area, mostly on the west side. One reason for this was Compton's proximity to Wattsmarker, where a significant number of blacks lived at the time. However, the eastern side of the city remained predominantly white into the 1970s. Despite being located in the middle of a major metropolitan area, there remains at least one small pocket of agriculture from its early years.


Teenagers arrested for hot rod racing in South Compton, 1954
In 2008, the CQ Press using data from F.B.I. "Crime in the United States 2008" Compton was the 17th most dangerous city in America. The city used to be notorious for gang violence, primarily caused by the Bloods, the Crips, EC1marker and Mexicanmarker gangs that are allied with the powerful Mexican drug cartels.

Compton's violent reputation was popularized in the late 1980s by the rise to prominence of local gangsta rap groups Compton's Most Wanted and especially N.W.A. and Eazy-E, who released the famous albums Straight Outta Compton and Eazy-Duz-It in 1988. Although crime rates had been falling for years after the crack epidemic of the 1980s and early 1990s, Compton had witnessed spikes in the rate of violent crime. However, since 2002, crime has significantly reduced due to the enlisting of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.

Compton had 75 murders in 2005, which is a per capita rate significantly higher than the national average. Recently, in an effort to combat gun violence, the citizens of Compton were given the option to hand over their guns to the police and receive a $100 check for various goods, called the Gifts for Guns Program. During 2006, Compton deployed twice as many sheriff deputies and the murder rate decreased from 22 in four months to just 5.

Government and infrastructure

Local government

The Martin Luther King Monument in front of the Compton City Hall and the Superior Court building.
The monument is the logo for the city and is featured on signage.
During Compton's early years, the emerging black population was largely ignored by the city's elected officials. At one time, the City Council even discussed dismantling the Compton Police Department in favor of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department in an attempt to exclude black people from law enforcement jobs. This slowly began to change when in 1958, the first African-American ran for a City Council seat. However, it would be another three years before an African-American would be elected to the City Council.

Douglas Dollarhide made history in Compton in 1969 when he became Californiamarker's first African-American mayor of a metropolitan city. Four years later, Doris A. Davis defeated Dollarhide's bid for re-election to become the first African-American female mayor of a metropolitan city in the United Statesmarker. By the early 1970s, the city had one of the largest concentrations of African-Americans in the country with over ninety percent.

For many years, Compton was a much sought after neighborhood for the black middle class of Los Angeles. Now, only a few areas of Compton are still middle class communities. This past affluence is reflected in the area's appearance — Compton's streets are lined with relatively spacious and attractive single family homes. However, several factors have contributed to Compton's decline. One of the most significant factors was a steady erosion of its tax base. First by whites who fled to the newly incorporated cities of Artesiamarker, Bellflowermarker, Paramountmarker and Norwalkmarker in the late 1950s. These nearby communities remained largely white despite integration. This move was even further precipitated after the Watts Riots in 1965.

Soon, middle class blacks also found other areas more attractive to them. Some were unincorporated areas of Los Angeles County such as Ladera Heightsmarker, View Parkmarker and Windsor Hillsmarker; and others were cities such as Inglewoodmarker and, particularly, Carsonmarker. The latter was significant because it had successfully thwarted attempts at annexation by neighboring Compton. The city of Carson opted instead for incorporation in 1968, which is notable because its black population was actually more affluent than its white population. As a newer city, it also offered more favorable tax rates and lower crime.

As Compton's tax base deteriorated, it raised municipal taxes, which only worsened the problem. This resulted in creating a situation more favorable to lower income residents than higher income ones. Many of these new residents also benefited from the Section 8 rent-subsidy program. As a result, the need for public services increased dramatically, putting a further strain on the city's budget.

After Lionel Cade, an accountant, assumed the mayor's office in 1977, one of the first orders of business was to conduct an audit of the city's finances. It was discovered that the city was $2 million in debt. The administration was able to eliminate the huge deficit in one year by making cuts in every department. It also aggressively sought federal funding to help pay for essential services, which was at least partially effective. However, with the passage of the property tax cutting initiative Proposition 13 by California voters, Compton was one of the cities hardest hit, since it had already eliminated most of the fat from its budget.

Crime, though present in lesser degrees beforehand, worsened significantly with the introduction of crack cocaine in the latter part of the 20th century. The neighborhood lost richer residents with the worsening safety problems, and, after the 1992 riots in the Los Angeles metropolitan areamarker, many African Americans left the city. Meanwhile, many Latino (esp. Central Americans) and other immigrant families moved into Compton, including Samoans, Tongans, Koreans, Filipinos, Belizeans and East Africans.

