Fighting Crime Together

A series of articles exploring how communities adapt to and recover from urban trauma.  Originally published as a series in the Long Beach Press-Telegram from August to November, 1993.

Lorna Hawkins has lost two sons to street violence; she's not taking the senseless slaughter passively.

There's fire in the eyes, a look of fierce determination on the face.

But the words are delivered without bitterness or anger: "I'm trying to get rid of evil - and evil is all around."

The speaker is Lorna Hawkins. On Thanksgiving eve, 1988, her oldest son Joseph Nathan Hawkins was gunned down by a stranger.

I got home from work and started cooking. It was dark and raining. At about 8 o'clock, I lay down. Then I heard it. POW! POW! POW! POW! I heard screaming. I ran outside. Joe was across the street lying down. We picked him up and drove him to St. Francis in the truck.

I held him in the back of the truck. I prayed. I couldn't tell where the blood was coming from. It came out of everywhere...A week later, I pulled him off the respirator...

It broke us all.

There is a sign in the front window of the Hawkins' small peach stucco home in Lynwood that reads: STOP THE VIOLENCE. It is a message that has propelled the 41-year-old grandmother of six to the forefront of a grass-roots peace and support net work predominantly made up of moms whose sons have been slaughtered on the streets.

On Friday, Hawkins received the Black Family Award from the Southern Christian Leadership Conference women's convention in Washington, D.C. She was honored for her lonely battle against gang violence, for helping victims of murder and for starting a cable TV show called ``Drive-by Agony,'' (The program airs Mondays at 8:30 p.m. and Fridays at 7 p.m. on Continental Cablevision Channel 28, and on Thursdays at 7:30 p.m. on Continental Channel 51.)

Today she will walk beside SCLC delegates and new friends at a civil rights march in the nation's capitol in honor of Martin Luther King Jr., who delivered his "I Have a Dream" speech 30 years ago.

"King is my hero," she says. "He stood for nonviolence."

When Hawkins was introduced at the conference, participants got a chance to hear a little about the fiesty woman who jokingly refers to herself as Oprah Without the Money.

A couple of months after Joe's murder, she says she got angry. Real angry.

"I was mad. I was scared. I was lonely," Hawkins declares. "Nobody was paying any attention. I thought, 'I'll be damned if my son's going to be just another body.'

"I thought, 'There has got to be someone out there who can help families whose got some GUTS.'"

She looked around. She didn't see anybody. Then she looked in the mirror. What she saw was a crusader ready to go out into the community and talk about violence, and do everything in her power to stop it.

Three years after Joe's death and the first televised interviews with grieving parents were aired, fate dealt Hawkins, her husband, Frank, and their two daughters, another unfathomable blow.

I was selling computers at the time. On the way home from work, we stopped to get some chicken. We were just getting ready to eat. The phone rang. They said Gerald (her second son) was shot.

Then the phone rang again. They said Gerald was shot. They said he was about five minutes from here off Alameda ...

When we got there, he was still conscious. The paramedics said he's going to be OK. They had just put him on the gurney. He half sat up. His eyes were open. I thought he'd be OK ...

I was holding the baby (one of her grandchildren). I took him home to change his diaper. He was screaming uncontrollably. We drove to the hospital.

When we got there, everyone was crying. I knew Gerald was dead.

They said he was going to be OK. They always say that. It isn't right. You aren't there. You miss that moment ...

I remember my daughter said, "We made it before. We'll make it this time."

Four years before, Joe had been shot with a .45-caliber pistol fired from a car full of kids. Joe was 21. The murderers were never found. On March 30, 1992, Gerald was shot by a kid in his early 20s who gunned him down for an '83 Chevy Regal. Gerald was 22. His killer was convicted of murder and received a sentence of 18 years to life.

Since Joe's murder in 1988, the Los Angeles County District Attorney's office reports there have been 3,270 murders in the county.

"The kid who killed him was a bad ass," Hawkins says. "He was into drugs, stealing. He'd only been out of jail five days.

"If it wasn't for religion and my work, I'd be flipped," she adds. "I would not be normal.

"Every day I get up and pray. I'm not very religious. It's the faith that keeps me going. After a while, you stop crying as much. The pain in your chest doesn't feel like you're going to have a heart attack all the time.

"But I still wake up at 4:30 a.m. with my eyes wide open. I think of Joe dancing. I think of Gerald coming through the gate. And I cry uncontrollably.

"Tragedy either makes you stronger or weaker."

An airing of feelings. It is lunch time at a suburban park in Downey, and Hawkins has just arrived with a camera crew from Continental Cablevision where she volunteers her time to tape "Drive-by Agony" and to make educational videos for use in public schools.

The crew had thought it would be a good change of pace to film a show in the park on a warm summer day. Trouble is, the scheduled guests haven't shown up.

Hawkins, a pretty woman who's wearing a cotton shirt and shorts, isn't the least bit impatient. When it becomes apparent that the crew can't stay much longer, she calmly regroups.

She asks a couple of people in the park if they'd like to share their thoughts on violence and crime among young people - and what can be done about it. Within minutes, she is on camera, spontaneously conducting interviews the station can use at a later date.

She is thoroughly poised in her new role as talk show host, putting her guests at ease with a warm smile, an empathetic ear and an outspoken voice.

"Black America, wake up," she admonishes. "Do something. Find out what's going on with your kids.

"All of the kids know what's going on in the streets. Listen to them! Find out what the hell is going on.

"Kids today are lazy, and I mean LAZY. They are overweight. They have no place to put their energy. Parents are confused. They don't discipline, and their kids tear the place up."

Hawkins, the fifth of seven children, grew up in a series of homes in poor neighborhoods in Long Beach. She got pregnant with Joe when she was 15, which upset her dad so much she says she thought he'd have a heart attack. He was very, very strict, and in those days having a child out of wedlock was taboo.

She and Frank, a construction foreman who currently is unemployed, were married in 1968. Their daughters, Francie and Carlotta, are now 21 and 25.

Hawkins says it was always terribly important to her that she provide a stable environment for her kids. She and Frank bought their house 16 years ago and have lived there ever since.

As a child, she recalls feeling overwhelmed with embarrassment when her parents announced it was time to go clothes shopping. That meant one thing: the Salvation Army and public humiliation. She and her siblings would do all in their power to slink into the store unnoticed. To have been spotted by a peer buying second-hand clothes would have be mortifying.

"We were poor," Hawkins says. "I believe our generation did something to our kids to make them act the way they act. Now kids expect so much, and we want to give them too much. They don't know what it's like to work or struggle. Now they got all this stuff and they want more. They got to have a car, Nikes, gold, earrings, haircuts, concert tickets and they want to eat out all the time.

"They want more and more. It turns to hatred. They join groups. They become cowards. They don't have what the other kids have and they think, `I'll just go shoot him. I'll jack him.'"

After Joe was killed, Gerald had a very difficult time. He was in a rage. He wanted to lash out. He started hanging around with the wrong kids. He became obsessed with memories of Joe and began writing his big brother's name on all his papers. He wore a shirt that said Joe. He bought a belt with JOE inscribed on the buckle.

He was just beginning to straighten out and feel better when he was murdered, Hawkins says.

Reflecting on the violent crime on the streets of the Southland, Hawkins admits she too could be a violent person. "I handle my anger by working. I work hard, and that tires me out. Then I'm too tired to get mad."

Los Angeles District Attorney Gil Garcetti calls Hawkins' work with mothers who have lost children to gang violence courageous. "We can learn from her ability to rise above tragedy and try to help stop the violence that plagues us all," he says.

On the eve of her departure to Washington, Hawkins talked happily about her upcoming trip. But the reality of the double tragedy of losing two sons is never far from mind.

"You expect to outlive your children," she says softly. "Having them killed is the ultimate."

On second thought, she says maybe that's not quite true.

"Jesus went through a lot worse death than my sons had,'' she offers. "People spit on him. They didn't believe in him. He was nailed to the cross and the whole nine yards.

"You've got to remember that. Somehow you've got to wash your face and hold your head high and know that everything will be all right.

"You've got to get out there and DO something for somebody."

The Fight That Can be Won

For eight days, the Press-Telegram will explore the problem of crime.

Our reporters will look at how it happens, to whom it happens, where and when it happens, why it is happening more than ever (or seems to be), and what we can do about it. Also, we will share views of crime as expressed by our readers. The views are excerpted from about 1,000 responses we received to a questionnaire we published weeks ago.

Some reading will be tough, especially the letters, the first of which appear today on pages A12 and A13. You will read of innocent citizens who have lost their lives. And of an elderly Cerritos woman who, after a year of terrible pain from injuries suffered in a mugging, received a victim's compensation award of only $50.

But this week you will find bright rays of hope as well. You will read of government and neighborhood programs that are making a difference. You will see the thought expressed, repeatedly, that we can reduce crime if we all get involved.

Frightful as the crime problem can seem, none of it is new. We have been there before.

A journalist named John Holt wrote of "such various attempts to rob, and so many robberies actually committed ... both day and night, it has become hazardous for any person to walk in the latter."

Holt was writing about New York City. In the year 1762.

Not even gangs are unique to modern times (although the firepower to which they have access is unprecedented). For 90 years, 1825 to 1915, gangs virtually ruled some of our major cities.

The gang rein of terror ended with a wave of social reform and - civil libertarians will not like this - a heavy use of police batons.

(One significant difference in how we deal with crime today: We incarcerate more offenders than ever. About 1 million are currently in prisons, jails or other punitive facilities. That is, roughly, 1 in every 250 Americans. In 1850, the rate was about 1 in 3,000. We are one of the world's most punitive societies. Yet, crime marches on.)

This week, you will read figures purporting to show that crime has actually decreased slightly in recent months. You may question the figures, as I did. But the truth may be that our perception of the problem is worse than the problem itself.

