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Crime in Los Angeles has been a major problem in Southern California and a concern for Angelenosmarker since the early 20th century. Crime is down 8% since 2006. Los Angeles is informally known as the "Gang Capital of the Nation".

In the city of Los Angeles, crime rates are currently decreasing. However while most cities in the L.A.-area have shown a constant decrease of criminal activities over the recent years, some, such as Lancastermarker, Palmdalemarker and Long Beachmarker Crime Statistics of Long Beach, CA have shown some increase in crime in 2008.

In the first half of 2008, Los Angelesmarker reports 198 homicides - which corresponds to a rate of 9.6 (per 100,000 population) - a major decrease from 1993, when the all time homicide rate of over 21.1 (per 100,000 population) was reported for the year. This included 15 officer-involved shootings. One shooting led to a SWAT member's death, Randal Simmons, the first in LAPD's history.

Watts Riots

The riot began on August 11, 1965, in Wattsmarker, when Lee Minikus, a California Highway Patrol motorcycle officer, pulled Marquette Frye over. Minikus believed Frye was intoxicated because of observing his driving which Minikus believed to be erratic. While police questioned Marquette Frye and his brother Ronald Frye, a group of people began to gather. The mob began to throw rocks and other objects and shout at the police officers. A struggle ensued shortly after Frye's mother, Rena, arrived on the scene, resulting in the arrest of all three family members.

As a result of the riots, 34 people were officially reported killed (28 of those were African American), 1,032 people were injured, and 4,000 people were arrested. Among the dead were a fireman, an L.A. County deputy sheriff and a Long Beach police officer. The injured included 773 civilians, 90 Los Angeles police officers, 136 firefighters, 10 national guardsmen, and 23 persons from other governmental agencies. 118 of those injured were injured by firearms.

Six-hundred buildings were damaged or destroyed, and an estimated $35 million in damage was caused. Most of the physical damage was confined to businesses that were said to have caused resentment in the neighborhood due to perceived unfairness. Homes were not attacked, although some caught fire due to proximity to other fires.

Hippie Riots

The crack epidemic (1984-1990)

Crack cocaine first began to be used on a massive scale in Los Angelesmarker in 1984. Between February and July 1984 cocaine abuse and related violence had exploded to unprecedented levels in the city, and by 1985, crack was available in most of the major American cities. South Centralmarker, where the crack cocaine problem was the worst in the country, became the site of many police raids. Previously unknown gangs were growing and new were emerging. The rap music genre, TV shows and movies portrayed that part of Los Angeles as a no-go zone and a highly violent area.

1992 Riots

The 1992 Los Angeles riots, also known as the Rodney King uprising or the Rodney King riots, were sparked on April 29, 1992 when a predominately white jury acquitted four police officers accused in the videotaped violent and brutal beating of black motorist Rodney King when he resisted arrest following a high-speed car chase. King had a past and violent history of criminal convictions and drug use, which did not justify the police officer's beating, and thousands of blacks in the Los Angeles area joined in a race riot involving acts of law-breaking, including looting, assault, arson and murder, seeing in King an example of injustice against Blacks in the United States. The situation looked so grim that the California National Guard and the U.S. Marine Corps were called in. About 5 National Guardsmen were injured during the riots. Overall, 53 people died during the riots.

North Hollywood shootout

The North Hollywood shootout was an armed confrontation between two heavily-armed and armored bank robbers, Larry Eugene Phillips, Jr.marker and Emil Matasareanumarker, and patrol and SWAT officers of the Los Angeles Police Department in North Hollywoodmarker, California on February 28, 1997. It happened when responding patrol officers engaged Phillips and Matasareanu leaving the robbed bank. Seventeen officers and civilians were wounded before both robbers were killed. Phillips and Matasareanu had previously robbed several banks prior to their attempt in North Hollywood and were notorious for their heavy armament, which included automatic assault rifles.


Community Resources Against Street Hoodlums, usually known as C.R.A.S.H., was a special unit of the Los Angeles Police Department established in the early 1970s to combat the rising problem of gangs in Los Angeles, California. Each of the 18 divisions had a C.R.A.S.H. unit whose primary goal was to suppress the influx of gang-related crimes in Los Angeles that came about primarily due to the increase in narcotics trade. C.R.A.S.H was also used in the popular game Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas as an antagonist organization.

