Monday, June 25, 2007

Good News from Watts

My dad worked in Watts back in the day. Things were tough then, but they're tougher now. Here's a post from the Los Angeles Times Homicide Report, written by Jill Leovy, which I've written about before.
"Watts United": "A crowd of at least 100 gathered Thursday for a candlelight vigil to mark the driveby-shooting death of 15-year-old Dovon Harris in the Nickerson Gardens housing project. LAPD Southeast Capt. Rick Jacobs announced a suspect was in custody. The crowd cheered and clapped."
Some folks wrote nice responses to the post. Some others took an opportunity to comment on the reporter's note about lack of cooperation among witnesses in some urban neighborhoods. Here's part of what Leovy wrote:
It works like this: Witness reluctance affords killers impunity, and gives them power to essentially become underworld lords, ruling lawless ethnic enclaves created by the inexorable calculus of housing segregation and poverty. Within such enclaves, violence becomes a kind of currency that people ignore at their peril, and formal legal protection does not exist. Men and boys, in particular, experience extreme pressure to demonstrate they too are capable of violence. If they appear weak, they risk falling on the wrong side of the violent transactions that organize this underworld. They must walk tough, talk tough, and cultivate a reputation for being dangerous if provoked.
One snarky commenter wrote, "It is called an ANONYMOUS POLICE TIP LINE. Perhaps the people of South LA have heard of it! Pick up the phone and help the detectives out."

I'd bet that the commenter has never lived or thought about life in a place like New Orleans, Watts, or Iraq. Of course you can tip police anonymously. But that doesn't hold in court. Police need someone to stand up and point to the perpetrator. It's not the only admissible evidence, but it certainly helps to convict. I've seen it personally, and plenty of other people have seen it on TV or read about it in print. It takes enormous courage to do such a thing. You risk your life if you testify. To be so flippant about life in a war zone is just plain insensitive.

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