This is understandable. Night after night, TV brings violence into our living rooms with shocking graphic redundancy, as it did during the Vietnam War. On most local newscasts, the top stories are about crime.

Newspapers, too, have become daily purveyors of horror - carjackings, drive-by shootings, multiple murders, and such.

Thus, in reporting the news, the media, unwittingly, may feed fear along with fact. How this affects viewers and readers is an iffy question, and one which, it appears, is only beginning to be studied by the media.

In that regard, readers appear to be ahead of the news industry. They have given much thought to media coverage of crime, as evidenced in the letters to us.

Some want us to increase crime news. Others want us to reduce or even eliminate it. Still others, who feel we glamorize crime and criminals, suggest that crime news be reported on an inside page, in a sort of Joe Friday, "just the facts" treatment.

Studying the crime problem - or any problem - realistically means rethinking all its aspects virtually from scratch. And rethinking anything is not easy to do. It means discarding (even temporarily) old and often cherished ideas. It means entertaining new concepts which, at first, may seem absurd.

Legalization of drugs is an example of the latter. It may not be a good idea. (At present, I happen to think it is a bad idea.) But if we are unwilling to explore it, and other seemingly radical ideas, we are deceiving ourselves.

That brings us to the purpose of the series we hope you are about to read (and of the additional attention we will give to the crime problem in the weeks and months ahead). Whatever you think of the stories and however much you may disagree with some findings, we at the Press-Telegram hope you will be stimulated enough to join the growing number of your neighbors who already are - to use our own slogan - fighting crime together.

As time goes on, we will look for more and more ways in which you can do this.

Stay with us. We'll beat this thing yet.

Opinions and Testimony

The Press-Telegram should use its forum to make people more aware of how they can get involved, how they can make a difference. Printing the story of the Shaddens' plan was a great start. Make a point of printing stories of people helping people. I think those kinds of stories help motivate people to get involved.
Joy DeVoe
Long Beach

A year ago, my 4-year-old son, Germaine Johnson, was shot and killed while sleeping in his bed. Yet he never made it through that night because someone took it upon himself to shoot (at) the apartment building that for three weeks we called home. An innocent family, we were found guilty by someone who never knew us. Too many nights, I lie awake thinking that if I had not moved into that neighborhood, my Germaine would still be answering when I call his name. The criminal who shot my baby boy is still walking around free; free to laugh, free to go anywhere he wishes, free to continually commit crime.
Maxine Johnson Shaw
Long Beach

Since I grew up in the central part of Long Beach and graduated from Poly High in 1972, there have been cultural, economic and political changes. I can remember the high aspirations of my classmates. Now, when I visit my old neighborhood and inquire about old friends, they are either dead, in prison, or are derelicts. In the 21 years since my graduation, the cycle of poverty and ignorance has become more vicious. If necessary, we need to enforce martial law by putting the military in high-crime areas. Some critics will say it is violence controlling violence, but one must look at the lesser of the two evils. It is also a matter of saving ourselves from ourselves.
Roscoe Harvey
Long Beach

Recently, I was stopped on Third Street at Long Beach Boulevard for a traffic light. Two `low-lifes' were crossing Third in front of me. They slowed down to give me the once over. Being alone and a woman, it seemed I appeared to be an easy victim. I immediately put my hand on my semiauto pistol and, without saying a word nor drawing my weapon, let them know it would be a fatal mistake to attempt any sort of criminal act against me. They kept walking. I know this is illegal, but I would rather be judged by 12 than carried by six.
Kelly Holley
Long Beach

I have written everyone from the president of the United States to the members of the City Council to try and do something about this crime plague, and I see no change. It has, in fact, gotten worse with no end in sight. As I write this letter, I count eight criminal acts that have happened to my home and the area across the street and to my neighbors' property since Aug. 1. I have just today filled out the ninth police report on my property for this year.
George E. Russell
Long Beach

I have a small business in Bixby Knolls and have been robbed several times. People come in and help themselves to my petty cash by distracting my employees. I was robbed again Aug. 20. When the police arrived, (they) said, "Oh, yeah, they've been hitting all over Bixby Knolls." They had descriptions and all. I wish I had known that so I could have alerted my employees (in advance).
Kathy Simpson
Long Beach

I'm ashamed of an uncaring society and unconcerned parents who have lost love, participation and discipline with their children.
Alice F. Keller
Garden Grove

I took out my pistol that I've never used and have been to the shooting range.
Patrick N. Moorehead
Long Beach

If you commit a crime as a juvenile, your driving privileges should be revoked until you are 21.
Arnold Chavez
Long Beach

We all need to keep trying as individuals, groups, neighborhoods. I know there are more good people than bad.
Mary Rowan
Long Beach

Why don't you put crime news together and on other than the front page. I canceled the paper a while back because I didn't want to ruin my day by being faced with the worst crime on the front page day after day.
Louise Winberg
Long Beach

Create a "What's Happened To?" boxed column that reports what sentences were meted out to offenders. Too often, a Page 1 story that details a sensational crime turns into a Page 23 story when it finally gets to court and a sentence is given.

Do a continuing series on how individuals, neighborhoods or community groups are dealing with crime problems in a constructive manner. We all need to know what works.

Make sure your stories contain remarks and attitudes of parents who refuse to believe their kids actually committed any crimes. We need to realize that we are a part of the problem, as well as the solution.
Nikki Tennant

The press always reports on the accused. What happens to the victims is seldom reported.
Marvin L. Jahn
Seal Beach

I would like to see the Press-Telegram start profiling individual violent criminals. I want to know their names. I want to see their faces. I want to know what makes them tick, and I want them to tell me in their own words what I - and we as a society - can do to prevent criminals from taking over the city.
Anita Ford
San Pedro

My brother from Oakland says his perception, from reading the Press-Telegram, is that the crime problem is much worse in Long Beach than in Oakland.... I have since read some issues of the Oakland Tribune, and my brother is right. So, is Long Beach really a terrible place to live? Or does our paper just give that impression?

The "Community Roundup" should not read like a murder roster. If you must print a list of violent crimes, don't call it "Community Roundup." It's insulting ... Many people do not subscribe to your paper because of the negative approach you have in reporting.
Kathi Kowal
Long Beach

I started praying daily for the city of Long Beach in September 1991. And in February of this year, results were posted that overall crime was down by 8 percent. In 1993, crime will continue to fall in Long Beach because God is faithful to carry out the predictions of his messengers.
Nancy Haro
Long Beach

Try to convince citizens to vote for people who will make a difference. Write about the victims and less about the criminals. The criminals get lots of publicity in the news.
Arreatha Mobley
Long Beach

Make the punishment fit the crime. Our judicial system must be revamped. Criminals must be incarcerated for the full terms and receive incarceration without parole. This is supposed to be punishment for a crime, not time out in a corner.
Michael S. Wilbur
Long Beach

Actively use the death penalty to deter criminals, especially youths. Do not let the media "glamorize" executions. Just print on the front page a weekly list of executions and the nature of the crimes involved.
C.L. Runne

Because of vandalism incidents, the church I attend has put gates across the entrances to the parking lot. These are locked at 9:30 p.m. and not unlocked until 7 a.m.

Because of fear of auto theft, the parking lot in my apartment building is now access-controlled. For the same reason, the wall surrounding the parking lot has been made higher.
Pat Andrews

(Crime) caused me to move out of Long Beach to Lakewood. Many of my friends will not live in Long Beach because of the crime. I've lost many items from my home being broken into; usually (in) drug-related incidents. My insurance company told me I would be canceled if robbed again. After four attempted break-ins, I moved to a better neighborhood.
Carol Eggers

I have my own ideas about why we are in such a crime wave and a perhaps simplistic solution. I do not believe it's a lack of recreational facilities that has caused the darkness of crime to envelop us. Or that the mothers are working and not home. True, there are too many divorces and not enough responsible fathers (and) the influence of drugs is too strong ...

But I feel all these negatives are a result of not enough emphasis on harmony within ourselves and our environment. And this harmony can be achieved with sound. The most influential, profound sound you hear at birth is the sound of your own voice. It activates the endocrine system. Instead of developing the voices and ears of children, we have with ignorant, short-sighted budgetary restraints silenced or distorted them.

For most of my life, I have been a musician. I have observed the salutary effects of music on birds, animals, children and myself... After much thought, I can only conclude that the advantages offered by including music in the educational programs for children never have been properly considered. The benefits are not to be accrued directly in a financial manner but rather by raising the consciousness and the moral fiber of the nation as a whole... (music) should be offered in the primary and elementary grades with emphasis on therapy and communication.
Leigh C. Tuft

Do not publish what criminals have been doing. To me, that only glorifies the act and encoura. Printing how a crime took place plants a seed for more of the same to happen elsewhere.
Cindy Archambault
Long Beach

I am in constant fear of becoming a victim of a heinous crime - not just loss of property or bodily injury, but losing (my) life.
Eunice Sato
Long Beach

Stop printing stupid articles that say crime is getting better. In reality, people are not reporting crime because they feel it does no good.
Tom Williams
Long Beach

I want to applaud you in your efforts at making the public aware that crime is a real threat. That secure bubble of denial - "it won't happen to me" - is a fragile illusion that can be destroyed in a matter of seconds.

Run some articles about the self-defense products on the market. There are some very good, nonlethal, effective products out there.... Help people help themselves so they can go out and enjoy the life that is out there and feel a little more secure.
Bonnie Leach

Support law-enforcement personnel and be tolerant when they "screw up," which they are bound to do sometimes given the difficulty of their work.
Hugh Osmera
Los Alamitos

Perhaps a vigilante force in clear view would deter the criminal element that is slowly taking over the city, stripping us of our peace of mind, our very safety on the streets.
Sophie Humphrey
Long Beach

The cure for crime is as tough as stuffing that biblical camel through the eye of the needle. But it is time to try. We have to realize we are caught in the dying throes of an archaic era and still on the cusp of an emerging one, so that broad, sweeping ideas become basic and practical, however idealistic they may appear in our current culture.