Rampart Scandal

The Rampart Scandal refers to widespread corruption in the Community Resources Against Street Hoodlums (C.R.A.S.H.) anti-gang unit of the LAPD Rampart Division in the late 1990s. More than 70 police officers in the CRASH unit were implicated in misconduct, making it one of the most widespread cases of documented police misconduct in United States history. The convicted offenses include unprovoked shootings, unprovoked beatings, planting of evidence, framing of suspects, stealing and dealing narcotics, bank robbery, perjury, and covering up evidence of these activities.

The Los Angeles May Day mêlée

South Central L.A.

South Los Angeles, more widely known as South Central Los Angeles is a notoriously dangerous region of the City of Los Angeles which has an extensive history of gang violence, as it gave birth to the Bloods, Crips, 38th Street gang, 18th Street gang, and other dangerous gangs. Also, a majority of gang wars in Los Angeles take place there, as well as racial violence between African-Americans and Latinos. South Los Angeles has steadily declined in crime as crime has spread more throughout the Los Angeles County in the early 1990s.

South Central had become a byword for urban decay, its bad reputation spread by movies such as Colors, South Central, Menace II Society, Friday, and in particular, South Central native John Singleton's Boyz N the Hood. The rap group N.W.A.'s album Straight Outta Compton and the video game Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas also popularized South Central's bad image.

Crips and Bloods Feud

After the FBI crack down on black political organizations in the late 1960's, a social vacuum formed among black adolescents living in South Central Los Angeles. Into this vacuum, came two new gangs: the Crips and the Bloods. Conflict between the two rival gangs arose immediately. In the next 40 years, fighting between the two took 5 times as many lives as the long running sectarian conflict in Northern Ireland. The continuing cause of the feud is best expressed as a "kill or be killed" culture described by T. Rodgers, co-founder of the Bloods, as "You better respect me. You better fear me." Speaking in a 2007 film documentary, a former Crip, named Pete, who survived to his middle years, said,

These wars go farther back than most of these kids been around. A lot of 'em [are] not sure about why the war was goin' on. They [simply] STARTED DOIN' WHAT WAS BEIN' DONE.

The problem began with poverty and segregation, but has worsened with drugs, family separation and parental incarceration. The key to improving things, according to mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, is education.


In 2006, the Morgan Quitno Corporation rated Compton as the most dangerous city in the United States with a population of 75,000 to 99,999, and fourth most dangerous overall. The city is notorious for gang violence, primarily caused by the Bloods, the Crips, and Hispanic gangs. 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 N.W.A., who released the famous album Straight Outta Compton in 1988. Since then, "Compton" has become a synonym for anything ghetto-related or gang-related. A recent rapper from Compton to popularize the city's gang culture is The Game.

Compton has a homicide rate about eight times higher than the national average, most of which are gang killings. Economic conditions and Compton's location as the center of the South Los Angeles "ghettos" make crime prevention more difficult. Although crime rates had been falling for years after the crack epidemic of the 1980s and early 1990s, Compton has in recent years witnessed spikes in the rate of violent crime.

Compton had 72 murders in 2005, which is a per capita rate significantly higher than the national average for small cities. Recently in an effort to combat this gun violence the Compton citizens were given the option to hand over their guns to the police, and receive a $100 voucher for various goods.

Social impact

A 2003 comparison of twin psychological studies by the Lancet and Rand corporations indicates that children in South Los Angelesmarker are exhibiting greater levels of post-traumatic stress disorder than children of a similar age in Baghdadmarker, the war-torn capital of Iraqmarker."


  2. Crime Rates
  3. "DEA History Book, 1876 - 1990 (drug usage & enforcement), US Department of Justice, 1991, webpage: DoJ-DEA-History-1985-1990.
  4. The CIA, Contras, Gangs, and Crack
  5. PBS Independent Lens Documentary "Crips and Bloods" Made in America, Produced by Baron Davis, Directed by Stacy Peralta and Written by Stacy Peralta and Sam George
  6. Interview with Tavis Smiley, aired on PBS on May 18, 2009
  7. Marlene Wong, PhD, Sheryl Kataoka, MSHS, Lisa Jaycox, PhD, University of California Los Angeles Center for Research in Managed Care, Cognitive Behavior Intervention for Trauma in Schools, (CBITS) [1]
  8. Stein, B., Jaycox, L., Kataoka, S., Wong, M., Tu, W., Elliot, M., & Fink, A. (2003). A mental health intervention for schoolchildren exposed to violence: A randomized control trial. The Journal of American Medical Association, 290, 603-611.[2]

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