County, state and federal representation

In the state legislature Compton is located in the 25th Senate District, represented by Democrat Edward Vincent, and in the 52nd Assembly District, represented by Democrat Isadore Hall, III. Federally, Compton is located in California's 37th congressional district, which has a Cook PVI of D +27 and is represented by Democrat Laura Richardson.

The United States Postal Service operates the Compton Post Office at 701 South Santa Fe Avenue the Hub City Post Office at 101 South Willowbrook Avenue, and the Fashion Square Post Office at 2100 North Long Beach Boulevard.

City government controversies

Civic corruption has also been a widespread problem in Compton. In the early 1990s the United States Attorney conducted a series of investigations, centered on a phony waste to energy scheme, that ultimately ensnared a number of prominent elected officials.

In 2000, the Compton Police Department was disbanded amidst controversy and charges of corruption. Many claim the department's closure could have been related to members of the police force itself being involved in gang activity, while the police themselves charge that this was due to friction between the department and then-mayor Omar Bradley, who has since faced serious corruption charges. Regardless of the situation, an alternative form of law enforcement was sought. Compton's policing needs are currently served by the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.

Eric J. Perrodin, the city's current mayor, was investigated in 2007 by the California State Bar for threatening to violate a local newspaper's first amendment rights after the paper printed an investigative report relative to a contract granted to one of Perrodin's associates. Following the report, Perrodin threatened to yank the city's advertising contract with the paper


Compton is located at (33.896715, -118.225078). According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 26.4 km² (10.2 mi²). 26.2 km² (10.1 mi²) of it is land and 0.2 km² (0.1 mi²) of it (0.69%) is water.

It is bordered by the unincorporated Willowbrookmarker on the north and northwest, the unincorporated West Comptonmarker on the west, the city of Carsonmarker on the southwest, the unincorporated Rancho Dominguez on the south, the city of Long Beachmarker on the southeast, the city of Paramountmarker and the unincorporated East Comptonmarker on the east, and by the city of Lynwoodmarker on the northeast.


As of the census of 2000, there were 93,493 people, 22,327 households, and 18,620 families residing in the city. The population density was 3,563.5/km² (9,225.6/mi²). There were 23,795 housing units at an average density of 906.9/km² (2,348.0/mi²). The racial makeup of the city was 66.31% Black or African American, 11.71% White, 0.70% Native American, 0.25% Asian, 1.05% Pacific Islander, 30.34% from other races and 3.62% from more than one race. 42.80% of the population are Hispanic or Latino.

There were 22,327 households out of which 50.7% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 47.3% were married couples living together, 27.7% had a female householder with no husband present, and 16.6% were non-families. 13.2% of all households were made up of individuals and 5.5% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 4.16 and the average family size was 4.45.

In the city the population was spread out with 38.5% under the age of 18, 11.5% from 18 to 24, 28.7% from 25 to 44, 14.4% from 45 to 64, and 6.9% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 25 years. For every 100 females there were 96.3 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 91.2 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $33,021, and the median income for a family was $40,021. Males had a median income of $22,698 versus $24,692 for females. The per capita income for the city was $10,389. About 21.5% of families and 23.0% of the population were below the poverty line, including 35.6% of those under age 18 and 14.7% of those age 65 or over.


Currently, Latinos are the largest ethnic group in the city, although many people still tend to think of Compton as a primarily black community. One possible reason for this is that despite the shift in population, blacks continue to dominate local politics, holding most elected positions in the city.

Compton has been referenced on numerous occasions in gangsta rap and g-funk songs, especially in the late 80's and early 1990s, and so has attained an association not only with gang violence and crime, but with rap music as well. The city is known as the home of many famous rappers.

Some episodes of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air took place in Compton because Will's friend Jazz lived there.Detroit Pistons Forward Tayshaun Prince and Charlotte forward/center Tyson Chandler are from Compton.

Compton is also known for having a large Pacific Islander community, as well as a number of Filipinos, Koreans and Vietnamese. West Compton and unincorporated Willowbrook have more middle class African-Americans, than the central city (west of Alameda St.) and unincorporated East Compton where a larger percentage of Hispanics and working-class Blacks live. Lower-income subsections on Compton Blvd. have many businesses owned by Central Americans and other Latinos.