Bottom line: (Some of us) have to learn to give up our excess material possessions and share, probably through taxes, so that we all will have enough - in the world, the nation, the states, this city, and in our own obese, ego-ridden lifestyles. Ending crime and the other symptoms of social decay will require a new ethic, a common willingness to redistribute resources according to need, rather than greed.

Government is not yet mature and visionary enough to operate such a plan, so citizens will have to lead.
Helen Graham
Long Beach

Print the names of minors - and their families' names - who habitually break the law. Notify school authorities when a minor gets arrested and note the offense. Schoolteachers have a right to know.
Dennis King
Long Beach

I am a prisoner for a parole violation in Los Angeles County. I am 35 years old and have been convicted four times since 1985 ... I am an African-American, and I think I get treated like any other race of people, (although) there are times where I felt that I should not have been pulled over (by police) or stopped on the sidewalk and frisked. However, I have had white police officers wave at me and even offer me something to eat because I was homeless. I have come to realize that the person you could hate could very well save your life some day.
Darrell Nelson
Chuckawalla Valley State Prison

It seems most of these criminals are young punks who have no fear of our lax criminal justice system. It is also apparent that television viewing has desensitized these young people, and older ones, too. Also, our welfare state has spawned generations with no motivation toward personal achievement of self-responsibility. They seem to think that what they want they can take through force. Their obvious resentment toward those whom they consider to be more fortunate is acted out in violence.
Iris Freelander
Long Beach

Get discipline back in the schools and homes. Bring back dress codes and religion.
Rudy Sarelli
Harbor City

Lamenting about the breakdown of "traditional family values" is a waste of time. It's already happened. What we need are programs and education to support, teach and enable the varied, fragmented family groups... to provide for themselves and each other.... Ways to organize teens, young adults, and seniors must be found.

There is humanpower that can be utilized for great public good - working with children, keeping teens off the streets and helping overstressed families. These helpers will be simultaneously helping themsleves. We don't need expensive bureaucracies to provide these programs.
Tina B. Tessina
Long Beach

Nobody should be in possession of a gun except law enforcement.
Ruth H. Cates

Most people in every neighborhood seem to be waiting for someone to fix things; someone should clean up the city, the crime-riddled neighborhoods, the problems. Someone should rid the street of crime, gangs and drugs.

I say, "Well, folks, someone is me, someone is you, someone is us."

But where do we start?
Jill Marie Landis
Long Beach

It is time that juveniles who commit these offenses receive the same treatment as adults. We should not be keeping their names out of the papers. Why should they receive special treatment? They are not the victim. They know what is happening and what they are doing. They are not naive, unsophisticated people.
Frances Cope
South Gate

Re-establish the prestige of the American family unit. Sixty percent of American wives are working and many would like to be home with their children. Provide a $30,000 yearly income tax deduction (on a joint return) for married women who do stay home and provide control of children under the age of 18. This, in turn, opens up many jobs previously held by the working mothers.
Robert N. Hoss
Long Beach

Print people's names and their alleged crimes. When they are convicted, do it again with the sentences given by judges. (That way) we can get rid of soft judges.
Sally Permantier
Long Beach

Two years ago, our family van was stolen from in front of our Belmont Heights home. The following night, I drove through the rough neighborhoods of Long Beach and found the van.

As I was waiting for police to come and turn the car over to me, four kids - 12 to 14 years old - jumped into the van and took off. The fact that my car was gone again made me hysterical, but not before I noticed the faces of the kids who stole it. They were trying to look tough and cool with their friends but they also looked scared and vulnerable. I see the same look on my son's face when he is hurt or in trouble.

Yes, I am resentful my car was stolen. But I saw this experience as a call for help and spent some time volunteering for an organization committed to helping these youths. I wish more people who are afraid of these faceless criminals would face them head on. Reach out and find a way to give these kids real hope and opportunity. It will go a long way toward resolving the anger and the crime.
Patti Malmuth
Long Beach

Pay some foreign country to jail hardened criminals. It's too expensive to keep them here.
Paul Fincher

In the summer of 1992, my 82-year-old mother-in-law was mugged in our otherwise peaceful community of Cerritos. She was assaulted in daylight on a busy main street only a few feet from her home. Her assailant made an unsuccessful grab for her purse, which was secured to her shoulder. Fortunately, concerned passers-by came to her rescue, chasing off this attacker who left this defenseless woman lying seriously injured on the sidewalk.

She was rushed to the local emergency room for treatment of numerous injuries.... Many months of rehabilitation and suffering were ahead ... (But) rehabilitation proved unsuccessful. To this day, she is in great pain, unable to use her arm. However, she continues to work hard to reach maximum arm motion and refuses to let this unfortunate event keep her from enjoying her favorite activities.

The assailant, as it turned out, lived within short walking distance of our home. Witnesses followed him to his residence and police later made an arrest. Subsequently, however, he was released. The district attorney cited a lack of evidence and declined to prosecute, thereby releasing this animal into our unsuspecting community to continue his life as normal.

The victims assistance program has, to date, offered to reimburse my mother-in-law the sum of only $50.

This is one family that is highly disillusioned with the American justice system.
David J. Koch

How Bad Is It?

Carol Ann Payne is one of the ones left behind, everyday people trying to blend in but somehow always standing apart

They are the survivors. The people left to deal with the emotional fallout from thousands of killings committed each year in Los Angeles and Orange counties.They are wives, husbands, mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, grandparents. Lovers. Friends. Teachers. Witnesses. Doctors. Nurses

They are the living legacy of a violent nation.

Recent police statistics show crime rates have fallen slightly in parts of Los Angeles County. And a number of studies show the county's rates are actually lower per capita than many other U.S. cities

But as encouraging as that may be, the fact is that there were a record 2,116 killings in the county in 1992. The Coroner's office ruled that more than 77 percent of those victims were shot to death

To many people, the news that things are starting to turn around is no solace at all

Payne was like so many others, repulsed by the horror stories that often dominate newspapers and TV news shows, yet believing the ugliness would not touch her. Her innocence ended in March, when her only son, Willie Browning Brooks III, was gunned down in Los Angeles.

He was shot as he stood outside a house, in a neighborhood where at least four gangs fight for control, according to police.

Two men ran by and fired into a group of people. All the bullets missed except one, which hit Brooks in the back.

He staggered inside, picked up the telephone and managed to dial 911 before dropping to the floor.

The funeral was held a week later at Inglewood Cemetery.

Brooks was 17 years old.

Payne has trouble sleeping and she's not comfortable taking pills, so she stays up nights, composing letters to politicians and police and anyone else who might have some impact. Many go unanswered, although she got a sympathetic reply from first lady Hillary Clinton. Payne begs them simply to put all their energy into stopping violent crime. Somehow.

She's also joined the Lynwood-based anti-gang violence and victims rights group, Drive-by Agony. The founder of that organization, Lorna Hawkins, lost two sons to drive-by shootings.

"I'm asking (leaders) to shed some light on what is going on. Our children are dying in multitudes. We're losing an entire generation," said Payne. "One gunshot, and my son's life was gone. Your life is gone. Your life is shattered. But I'm gonna go on for Willie. And for all those other people, all those other kids who are in danger. They're my babies now."


Police officers often the targets

Last year, a record 800 county residents died in gang-related killings. The grim milestone was hardly news; it followed five straight years of new highs for gang homicides.

Police officers have also increasingly found themselves the targets of violence. Two Compton police officers and a Garden Grove officer have been killed in the line of duty this year. Many more have been shot at or wounded, including a Long Beach police officer who was seriously wounded in August.

County gangs were at least 150,000 strong last year, according to a report by the District Attorney's Office, and some law enforcement officials believe the total is even higher. The state Attorney General's Office predicts the ranks will hit 200,000 or more by the turn of the century unless the trend is reversed.

The question is not whether crime rates are at a critical level. Most people concede that, even police and city officials who point to recent decreases in the number of crimes.

After announcing that the nationwide crime rate dipped by about 3 percent in 1992, FBI Director Louis J. Freeh said this was not a good reason to celebrate.

"The amount of violent crime and other grave offenses nationwide remains intolerable,"' he said. "Crime is shockingly high in a country where the rule of law should prevail."

But criminal behavior, especially gang membership, has too often been a normal ritual of adolescence.

"It was all I knew," said Tony Bogard Thomas, who grew up as a Crip in Watts and said he shot "a lot" of people before becoming involved in the truce effort last year. "I never knew anyone who went to college. I would see people getting beaten or shot all the time. It was common."

Daniel Romero, an 18-year-old from Whittier who incurred temporary paralysis after being shot in the stomach and legs two years ago during a drive-by, echoes the shrugged sentiment of many young people.

"Right now," he said, "it's going to get worse."

The result: a new exodus of residents and businesses from the Southland, a generation of youths torn up by the gangs, the destruction of lives and property in a locked-down city with a dislocated sense of community. Attorney General Daniel Lungren said the rates are so high that the United States has become "the most violent society in the world."

For example, the number of homicides per 100,000 California residents was only 2.4 in 1952. That rate was 12.5 last year. Rapes went from 16.7 four decades ago to 40.7 in 1992, assaults from 60.3 to an astounding 632.5 per 100,000 residents, according to the California Department of Justice.

The biggest increases came in the early 1980s, coinciding with a huge jump in gang membership. Crime rates have stayed high or dropped slightly since then.


Overload of spinal injuries

The numbers may be starting to turn around, but who would know by the daily toll?

"It plateaued at too high a level," said Lungren, "but nonetheless we stopped this increase."

Long Beach police detective Norm Sorenson calls Los Angeles County "the gang capital of the world." Long Beach is home to an estimated 11,000 gang members, who account for about 50 slayings a year.

