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Sunday, 17 January 2010

LA Gang Tours

TOURISTS visiting Los Angeles now have a choice between snooping around stars' homes in the Hollywood Hills and gawking at gang members' homes in South Central.

LA Gang Tours was due to take its first group of eager onlookers overnight around sites like the LA County Jail, Skid Row, home to 90,000 homeless people, and the birthplace of the Black Panther Party. The company's website says it aims to
"provide customers with a true first-hand encounter of the history and origin of high profile gang areas and top crime scene locations."

The man behind the concept, former gang member Alfred Lomas, 45, also hopes to create jobs for residents of the areas the tour goes through and will give a percentage of profits back to the community for projects.Before embarking on the tour, people must sign a waiver saying that they have voluntarily exposed themselves to risks including death, injury, and property damage.

It’s nice to have a niche I suppose. In New Orleans you can take a tour of graveyards, Memphis has Graceland, and now tourists can pay $65 dollars for LA Gang Tours; art imitating life I suppose. Or something like that. Founder Alfred Thomas says there’s a fascination with gangs and he feels that addressing the issue head on with LA Gang Tours is a positive way to deal with the situation.

Today the group took its first tour with about 40 people on a bus. It works like this, first you have to sign a waiver stating that you understand your life may be in danger and that you may become a crime victim yourself. You then hand your $65 dollars over to an ex-gang member and off you go.Some of the stops on the tour include the LA County Jail, because so many gang members wind up there and are born there I suppose. The LA Riverbed where several big time movies have been made like The Terminator, Grease, and Transformers, Skid Row which is where about 20,000 homeless spend their nights, Florencia 13 one of the oldest gangs in South Central LA, and the Birthplace of the LA chapter of The Black Panther Party, who knows maybe you might see some of Obama’s advisors there.On the LA Gang Tours website their slogan is “saving lives, creating jobs, rebuilding communities.” Alfred Thomas, a former Florencia 13 member is either crazy or crazy like a fox. I don’t think there’s any question people will sign up to take the tour; it’s just a question of whether or not the city government will intervene to shut it down. Some city politicians are worried it might be too dangerous, that someone might get hurt.
A supposed cease fire has been worked out when the tour is scheduled. I suppose that’s a good thing, you wouldn’t want your tour bus rolling up into the middle of a gang war. The LA Gang Tour is tentatively scheduled to run once a month and employee 10 part-time ex-gang bangers. The whole idea behind the tour is to educate people about the history of gangs and what can be done to end gang violence in South Central Los Angeles. Let’s hear it for entrepreneurial spirit and capitalism. You can watch a 3 minute video of the tour below."Only miles from the scenic vistas and celebrity mansions that draw sightseers from around the globe - but a world away from the glitz and glamour - a bus tour is rolling through the dark side of the city's gang turf.
Passengers paying $65 a head Saturday signed waivers acknowledging they could be crime victims and put their fate in the hands of tattooed ex-gang members who say they have negotiated a cease-fire among rivals in the most violent gangland in America.If that sounds daunting, consider the challenge facing organizers of LA Gang Tours: trying to build a thriving venture that provides a glimpse into gang life while also trying to convince people that gang-plagued communities are not as hopeless as movies depict."


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