Compton was recently designated as an “Entrepreneurial Hot Spot” by Cognetics, Inc., an independent economic research firm. Compton made the national list for best places to start and grow a business, and ranked #2 in Los Angeles County out of a field of 88 cities. The city's Planning and Economic Development department provides a business assistance program consisting of a comprehensive mix of resources to small business owners and entrepreneurs. Ralphs, a subsidiary of Kroger, is headquartered at 1100 West Artesia Boulevard in Compton.

Compton is surrounded by multiple freeways which provide access to destinations throughout the region. The Long Beach and Los Angeles Ports are less than 20 minutes from downtown Compton, providing access to international destinations for customers and suppliers. The Alameda Corridor, a passageway for 25% of all U.S. waterborne international trade, runs directly through Compton from north to south.


Four freeways are within easy reach of the city's boundaries and provide access to destinations throughout the region. These include Interstate Highways 105, 110, 710, and State Route 91.

The Metro Blue Line light rail runs north-south through the city; Compton Stationmarker is in the heart of the city, adjacent to the Renaissance Shopping Center. The Blue Line connects Compton to downtown Los Angeles and downtown Long Beach.

Compton/Woodley Airportmarker is a small general aviation airport located in the city. The airport lies within busy airspace, as it is situated within a few miles of both Los Angeles International Airportmarker and Long Beach Airportmarker.

Greyhound Lines operates the Compton Station.

Collectively, these multi–faceted transportation links lend justification to the city's familiar name of "the Hub City."


The city is served by Compton Unified School District. The district is a participant of the FOCUS program conducted by the University of California, Irvinemarker. The goals of the program is to improve mathematics and science achievement by uniting the efforts of mathematics, science, education and research library faculty and staff with educators of the school district.

There are currently three high schools that are part of CUSD, which are Centennial High Schoolmarker, Dominguez High School, and Compton High Schoolmarker.

The city is also served by El Camino College Compton Center, Reed Christian College and Yuin University.

City sites

  • The Heritage House serves as an important landmark of Compton's rich history. Located at the corner of Myrrh and Willowbrook near the Civic Center Plaza, the Heritage House is a rustic-looking home that will eventually house a museum detailing early life in Compton. For now it demarks the stark difference between the simple life of the 1800s and the fast-paced urban environment of the 21st century.

Sister cities

The following cities are sister cities of Compton, California.

See also

Further reading

  1. Adams, Emily, "Bush's Compton Roots Raise Thorny Issue", Los Angeles Times, August 3, 1992, page B-1
  2. Miller, Gary J., Cities by Contract: The Politics of Municipal Incorporation, The MIT Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts and London, England, 1981
  3. Gould, Lewis L. (editor), American First Ladies: Their Lives and Their Legacy, Garland Publishing, New York and London, 1996. See pages 612-613 regarding the Bush family's "nomadic" existence in the cities of Huntington Parkmarker, Bakersfieldmarker, Whittiermarker, Venturamarker and Compton, Californiamarker.
  4. The George Bush Presidential Library web site states that during the period from 1948 to 1951, "Bush and his family moved several times, living successively in Odessa, Texas; Ventura, Bakersfield, and Compton, California; and Midland, Texas." Zapata Oil Files, 1943–1983 The web site also includes a photograph of George W. Bush and Robin Bush in Compton, dated December 1949.


  1. Compton (city) QuickFacts from the US Census Bureau
  2. Diane Pucin, Compton is Bruin country, Los Angeles Times, March 29, 2007.
  3. City Crime 2008
  4. Garvey, Megan and Rong-Gong Lin II (May 16, 2005). "Compton Stung By Steep Rise in Killings." Los Angeles Times. A1.
  6. Scott, Allen John and Edward Soja (1996). The City: Los Angeles and Urban Theory at the End of the Twentieth Century Berkeley: University of California Press. 10.
  7. " Post Office Location - COMPTON." United States Postal Service. Retrieved on December 6, 2008.
  8. " Post Office Location - HUB CITY." United States Postal Service. Retrieved on December 6, 2008.
  9. " Post Office Location - FASHION SQUARE." United States Postal Service. Retrieved on December 6, 2008.
  10. LA Suburb sees murder rates soar. BBC News
  11. Former Compton Mayor among Five Officials Arrested after Probe. BlackPressUSA
  12. ( District Attorney’s Office Probing Prosecutor Over Alleged Threats. "Metropolitan News-Enterprise".
  14. Compton Celebrates 116th Birthday. City of Compton
  16. " Contact Us." Kroger. Retrieved on April 30, 2009.
  17. " Compton Greyhound Station," Greyhound Lines
  18. FOCUS Progam Participants. FOCUS at UCI

External links

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