Sorenson has watched gang violence in Long Beach quadruple in the past five years. The impact is felt everywhere, in police departments, in hospital emergency rooms, in boardrooms, in living rooms.

At Rancho Los Amigos Medical Center in Downey, doctors and nurses struggle with an overload of bullet-drilled bodies. According to a spokeswoman, about 40 percent of all patients in the hospital's spinal injury rehabilitation program were victims of violent crime.

"If you look at the epidemic of violence in the last four years, there's been a dramatic increase. What we're seeing here is a reflection of that epidemic," said Dr. Luis Montes, who heads the rehabilitation program. "It's about random violence, not necessarily gang-related violence. It's mostly random violence, innocent bystanders."

In fact, the District Attorney's Office estimates that 10-25 percent of all gang victims are innocent bystanders, hit by gang members with notoriously poor aim who frequently fire at their enemies from moving cars.


700 young people on probation here

The war on gangs is one in which police and counselors count success in each kid they reach, knowing well that scores of others will be lost to a world of bullets and blood.

There are at least 700 young people on probation in the Long Beach-Lakewood area, said Alvin Bernstein, a deputy probation officer.

The Probation Department focuses on the wannabes, the preteens on gangland's periphery, the ones who must prove themselves to be accepted.

"This particular kid presents the biggest problem to me as a probation officer and a member of the community," said Bernstein. "Because it's easy (for older gang members) to put a gun in his hand and say, 'Hey, you wanna be down? You wanna be part of us?

"That's where these kids, according to them, earn their stripes."

Although Long Beach does not rank as high in total crimes as some other cities, including Portland and Seattle - two popular exodus spots for Southern Californians - it has a much higher homicide and robbery rate.

At the Economic Development Corporation, a business-sponsored agency designed to lure new firms, officials support moves to hire more police officers and establish job and drug diversion programs. But sometimes the civic efforts and statistics can't persuade business owners to move here, said research associate Dina Defterios.

"We try to recruit businesses, and we tell them about everything we have to offer - transportation, good highways, a major port,'' she said. "But they're worried about their kids and whether the schools are safe."


Compton has dip in many crimes

The police, who generally feel they are understaffed and often outgunned, are starting to see some gains. In Compton, Police Chief Hourie Taylor said a decline in the amount of street-level drug dealing has helped fuel a drop in many crimes.

However, Taylor said crime tends to rise and fall over decades.

"We're in a down cycle," he said, adding that he sees the genesis of a community backlash. "I believe the average citizen is more concerned with crime and their personal safety, so you find they're more involved with programs to improve the conditions."

Long Beach is also seeing some improvement, said police Chief William C. Ellis.

However, he said 1990s America is still a more violent place than it used to be.

"If you see TV every night and there are shootings and killings and gang murders running rampant, that's what reality is - and statistics don't mean a lot when people don't feel safe."


More moving out than moving in

Last year, for the first time in almost two decades, the number of people moving out of the state exceeded those moving in.

The top two reasons? What else? Crime and the economy.

Long Beach residents Don and Mary Lowe once thought of this area as paradise. They married in the chapel aboard the Queen Mary and campaigned to keep the ship here last year. Now they plan to join the exodus. They've been scanning suburbs near Seattle and Tacoma, Wash., and hope to be on the road in November.

Crime isn't the only reason the couple will leave their cozy Orange Avenue apartment, which opens onto a shady patio with a pondful of slowly circling orange and black koi. Don retired from the Army a few years ago and has had trouble finding a job, although he and Mary have enjoyed working as extras in movies and as part-time employees at the Long Beach Convention Center.

But they become more sure about moving with each daily newspaper.

The shooting of a school crossing guard. Cambodians and Latinos killing one another along the Anaheim Street corridor. A Naples gondolier killed by gunmen who wanted his bicycle.

The Lowes have also had their own brushes with crime

Their Camaro was stolen for a joyride, and they called police twice to report stolen cars parked for days in their Bixby Knolls neighborhood. Mary's purse was stolen, and the same day, she found a stolen .357 Magnum gun in the bushes in front of their home.

Events on April 29, 1992, also helped spur their decision to leave.

They were working on a Frank Sinatra movie at the Pantages Theater in Hollywood when the crew was told to leave as soon as possible because of rioting.

When they finally made it home by traveling a circuitous route on traffic-clogged freeways, they watched with horror a televised parade of prime-time street violence.

"I've been shot at before," said Don, a Vietnam veteran. "But this was a different situation. I was scared to death trying to get home when we didn't know what was going to happen."

"I think that night probably had a lot to do with our decision."

They will miss the weather, but little else.

"It's sad, because everyone looked up to America at one time," said Mary. "Now people don't even want to visit."


Hard to accept loss of her son

And the circle of violence continues to expand.

Payne is still struggling to accept her son's death, coping with the knowledge that she can never hug him or hear his laugh. She longs just to come home and cook his dinner.

She used to pass up invitations for a happy-hour drink with co-workers at the Southern California Gas Co. because she couldn't wait to get home.

There are times she pounds the streets herself, trying to get witnesses to come forward.

"Sometimes it seems like we're working together, like she's my partner," said sheriff's homicide detective Doral Riggs.

Payne picks up an old photograph of Willie in his Sheriff's Department-sponsored Little League baseball team. Just behind him is teammate Michael Ensley, who was shot to death by a gang rival at Reseda High School in February.

Payne looks at the young faces and wonders if she should have talked to her son about Ensley's killing.

Would it have made him more cautious? Could anything she said have kept him clear of that bullet?

When Brooks, her son from a previous marriage, said some other kids had asked what gang he was from, Payne's husband took time to sit in on his classes.

Sometimes they picked him up from school. They kept him home as much as possible, even though he would chafe at the restrictions.

During the summer, they tried to keep him too busy to get into trouble, with jobs at a supermarket and in maintenance at UCLA. But none of that could protect him forever.

As Payne recently watched President Bill Clinton unveil his plans to reform the nation's health care system, she was struck by what she saw as a central absurdity amid the politics. She sat down and composed another letter to the editor.

"Health care reform will not be necessary," she wrote, "if we all become victims of gunfire."

The Cost of Crime

He visits his daughter's grave every Sunday, always bringing a bouquet of the roses he started growing after she was murdered a year ago.

Call them Sheila Lorta roses.Sometimes on the way home from the cemetery, Henry Lorta takes a detour past Paramount High School, where his 16-year-old daughter was a popular cheerleader until she got caught in the middle of a gang shooting just outside the campus.

"Sheila!" the still grieving father shouts from his window as he drives by.

No one has been arrested in that slaying - one of a record 2,116 homicides last year in Los Angeles County.

How do you gauge the cost of such crimes?

"She's not here anymore, and that's the biggest loss," said Sheila's 35-year-old father.

A year later, Sheila's mother, Esther Lorta, still finds it impossible to accept that loss. There are moments, in fact, when she sets an extra plate on the dinner table for Sheila, the eldest of her three children. And on the Christmas cards she sent out last year, the 35-year-old mother signed: "From all of us and Sheila, forever in our hearts."

"Putting her in her resting place was the hardest," Esther Lorta said, "like putting a whole life in a box."

"Your outlook on life completely changes," she added. "Sometimes you don't know how you even get up in the morning. You may still be smiling, but that sadness is in your heart always."


Economics can't tally lives' worth

Every year the state Justice Department computes the total dollar loss to criminals, but how do you measure the value of lives destroyed in a gang war or at the point of a carjacker's semiautomatic or in a robber's fit of paranoia?

And those economic statistics don't tally the freedom and security crime has stolen from many people

Nor do the dollar figures compute the intangible costs associated with the Southland's increasingly tarnished image.

Crime, or even the perception of a crime problem, casts a long shadow, sometimes stretching across the country. A recent Newsweek article, for example, referred to Long Beach as the "gang-riddled" hometown of alleged murder suspect rapper Snoop Doggy Dogg.

And finally, there is the loss of innocence as children increasingly confront a very scary world.

On a downtown Long Beach street corner last month, a transient grabbed a 7-year-old boy's book bag, terrorizing the child. In that case, bystanders ran after the thief and quickly retrieved the bag. But for the small victim, the frightful memories are just beginning.

"Kids shouldn't have to go through this," said Dick Van Der Laan of the Long Beach Unified School District. "It's frustrating because you want to do something about it."


Local crime cost totals billions

Financially, the cost of crime is staggering.

In California, $2.9 billion in stolen property was reported in 1992,compared with $1.6 billion in 1982. To fight crime, authorities in California spent $13.7 billion on law enforcement, courts and prisons in the 1991-92 fiscal year, up from $8.4 billion five years ago.

Last year, burglars stole $6.4 million in goods from Long Beach homes and about the same amount from businesses in Compton; Lakewood residents lost $4.5 million in auto thefts; robbers made off with nearly $100,000 from Bellflower banks; Cerritos stores lost $127,030 to shoplifters; and $40,824 in bicycles were stolen in Downey.

Caltrans spends more than $29 million to wipe out graffiti, and such abatement programs are also placing a strain on city and school district budgets.

The Downey Unified School District, for example, spends $30,000 to $40,000 a year just on graffiti and other vandalism. In Long Beach, taggers cost the school district more than $220,000 during the 1992-93 fiscal year.

Long Beach school officials estimate that last year its total crime-fighting costs - from the security officers' salaries to vandalism repairs - amounted to about $51 for each of the district's 76,000 students. That's much-needed money that school officials would rather spend on educating children.


Farewell to fear and Southland

The cost of living in fear is getting to be too much for Carol Gooler. As soon as she retires, the 55-year-old school teacher is leaving for Northern California. The Long Beach resident said she has had enough of crime.

