By Sue Favor
LEIMERT PARK — Police and community leaders publicly called for a ceasefire Jan. 22 in an effort to curb the increased violence that has gripped South Los Angeles in the first month of the year.
The trend that began in the latter half of 2020 has shown no sign of letting up. Both homicides and shootings continue to rise in the area, by 150% and 234 %, respectively, over the first 16 days of 2021. The majority of shootings in Los Angeles — 65% — occur in South L.A.
“I haven’t seen this amount of violence since 2002,” LAPD Deputy Chief Regina Scott told those in attendance at the event outside Community Build. “If we continue this trend, L.A. is looking at 600 homicides on the year, with 250 in South L.A.”
Scott said she has also been alarmed at not only the number of people being arrested for possession of firearms, but by the type of guns that they have.
“We are seeing military-style weaponry with high-capacity ammo rounds,” Scott said.
Surrounded by several police captains, Scott issued the call to residents to do their part to stop the violence.
“This is an opportunity to make a change,” Scott said. “Yes, I will bring more police officers, but I don’t think we can arrest our way out of this. It requires a holistic approach. What are we going to do today? If not us, then who? If not now, when? Now is the time. This is a call for action and a cry for help.”
Najee Ali, the community relations ambassador for Operation Hope, organized the event. Alarmed by the unrelenting uptick in violence, he said he wanted to bring forces together to collaborate on solutions.
“I realized there is a need for us to pull this community together, because gang interventionists can’t do it alone, and neither can the police or the community,” he said. “But together we can make a difference in influencing the slowing of the carnage.
“At the end of the day, we all need each other,” he added. “No one can be successful without the help of others; it has to be a collective effort.”
Community Build President and CEO Robert Sausedo, who introduced speakers at the call to action event, said the COVID-19 pandemic has hit the South L.A. area particularly hard. As a result, frustrations have arisen.
“We are dealing with grief in our community that is centered around the pandemic and losing income, which turns into hopelessness,” Sausedo said. “We can’t continue to allow our despair to rise, because we’re killing ourselves.”
Assemblywoman Sydney Kamlager echoed that sentiment in her address to those gathered.
“The reality is that Black and brown people are killing Black and brown people,” she said. “We are already battling one war, and that is COVID. We do not need to add another one to the list.”
Ali said it is not just older community members that are helping drive up crime numbers in South L.A. and adjacent cities.
“There is a combination of social factors with COVID-19 that is giving young people frustration,” he said. “There is depression, and they’ve got too much time on their hands because they’re not in school.”
Ali and Sausedo hope that the call for a ceasefire will resonate within the community. They plan to join forces with other community organizations to provide more resources, including more gang interventionists. They also will ask Gov. Gavin Newsom for assistance.
“We can’t continue to allow despair to rise, because we’re killing ourselves,” Sausedo said. “That means we go back and find strategic ways to access resources, and identify and deploy those resources.”
“By continuing to expand our intervention into the community, we will restore hope through jobs, and other opportunities.”
Sue Favor is a freelance reporter for Wave Newspapers, who covers South Los Angeles. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.