City Hopes Cameras Will Deter Gang Activity in South L.A. Park

Angel Jennings, Los Angeles Times, July 22, 2012

In the world of gangsta rap music videos, the one released by local rapper Gee Slick could be considered tame.

Except for a simulated sex scene, some gun violence and the song’s descriptive lyrics—which offer a step-by-step guide to making crack cocaine—it’s a typical video featuring a rapper flanked by a few of his homies.

But the video’s backdrop isn’t a studio or movie set, it’s a city-owned park.

The video was enough to alarm officials, who knew that a Bloods street gang had claimed Jackie Tatum Harvard Park in South Los Angeles. Nobody realized they were filming such graphic material inside the public space. {snip}


The video pushed the city to fund cameras at the park, a $200,000 project that had stalled in City Hall for almost three years due to budget constraints. Now, the first camera is slated to go up later this month.

For years, police and city officials have battled gang members at the park.

Reputed gang members would often guard the entrance, denying access to neighbors and construction crews. The situation became so dangerous that Los Angeles City Councilman Bernard C. Parks advised his staff not to enter the park alone.

Police found it difficult to patrol the sprawling facility, which includes a pool, skate ramps and a gymnasium.

“We’ve spent $3 million on the swimming pool and found that less and less people were coming to the park because of gang intimidation,” said Parks, whose district encompasses Harvard Park.

Until recently, the community had very little reason to visit the park, with its brown, brittle grass and worn basketball and tennis courts.

But in 2009, the park got a facelift.

Officials opened a water park with swimming pools and a slide. The courts were resurfaced. The park’s name was changed to usher in a new beginning.

For a while, things were looking up, until gang members refused to allow construction workers inside the park unless their members were hired to help build the skate ramps.

“It was a very strange situation where [gang reduction] people did not think it was unusual that we pay a bounty to allow construction,” Parks said. “We didn’t think our role is to participate in extortion.”


Then, last summer, the music video by Gee Slick surfaced online. The video showed him standing on the gymnasium’s roof rapping about “washing dishes,” slang for cooking crack cocaine.

Two other videos also popped up online. One, a documentary that walks viewers through the intricate process of turning powder cocaine into crack rock, was shot inside the park’s pantry. The other shows footage from behind the scenes of the music video.


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