Gooler left Torrance three years ago after her home was burglarized four times and her next-door neighbor was murdered. Long Beach seemed a bit safer - until a neighbor's party guest was fatally shot last year in Gooler's new neighborhood near the Traffic Circle.

"I tell you, it's extremely scary," said Gooler, who has spent thousands of dollars to protect herself with a gun, shooting lessons, a police scanner, CB radio and deadbolts on all her doors. "We've lost so much of our freedom because of crime."


Car shop moves to 'safer' Signal Hill

After 15 years of fixing cars at the same central Long Beach corner, Mark Jones decided it was time to move his shop out of the city - or lose even his most loyal customers.

"This is the best move I ever made," the 36-year-old owner of Datsun Alley said about relocating to Signal Hill six months ago. "I feel a lot safer now. Business has improved, and all of a sudden longtime customers are giving referrals - something they never did before."

Jones said he had noticed a drop in women customers since the riots hit the streets near his old site at Alamitos Avenue and Pacific Coast Highway. Many of his remaining customers, mostly men, told him they didn't want their wives and daughters bringing their cars to the shop.

And who could blame them? Jones said crack dealers and prostitutes blatantly plied their trades near his Long Beach shop, intimidating the repair shop's customers.

"Even 15 years ago, it wasn't a great neighborhood," said Jones. "But I think the riots were the big turning point. They made people more aware of crime."

A week before Jones moved, his shop was burglarized. An alarm quickly brought the police and scared off the culprits. But the incident reinforced Jones' feelings that he was doing the right thing.

"It wasn't fear for myself so much, but concern for my customers," he said. "I wasn't run out of the city. I chose to leave."


'Such a sense of rage, loss, anger'

Of course, crime is expensive. That's no surprise to veteran probation Officer John Speight. But he feels the costs are escalating out of sight.

"There are a lot more felons now, and felons think differently than the rest of us. Crime is their way of getting excited - like a trip to Disneyland, "said the 45-year-old Long Beach resident. "And crime is costing the victims more than anyone else."

Speight, who is also a family therapist, should know. He's been a crime victim a number of times. Thieves have burglarized his automobile three times, broken into his garage twice and stolen his wife's car.

"When you've been victimized, there's such a sense of rage, loss and anger," Speight said. "It's extremely stressful to put your life back together."


Victimizers are also own victims

The way Cedric Hicks sees it, drug addicts often pay for their crimes by becoming their own victims.

Nowhere is the substance abuse counselor's theory clearer than at the annual Christmas party he organizes for 170 families in the Compton area.

Amid the holiday decorations and Christmas presents, there are fierce hugs and kisses as recovering addicts are reunited with their children for just a few hours.

It's a bittersweet moment for the crack mothers.

As executive director for Compton's Special Services Center, Hicks deals with some of the most hard-core addicts in the area.

Most of the people have records of crimes that were committed to finance their habit, and many of them were referred to the center by the courts.

At least half of them stay clean for a year or more, Hicks said, but the others just go on victimizing others and ultimately themselves.


Memories - and a grave to sit by

Emilia Perez's 19-year-old son was a gang member, but she believes he was trying to escape that world when a bullet ended his life. And that crime has cost her everything important to her.

"All I have are my memories, a grave to sit by on Sundays and pictures," said the 49-year-old Norwalk woman.

In August 1992, her son, Chris, left with a neighbor for a nearby store. But before he got there, he was shot in the head, leaving him brain-dead. The next day, Emilia Perez decided to pull the plug. Her son was a vegetable now, she thought. What kind of life is that?

She heard from kids on the street that Chris was killed by a rival gang member, but she told his friends she did not want to see any payback.

"I don't want this to happen to another mother," she said, still waiting for her son's killer to be arrested.

"My son was a gang member, but he was still a human being," Emilia Perez added. "Nobody had the right to take his life."


A generation at risk of being lost

Tally the lost lives, add up the lost property, then count the possible loss of an entire generation.

That's the cost of crime to Dr. Luis Montes.

He sees it every day at Rancho Los Amigos Medical Center in Downey, where kids with shattered spines and shot-up bodies are wheeled in on gurneys.

"Our kids are killing each other," said Montes.

Amy Padilla was injured when she was caught in the cross fire of rival gangs in Compton. The 20-year-old South Gate resident knows what she's going to do when she has a child of her own.

"I will keep my kid locked up,'' said Padilla, who belongs to a group of teen-agers and young adults called Teens on Target, sponsored by Rancho Los Amigos. The group warns grade school children about the dangers of gangs and drugs.

Fidel Valenzuela, who leads the group, sees the cost of crime everyday.

"Violence is affecting everyone," said Valenzuela. "We know that guns are killing everyone, but what I want to show are the innocent people who are getting killed."

Members of Valenzuela's group go to schools so they can relate their personal, often painful, stories of how they became victims of violence.

Daniel Romero, an intense 18-year-old from Whittier, was shot in the stomach and leg three years ago in a drive-by.

He tells the schoolchildren that he has an infant son, and that he worries about the kind of future he'll inherit.

He is like many of the Teens on Target members who are pessimistic about seeing an end to violence in their lifetimes.

And that very sense of hopelessness is the hidden cost of crime that scares Montes most.

"It's demoralizing us, demoralizing our youth," the doctor said. "We are almost becoming desensitized to the point we don't care."

The Cost of a Cure for Crime

In more ways than one, we're all in this together. Crime - and the fear of crime - is changing the way we live. In high-crime areas, the possibility of becoming a police statistic imprisons some residents in their homes from sundown to sunup. In neighborhoods with low crime rates, fear arouses visions of relocation or increased police patrols.

Whether we live in an inner-city neighborhood plagued with the street violence that drugs and all-too-obtainable guns bring, or whether we live in pleasant, well-maintained neighborhoods, crime affects us all. The 254 homicides, 602 rapes, 10,835 assaults, 9,057 robberies and 18,349 burglaries that shook Long Beach area communities in 1992 have invaded our consciousness, violating a sense of safety and well-being.The havoc created by hard-core street criminals, many of them gang members, is reminiscent of the 1920s, when organized crime ruled urban American, machine-gunning the lawful and unlawful alike.

We should, of course, cheer the recommendations of stiffer penalities for violent crime, letting criminals know they will get longer sentences without possibility of parole. Just as Al Capone and other gangsters of the Roaring '20s had to be taught that society would no longer tolerate being held hostage, today's purveyors of violence must get the same message.

Before we see this as a final solution, however, we'd better calculate the cost. Already, the state spends more than $2 billion each year on its prison system. Additional millions will be needed to build even more prisons, since repeat offenders are now often released early simply because there is no room to house them. Dwindling resources means that instead of building new roads, bridges and other infrastructure improvements to make the state attractive to new business growth, the prison industry will get first shot at tax dollars.

The education and health-care budgets also might have to get in line behind the prison budget, increasing the number of children whose lives resemble those already behind bars. Since no one is born a thief or murderer, it might be wise to search for and implement a remedy for the root causes of street crime.

In the Press-Telegram series on crime, a former gang member says he joined the P.J. Crips because, "That was the only thing to do. Sell drugs, rob, steal, do drive-bys. I got tired of waiting on the first and the 15th (of each month) to get something to eat." The link between poverty, poor education and crime has been repeatedly documented by criminal justice experts. That doesn't mean that everyone who is poor grows up to be a criminal. It does mean that poverty is fertile ground for young people who see few other options.

Gilbert Geis, criminal justice professor emeritus at the University of California, Irvine, said some young people gravitate toward crime because it's all around them. In fact, white-collar criminals - embezzlers, corrupt public officials and those who commit fraud - become role models for some young criminals. They idolize those who mastermind grand embezzlement schemes, which amounts to $200 billion or more a year. Without education, however, street criminals can't follow in the footsteps of Charles Keating or Ivan Boesky. These semi-literate street hoodlums commit the crimes they can - drug dealing, prostitution, burglary and murder. They are a scary reflection of a society that accepts business ethics such as "dog eat dog."

Of course, white-collar criminals aren't lurking on street corners, waiting to knife a senior citizen for the $4 in her purse. And even the toxic chemicals some of them dump into streams or along roadways don't have the immediate impact of a robber in your face. But the two are linked. A war on poverty, deglamorization of white-collar crime and stiffer penalties for violent crime are worth trying in the fight against crime.

We're all a part of the problem. We can all be a part of the solution.

What is Government Doing?

Robert Ballesteros "just sort of grew up with gangs." Then he got arrested for fighting in public, possessing marijuana and riding in a stolen car.

His future? "Messed up," he predicted. But that was before the 18-year-old Carson resident enlisted in the California Youth Authority's new boot camp in Whittier. Today, he's under orders to clean up his life.

"It's hard," he said. "You don't get that much rest. You're just so tired. You kind of get mad. But by the end of the night, you don't want to stop.

"I'm going to stay with it all the way. I'm learning responsibility, how to take orders, discipline. I want to finish school and get my high school diploma. Try to find me a job."

Try to find a future free of crime.

The CYA boot camp, which turns wards into cadets, is just one of the many government programs attempting to combat crime.

And while it's sometimes difficult to measure the results of such efforts, even one victory is significant.

When the boot camp platoon leader ordered his men to drop into the push-up position, a cadet groaned and an officer roared.

"Hey, close your mouth! He's not askin' you for your vote!"

But as the recruits scrambled through an obstacle course, two officers barked words of encouragement.

"There you go, there you go, real good! That's the way to hustle!"

And when the recruits stumbled toward the final chin-up bar, fellow cadets gave them a boost.

"I know you're tired."

They're tired, all right. From 6 a.m. reveille to 10 p.m. taps, cadets at the boot camp are on the run. But the lessons they learn on the field - discipline, self-esteem and teamwork - can help them flee lives of crime.

Fifteen youths between the ages of 16 and 21 are being pushed through L.E.A.D., which stands for leadership, esteem, ability and discipline. The four-month program, which began Sept. 15, is the second boot camp in the state. Classes in drugs, gangs and relationships supplement the calisthenics.

Located at the Fred C. Nelles School, the program costs $1.3 million a year. However, no new money is being spent on the camp - and because graduates are released on parole rather than serving the rest of their sentences, there is some savings. A new group enters the program every month.

"It teaches a lot of discipline," said Terrance Nowden, 18, of San Diego. "When I first came, I didn't want to do nothing. I had a few confrontations with the TAC (train, advise and counsel) officers. Standing at attention all day without moving your head . . . it's hard, but I'm doing it now."

Before, Nowden was using PCP, gangbanging, and getting arrested for selling guns and stealing cars. "I guess I was young, falling under the wrong leadership,'' he explained.

Now he's fallen under a firm but caring staff.

"They're telling me how they're out there making a living, and I put it in my frame of mind how I can do the same thing they're doing," he said.

You can ignor other CYA wards who try to pick fights.

"They're jealous," Nowden said. "They see me in here doing this program. They want to see me fail, but I'm not going to give them the satisfaction."

Some cadets may fail. "You've wasted the last two weeks," an officer chided one young man.

"When they began, they were gung-ho," said TAC officer Frank Aragon, an ex-gangbanger himself. "They're starting to feel the stress, the internal conflict of `I don't want to change.'"

Acknowledged 18-year-old Chai Chau, "I didn't think it would be so hard."

But the Los Angeles gang member, who has been arrested for vandalism in Long Beach, said he's matured since he enlisted in the program. He's learning in the classroom and becoming physically fit on the field.

"They find they can be more constructive than being loaded and hangin' with the homeboys," said TAC officer Sherie Ware. "They learn despite themselves."


'Troublemaker' learned to stop

When Alicia Gutierrez was 12, her nickname was Boxer. She tagged it; she lived it.

"I was a troublemaker," she said.

Until Joe Espinosa convinced her to stop it

A 37-year-old deputy probation officer, Espinosa tries to make sure kids like Alicia don't need a probation officer in the future. Assigned to the Downey Unified School District, he is one of about 50 Los Angeles County probation officers participating in the Gang Alternative and Prevention Program (GAPP), which attempts to keep students in school and out of juvenile hall.

Launched in 1988, the $2.5 million program is financed by the ProbationDepartment, cities and school districts. For example, Downey school district officials gladly pay half of Espinosa's $78,000-a-year contract, which includes his salary and administrative costs.

"We have kids who have turned to Joe instead of turning to gangs or violence in the street," said Stan Hanstad, director of pupil services.

"If you help one person, it's worth it," said Espinosa. "The person we help could be the person who didn't steal your car, who didn't kill your kid."

Alicia was referred to Espinosa by a counselor after repeated suspensions from South Middle School.

"When I first met him, I hesitated to talk," said Alicia, now a 15-year-old sophomore at Paramount High School. "Now that I know him, he can't stop me from talking."

When she got into a fight, Espinosa asked her what she could have done instead. More than once, he called her and her opponent into his office to talk the problem out. Sometimes, the problem was as simple as a look.

"She needed someone to listen to her," said Espinosa, who continues to meet with her, even though she has moved from Downey to South Gate.

Without Espinosa's intervention, Alicia said she probably would have joined a gang. Now she's channeled her energy into basketball and softball. She's doing well in school.

"I want to got into psychology," she said. "I like to know what's going through kids' minds."

Grades are up and truancy is down among kids in the program, according to a 1990 study by a criminal justice professor. Of those who were gang members when they entered GAPP, 71 percent later dropped out of gangs.

"This is a job where I feel we make a difference," said Espinosa. "My reward is somebody like Alicia."

"It's more like my reward," said Alicia.


Halting domestic violence in L.B.

It's hard to watch a woman hobble down a hallway after refusing to press charges against the man who beat her. It's hard to hand down a verdict in a domestic violence case after seeing the victim and the batterer smooching in the courtroom cafeteria.

But if police officers and judges understand why victims stay with their abusers, they can do a better job of delivering the proper punishment - and assistance.

In an effort to do just that, the Long Beach Police Department established a domestic violence unit last month. This month, the Long Beach Municipal Court assigned all domestice violence cases to a single judge.

"Victims get shunted around this courthouse like so many cattle," said Presiding Municipal Court Judge Gary Ferrari. "If everthing starts in one courtroom, the judge can really take a look at this case and try to resolve it. This will bring consistency to sentencing."

Recommended by the Police Chief's Women's Advisory Commission, the Police Department's domestic violence unit will also bring consistency and expertise to cases.

"One day you may work a drive-by shooting, the next day you may work domestic violence," said Deputy Chief Jerome Lance. "What we're trying to do is create a detail more sensivive to domestic violence."

Sensitivity is vital, said Sgt. Anne O'Dell, who supervises the San Diego Police Department's 3-year-old domestic violence unit.

"You need to know how victims act, what they respond to, even how to talk to them," she said. "You need to create a case, even if you lose the victim (as a witness)."

Domestic violence homicides in San Diego, which served as a model for Long Beach, dropped 64 percent between 1991 and 1992 - from 22 to 8.

Three female detectives and a male sergeant have been reassigned at no additional cost to Long Beach's domestic violence unit. The officers will receive special training and work closely with child abuse detectives.

"Instead of thinking this is just a case, this is a family who needs help," Lance said.

So far this year, Long Beach police have handled more than 2,300 domestic violence cases. They may handle even more cases next year, when a new law will require health practitioners to report suspected domestic violence to police just as they have to report child and elderly abuse now.

Detectives in the new unit not only will be able to track repeat offenders, but they'll also ease the load of their colleagues.


Norwalk streets a little quieter

The streets of Norwalk are relatively quiet nowadays, said Deputy Wilson, Lee, who works out of one of two city-owned trailers that serve as miniature sheriff's stations.

When Lee and his partners started on the job a couple of years ago, it seemed like gang members, taggers and curfew violators were everywhere.

But the deputies, who routinely park the trailers in the middle of neighborhoods where gangs have been a way of life for generations, say it'sbeen a boring summer.

"It's dead," he said, recently driving his unmarked police car through Vista Verde park, now clean of graffiti. "We have to hunt for curfew violators. We have to hunt for taggers. It's not like before."

"It's almost to the point where we've got to get a video membership so we can have something to do in the trailer," he joked.

Actually, he's taking the extra time to talk to landlords about a city program modeled after one in Long Beach, where landlords give deputies permission to arrest trespassers.

"If you have one apartment that is causing trouble," he tells landlords, "your property values go down, your good tenants move out."

And while Lee would like to take the credit for the slowdown in crime, a big part of it, he said, is a truce that started last spring among the Latino gangs in Norwalk and in surrounding cities.

There are rumors that the truce came about because a prison gang, the Mexican Mafia, ordered it. Or it may just have been older gang members who convinced the younger ones to stop their dangerous ways.


Downey business battling crime

In Downey, the police are trying to help businesses learn how to fight crime.

Business Watch, which was started almost two years ago, attempts to prevent merchants from being victimized. Steve Garcia, a Police Department community relations officer, visits businesses, from large banks to mom and pop stores, and checks for any security gaps.

"We're checking everything from locks to the kind of security lighting they use," Garcia said.

The Downey Chamber of Commerce also participates in the program by sponsoring seminars and demonstrations. In the past year, the chamber has put on a demonstration on avoiding carjacking and another on preventing bank robberies.

Merchants said they appreciate the city's program.

"It's excellent," said John Dupuy, branch manager for First Interstate Bank. "I'd rate Downey at the top."


Channel 3 now a police weapon

In this shoot'em-up, it wasn't the actor who suffered stage fright. It was the innocent bystander.

He was across the street from a downtown Long Beach ATM when a robber drew a gun and grabbed the loot from a screaming customer. The bystander bolted, leaving his girlfriend behind.

Informed a TV show was the only thing being shot, the man sheepishly returned.

"I'm sorry, I was gonna leave you, baby," he told his girlfriend.

Luckily, police were around to intervene when she went ballistic.

Cases of stage fright may be up, but by taking to the air waves, Long Beach police hope to reduce crime waves. Called "F.Y.I.," the 15-minute crime prevention program airs during "Inside Long Beach" on CVI cable Channel 3 at 7:30 p.m. Mondays.

"I use my staff. CVI lends us a camera crew," said Cmdr. Anthony Batts of the Community Relations Department. "We do it on no budget.''

The department went into show business last month with a simulated carjacking so authentic a CHP officer attempted to run down the crooks on his motorcycle. The realistic re-enactments are intended to teach viewers how to avoid becoming victims of crime.

When the carjacking victim was attacked during "Take One," he was reading a map and talking on a cellular phone with the windows down and door unlocked. He didn't get a good look at his assailants.

During "Take Two," the driver sat behind closed windows and locked doors. When the carjackers approached, he floored it and got away. He later provided a description of the suspects to police.

OK, so it's not "LBPD Blue." But Batts is confident the ratings will rise, especially after his officers no longer have to compete with another show packed with violence, "Monday Night Football."

Community: Residents Unite to Help Themselves and Others

When it comes to fighting crime on the neighborhood level, Rambos need not apply.

Instead, community groups are developing innovative techniques to take back their streets. They're suing landlords, mounting volunteer patrols and cleanups, and organizing their blocks and apartment buildings. They've found strength in numbers, and they're facing down crime by using nonconfrontational tactics. They're cementing relationships with police and among themselves.

And they're winning.

There's a lot at stake. Some successful crime fighters are defending neighborhoods they have called home for years. Others are backing their commitment to - and investment in - urban living. Still more activists are refugees from high-crime areas who are determined to prevent a recurrence of the violence and decay they fled.

Here is a sampling of some of those crime-fighting efforts.


Landlord had the key to safe street

Ed Walsh's Long Beach neighborhood was being overrun by drug dealers, burglars and prostitutes. Walsh, who was born with cerebral palsy, was in no position to play Rambo.

But he and his neighbors began routing the criminal element by legally leaning on a landlord.

Their tool was "Safe Streets Now." The program, developed in Oakland, allows aggrieved neighbors to sue landlords in Small Claims Court on the ground that their properties are public nuisances.

Filing a Small Claims Court action costs only $15. The maximum award is $5,000 per claim, and lawsuits may be grouped. In Walsh's case, he and six of his neighbors were prepared to sue their local slumlord for $35,000.

Safe Streets Now was first tested in Long Beach in June 1992, when Betsy Bredau and three neighbors successfully sued a landlord. The decision resulted in an award of $1,000 per claimant, eviction of drug-dealing tenants and a code enforcement action against the property.

It was also an education for Bredau.

"We made some mistakes," she said. "We needed to be trained in the procedure and to find a way to protect the claimants from retaliation." Bredau, whose $5,000 claim was reduced because she could not document economic loss, was confronted by the drug dealers before her day in court. She also had a brick thrown through her window.

Mollie Wetzel, the Oakland activist who developed Safe Streets Now, was invited by the city last summer to hold a training course. Bredau graduated with honors. Now, the former aerospace accountant is working full time as an organizer and mediator for the Long Beach effort, called Project Open Eyes.

In recent months, she has met with neighborhood groups around the city and has trained them in such techniques as keeping logs of criminal activity. She has also compiled 36 pending small claims actions.

To date, the mere threat of a lawsuit has convinced most alleged slumlords to clean up their acts. "Once I send a landlord a demand letter, I get good response," said Bredau. "We haven't had to go to court yet this year."

Walsh and his neighbors saw a lessening of lawlessness once Bredau began mediating their case. Evictions of problem tenants have been promised and a building cleanup is under way.

"Before this, I had considered moving away," said Walsh, a psychiatric counselor. "But it's a Catch-22 - you can't sell if your neighborhood has gone bad."

"I'd like to see Project Open Eyes go citywide," added Walsh. "It would send a message to criminals and negligent landlords that people in Long Beach are not going to tolerate them any longer."


Residents and businesses unite

Born of a family's grief, Long Beach's grass-roots Citizens and Business Against Crime is working to make the city a safe place to live.

CABAC, which is seeking to unite the schools, businesses and neighborhoods in an all-out assault on crime, was founded in July by Tom and Sandi Shadden. On Memorial Day, the couple's son, William, was murdered in Belmont Shore during an attempted bicycle robbery.

Two juveniles have been arrested and are awaiting trial in the case.

Sandi Shadden, CABAC's president, summed up the group's goals at an Oct. 4 community meeting. "We can beat crime, but we all have to take responsibility, she said.

CABAC's proposed actions include establishing drug- and gun-free zones in and around the city's schools, using dogs to search for drugs and weapons on high school campuses, increased truancy enforcement, and citywide expansion of the Police Department's neighborhood and apartment watch programs.


Group seeks tips to catch crooks

"We need to support our police officers and give them help," said Candice Randle. That's precisely the goal of Signal Hill Crimestoppers Inc., a new group that is soliciting information on crime and offering rewards to tipsters.

Randle is president of the local chapter of Crimestoppers, an international effort to involve citizens in crime fighting while preserving their anonymnity. The Signal Hill Crimestoppers have already set up a hot line - (310) 989-SAFE - to take reports.


Making a clean sweep of gaps

There are a lot of programs out there, but some civic-minded Compton residents realized there were also a lot of gaps.

With that in mind, they formed 100 Strong Men and 100 Strong Women - essentially programs to keep all the good efforts from getting bogged down in the gaps between already established community and government groups.

An example of their mission was their first project - cleaning up the Compton Canal that runs diagonally through the city.

The group decided it was an eyesore that blemished their efforts to clean up graffiti and burned buildings. At their cleanup party Oct. 2, about 80 men and boys cleared out the canal east of Wilmington between El Segundo Boulevard and Rosecrans Avenue.

The men who are involved, such as Compton Mayor Omar Bradley and businessman Gorgonio Sanchez, said this is a group that gets things done.

"We're here to uplift the community," added Councilman Ron Green. "We hope to have young people help seniors trim their lawns and paint their houses."

The group, which hasn't quite reached its membership goal of 100, is also setting up mentoring programs to pair members with young men.

The group has already spawned another group, 100 Strong Women, which held its first meeting on the day of the canal cleanup. About 50 women signed up.


Group does GOOD as model

It began with failure, and four years later, Gangs Out of Downey (GOOD) is enjoying success.

And with that success has come a blueprint for communities looking for ways to fight crime.

The beginning was in 1989 when officials with the Downey Unified School District applied for an $80,000 state grant to develop anti-gang programs.

Because of Downey's low crime rate, the city was denied the grant. But when the word got out, businessman Phil Presicci decided to take on the job.

Presicci called community leaders, politicians and business people together and founded Gangs Out of Downey.

Today, GOOD runs several programs that have been credited with keeping gangs under wraps in the city. The group, seen as a role model, was recently featured in a Cable News Network broadcast about how various communities are fighting crime.

The group's programs include counseling sessions for youths and parenting skills classes in both English and Spanish.

GOOD also raised about $3,000 so the Downey Police Department could buy a special computer that keeps track of all known gang members. And last year, it co-sponsored a puppet show that warns preteens about the dangers of gangs and drugs.

"I don't think we've changed the world," Presicci said. But "I think we've impacted the commmunity."

The group has about 40 members and relies on donations and fund-raisers for its annual $30,000 to $35,000 budget.

Other communities have turned to GOOD for advice on fighting gangs. In Bellflower, volunteers have adopted many of GOOD's strategies for the Bellflower Against Gangs group. That volunteer effort was launched in early 1992 by members of the Bellflower Kiwanis Club.


Teaming up puts down bashings

Armed only with flashlights, bullhorns and determination, the Teams Project has put a serious dent in bashing and other crimes in Long Beach's gay community.

Founded following the July 1990 murder of a gay activist, the Teams Project now stages night foot patrols on weekends along Broadway between Alamitos and Kennebec avenues. The white-jacketed volunteers, who work in groups, are backed up by a mobile unit that is in constant contact with police.

Organizer Rick Rosen said that a word to the wise and the mere presence of people who care have helped to stem crime on Broadway.


Talk the talk, but walk the walk

Everyone talks about crime. But residents who are willing to back up their talk by walking are having a major impact on our streets.

Crime was out of control three years ago at Park Village, a low-income housing complex in Compton. Hired guards were having little impact, and police were reluctant to enter Park Village.

The solution came from residents, who volunteered to fence off and gate the complex and to go to work for their landlord as a security force. The guards, a group of Samoans, Latinos and African-Americans called "The Committee," have secured their homes and routed gangs from Park Village.

The same citizen patrol concept paid off for residents of North Long Beach on April 30, 1992. Members of the local Neighborhood Watch, called the Lucky Social Club, came to the defense of the area's Lucky supermarket as rioting flared following the Rodney King verdicts. They ringed the store and faced down looters.

They're also walking the walk at the Sherwood Apartments, a large complex in Bellflower. The residents, many of whom moved to Bellflower to escape crime in other areas, stage nightly walking patrols of the grounds. Their group, called the Eyes of Sherwood, has already made several citizen's arrests.


Pride of place makes difference

Low-income housing is often equated with high crime rates. But one complex has moved to combat that image by instilling pride of ownership.

Residents of Springdale West in West Long Beach recently formed a residents' association. The group has improved security and added amenities for youth, including a satellite of the Boys and Girls Club of Long Beach.

Thanks to a grant from the Department of Housing and Urban Development, residents are now working with Springdale's owners on a plan to purchase their apartments.


Blockbusters spread scriptures

A group of ministers known as the Blockbusters regularly drive and walk through some of Long Beach's toughest neighborhoods to confront gang members and offer hope by sharing the Holy Scriptures.

"So many of these gang members have been deprived of love in the home," said the Rev. Granderson Wright.

Each week, members of the North Long Beach-based group, which is also known as Youth Action for Christ, drive into a neighborhood at night in a motorcade, broadcasting the gospel over loudspeakers on top of their blue and white vans.

Once the Blockbusters make their presence known, they take to the streets to talk to people and hand out leaflets in English and Spanish.

Sometimes the gang members try to intimidate the Blockbusters into leaving their neighborhoods, Wright said.

"Any time we get a gang sign or a gesture, we stop and challenge them," Wright said.

The ministers know their work is dangerous, but they said they feel protected as they go into the streets armed only with their Bibles.

"We're not afraid to come out here," Wright said. "We love these people - love dominates fear."


Neighborhood pride improves

For a textbook example of community organizing against crime, check out the saga of Long Beach's Neighbors Organized for a Safer Environment (NOSE). Launched as a Neighborhood Watch in 1990, the group has since mushroomed into a mega-watch.

Jose Ulloa and his neighbors, who prized their new neighborhood for its classic Craftsman bungalow homes, came up with a number of early innovations, including "Project Porchlight," a program that fitted every home with motion-sensitive lighting.

Ulloa recognized that crime-fighting alone could get tedious, so NOSE also concentrated on building neighborhood pride. Residents joined in Wrigley's Christmas Tree Lane Parade, helped to get a Boys and Girls Club established at Franklin Middle School and had their area designated by the city as a historic district.


A pocket of a park is reborn

Linda and Leroy Ivory found some unlikely allies when they sought to restore a kiddie park near their Wilmington home.

Thanks to the couple's persistence - and the cooperation of older street gang members - East Wilmington Vest Pocket Park once again resounds with the laughter of children.

In 1992, Linda Ivory worked with older gang members to negotiate a truce at the site, which had become a drug market and a magnet for drive-by shooters. They also convinced Los Angeles officials to install equipment and landscaping.

Today, the Ivorys and their allies are still working togeother to keep East Wilmington Vest Pocket Park drug- and violence-free.

Another ex-gang member was the catalyst in a recent success story in Long Beach's Washington Middle School neighborhood. Raul Jimenez, a former member of the East Side Longos, organized a baseball program for local teens.

Jimenez has since moved on, but his baseball program is doing well under the leadership of Alvin Bernstein, a county probation officer; and Officer Robert Mahakian, a member of the neighborhood's community policing team.


Blotting out blight works

Norwalk mail carrier Art Parra was tired of the graffiti in his neighborhood. It seemed to be everywhere, and although city workers came out occasionally to paint it over, it just wasn't enough.

"Graffiti is a symbol of crime," he said. "When we take it away, it sends a message that we don't want it in our area."

Parra got together with a few of his neighbors and decided to do something about it. They came up with a group called Graffiti Busters, later changed to Norwalk Against Graffiti.

On weekends, they go out with paint, brushes and rollers to attack the vandalism.

They've expanded beyond the western part of Norwalk where Parra lives into neighborhoods where gangs are a way of life.

Parra, a father of two, said he's not afraid of painting over graffiti, because he doesn't feel he has an alternative.

"What if I don't do anything?" he asked. "What's going to happen to my kids' future?"


Neighborhood Watch

They put up with the almost nightly sound of gunfire.

But when joy riders stole their car from in front of their Bellflower home, and burglars tried to break into the house behind them, Rocky and Pam Collucci decided enough is enough.They called the Lakewood Sheriff's Station for advice and then invited their neighbors to join them in setting up a Neighborhood Watch group.

"We're taking a stand. We're sick and tired of having to peep out the windows," Rocky Collucci said at their recent organizational meeting.

Two dozen residents on Cornuta Avenue, a street of older single-family homes, showed up for that initial meeting, along with two gung-ho block captains from nearby Eucalyptus Avenue, who came to offer moral support.

His block on Eucalyptus had improved so much - after just eight weeks of neighborhood watching - that couples can now come out for evening strolls, Roland Miles boasted.

"The streets are for us. The homes are for us ... and we've got the help we need from these guys," Miles said, referring to the sheriff's deputies.

"They've been very successful on Eucalyptus, and you guys will have the same results," Deputy Harry Bovie told the gathering in the Colluccis' side yard.

"The object of this whole program is to make sure you are never alone, that you speak with the voice of the entire neighborhood," he said.

Bovie, a 20-year sheriff's veteran, has organized about 25 neighborhood, apartment and business watch groups in Bellflower since mid-July.

The city, he said, has a total commitment to the watch concept, which law enforcment experts consider to be a key part of any community's crime-fighting plan.

The "good folks still outnumber the bad folks" in Bellflower, but the problem, in any city, he said, is getting the good folks together - then keeping them together.

He told the Cornuta residents that there are three things they'll need to be successful: a membership roster, a meeting schedule and a "calling tree."

Holding regular meetings, he said, gives everyone a chance to know one another and helps keep a group alive.

Meeting topics, he said, aren't limited to law enforcement or crime. They can be as wide-ranging as the members' interests.

They could invite a real estate agent to come talk about property values, he suggested.

With a calling tree, neighbor No. 1 calls neighbor No. 2, who calls neighbor No. 3, and so on.

Bovie related how one group used such a communications system when a burglar was seen sneaking into a house.

When the burglar came out - clutching a CD player in his arms - a small crowd was waiting to greet him.

He turned around and went back inside and didn't come out until a deputy announced over a loudspeaker that "it's safe for you to come out now."

Bovie gave the Cornuta Avenue residents some instructions - for their own safety:

"Number 1: Don't take any chances. I don't want you folks to do anything illegal. I don't want anybody hurt. I don't want anybody going to jail.

"If you decide to take pictures of anybody, do it from a position of safety.

"If you see some fool out there in the middle of the street setting up a machine gun, call us.''

Bovie, an authority on home security, also told them that outdoor lighting "is critical in keeping crooks at bay."

He also reminded them of what they already knew - that the crime rate in "The Friendly City" began to climb about a year and a half ago.

"It used to be in the mid-'80s you could sell your house and leave ... Now there's no more running," he said.

Their street, he said later, needs what Neighborhood Watch can do for it.

"It has the potential for very rapid deterioration."

A watch group works, he said, only when people are willing to get involved - to look out the window when a car alarm goes off, to call police when they see something suspicious, to sign citizens' arrests forms, and then testify in court if necessary.

"It is not as simple as getting together and talking to each other; there has to be action."

Just putting up Neighborhood Watch signs won't cut it either.

One group that knows what it takes to be successful is in the Eastside section of Long Beach.

"We've had a meeting every other month for 10 years," said LaVerne Stoops, a block captain on Freeman Avenue and a charter member of the group.

She said attendance ranges from a handful to 25 to 30 people.

Has the group had an impact on the neighborhood?

"Oh my, yes!" she responded.

"We've cleaned out some drug sales on one block. It definitely has helped."

What's their secret?

"Networking, keeping together" and watching out for one another.

"If something happens on one block," Stoops said, "we all know about it."

Seeking Solutions to a Crime

Violent crime strikes people from all walks of life, so it is not surprising that people from all walks of life are fighting back.

Just about everyone has ideas on what society can do to protect itself from criminals. This is nothing new. Three years ago, for example, California voters passed Proposition 115, a sweeping overhaul of criminal justice proceedings. The initiative was intended to speed up the judicial process, permit previously excluded evidence and extend the use of capital punishment and life sentences.

But even before Proposition 115, Californians have long supported the basic concept of lock 'em up and throw away the key, regardless of which political party was in power.

Since 1975 - the year Jerry Brown became governor - the population at California Youth Authority facilities has risen from 4,457 to 8,687. Even when population growth is factored in, the increase is still dramatic.

Similarly, during Brown's Democratic administration, the state prison population rate for every 100,000 citizens climbed from 92.1 (1975) to 138.3 (1982). During the Republican administration of George Deukmejian, it continued the upward climb, more than doubling from 154.1 (1983) to 320.9 (1990). And under Pete Wilson, it's still climbing.

Congress, meanwhile, responding to claims of overly lenient judges, has imposed sentencing guidelines, requiring federal judges to adopt mandatory minimum sentences.

In much the same vein, columnist and former presidential speech writer and candidate Pat Buchanan has called for the wholesale'' use of the death penalty.

Earlier this month in a letter to the Press-Telegram, Long Beach resident Robert R. Allison spoke out in favor of longer sentences for gun-wielding criminals and more prisons. "I, for one, am willing to pay the additional taxes required to keep criminals and their guns off the streets," he wrote.

Others have suggested making prison life more unattractive and thereby, perhaps, a greater deterrent to criminal activity.

Because most violent crimes are committed by youths, many suggestions for solutions are aimed at teen-agers and young adults.

Some recommendations are simple; others are more sophisticated. They include a strictly enforced nationwide curfew for minors; using abandoned military bases as boot camps for young offenders; instituting a 1930s-style WPA (Works Progress Administration) program to provide jobs; requiring prisoners to work to pay for their keep; and reinstituting the draft.

Jorge Altamirano has owned a foreign car repair shop on Seventh Street near Alamitos Avenue for 18 years. For the past several years - "ever since they did away with compulsory service" - he said he has watched the crime problem grow.

"For two years or four years, you got room and board, you learned a trade, and when you got out, there was the G.I. Bill so you could go to school," Altamirano said.

But no discussion of possible solutions to the out-of-control crime problem - described by one Long Beach resident as a "societal ulcer" - would be complete without looking at three suggestions: The deployment of more police, the decriminalization of some drugs and gun control.

Group Awards $25,000 to Anti-Gang Fighter

A Lynwood woman who founded a gang and crime prevention program received an award Saturday from the California Wellness Foundation, including a $25,000 grant to continue her work.

Lorna Hawkins, who lost two sons to shootings, is one of three people awarded grants by the foundation, a year-old organization that is providing $30 million in crime-prevention programs throughout the state. The other winners of the California Violence Prevention Award are Bong Hwan Kim, executive director of the Korean Youth Community Center in Los Angeles, and San Francisco Bay Area rapper Norman Berry. Foundation President Howard Kahn said the award is designed to encourage Californians to "think of violence as a preventable public health issue in which one person can really make a difference."

Hawkins founded Drive-by Agony five years ago after her son, Joe, was killed in a street shooting. Another son, Gerald, was killed in 1992.

Her agency, which includes other relatives of victims of violent crime, works to assist victims and tries to convince kids to stay out of gangs. She has also received awards from the U.S. Department of Justice and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

Drive-by Agony organizes an annual peace march in downtown Los Angeles. The April march was sparsely attended, but Hawkins is hoping for a big turnout at the next one, especially since a number of women's groups are working to rally members to the event.

Bong Hwan Kim was honored for his efforts to bring together Korean and African-Americans in Southern California, according to foundation officials. He founded the Black Korean Alliance and is a member of the Liquor Store Conversion Task Force that was formed after the riots.

Berry, who uses the stage name Chill E.B., is a Concord rapper whose songs advocate peace and racial understanding. He also helped establish a Violence Prevention Month in the Richmond Unified School District and organized Friday Night Live alcohol-free parties for teen-agers in Contra Costa County.

The awards were presented Saturday night during a banquet at the Sheraton Hotel near the Los Angeles Airport.

1994 Dart Award Final Judges

Steve Begnoche
News Editor, Ludington Daily News, Ludington, Michigan

Elizabeth Brett
President-elect, International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies (ISTSS)

Ed Chen
Washington D.C. correspondent, Los Angeles Times

Linda Harkness
Director, Michigan Victim Alliance

Susan Watson
Columnist, Detroit Free Press