What You Need to Know About Gangs in Los Angeles in 2015 ~ A Q&A With Sam Quinones

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Sam Quinones is an author and journalist who lives and works in Los Angeles. He spent many years with the Los Angeles Times, and has done some of his best work since leaving the organization, including recent pieces in the New York Times, National Geographic, and Pacific Standard magazine. The author of several books, including the forthcoming Dreamland: The True Tale of America’s Opiate Epidemic, he is also the originator of the Tell Your True Tale workshop which we have featured here on L.A. Taco (here, and here). Sam is a nationally known as an expert on gangs in Los Angeles, and we wanted to get some basic information that could be useful for all Angeleños…

You recently said that the Mexican Mafia is something all Angelenos should know about. What are some basics that you can share with our readers?

That’s a big topic. Basically, the Eme is perhaps an enormously important institution in the lives of people who live in Latino barrios across Southern California. It is so because two decades ago it began organizing, from prisons and county jail, the Latino gang members on the streets, ordering them to tax drug dealers in their areas and funnel part of the profits to whatever Eme member controlled the gang’s area, or his associates or family members.

This new system was instituted by one or two, then copied by many other Mexican Mafia members. The taxation system transformed a prison gang into a mafia on the streets. It transformed local neighborhood gang members from guys who strictly were about controlling their turf into guys far more interested in making money and acquiring power.

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Above: “Boxer” Enriquez, former Mexican Mafia killer turned informant who was recently denied parole.

The local Eme member, from his cell in Pelican Bay or Corcoran maximum security, could in broad terms control things on the street, ordering a gang to kill its own members, which is something that never happened before. They also have ordered some gangs to tax certain businesses that have nothing to do with drug sales but are on the edge of legality – like ice cream and fruit vendors, cantinas and bar operators.

Some Eme members have ordered what amounts to crime waves in their areas. Many have let it be known that they didn’t want blacks operating in their territories, leading gangs to go on ethnic cleansing crusades for a several years.  (Continued)

Loud Sex Noises From Santa Monica Palihouse Hotel Plague Neighbor

Living next to a hotel in a quiet residential areas has its challenges, and apparently living near a “sexy” hotel offers its own special issues. Westside Today has produced the above video which goes into the issue of horny hotel visitors in Santa Monica getting too loud for one (somewhat unhinged) neighbor’s liking.

Petition: Change the Avenue 43 Freeway Ramps

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A petition on Change.org is asking State Senator Kevin de Leon to improve the on/off ramps of the Arroyo Seco Parkway at Avenue 43. As of this writing, the petition needs around 300 more signatures to reach its goal of 1,000.

Anyone who has driven on the 110 North or South near Avenue 43 knows the problem– the entry/exit ramps put you right onto the freeway without room to accelerate, and provide limited visibility of fast-moving freeway traffic. The group thinks that making the exit/entry lanes dedicated lanes would solve the problem. Taking away a lane may cause problems of its own on the two-lane Parkway, but the petition stresses the safety issue as the primary concern.

As the petition (brought to our attention by reader Annie M.) mentions, there are extensive changes likely happening to the 110 Freeway, including new on/off ramps for Avenue 43 and others, but it will take years to complete. The petitioners want one of the potential changes put in place immediately.

The petition reads in part:

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Dodgers Fans Demand Team Remove Photo of Mexican President from Instagram

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This week Dodgers First Baseman, Mexican citizen Adrian Gonzalez, was in Mexico City and met with the country’s embattled president, Enrique Peña Nieto. A photo was posted to the Dodgers’ Instagram account showing Gonzalez giving Peña Nieto a customized Dodgers jersey. Almost immediately, a firestorm of outraged comments rained down on the photo, with almost all commenters taking the Dodgers to task for associating themselves with the President of Mexico in the current climate of fear, anger, and “Ya Me Canse“. Dodgers fans are now (according to the Instagram comments) calling the Dodgers PR department non-stop, demanding that the photo be removed.

As of this post, the photo has 4,300 comments. An average photo on the Dodgers instagram photo gets at most a few hundred comments. A representative comment: “I can deal with you guys losing in the playoffs. I can deal with you guys having the highest payroll in the entire league. We will not put up with you associating yourself with such scum.”

People are asking others to report the photo, unfollow the account, and are using hashtags like #AYOTZINAPA #ayotzinapasomostodos #yamecanse to express their fury at this representation of perceived support for the Government of Mexico, its President, and his party. It’s going to be very interesting to watch this unfold today and if the Dodgers will end up removing the photo or making some kind of statement. The most important number in the history of the Dodgers is Jackie Robinson’s 42, but today fans are making it 43.

Boyle Heights Hangover Cure Inventor Goes Missing in NYC

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The Los Angeles Times last night reported on a rather bizarre sounding story full of strange and incongruous details. The story starts off normally enough, about a Los Angeles man who hasn’t been seen since Thanksgiving when he went to New York:

New York City police are searching for a Boyle Heights man who disappeared two days before Thanksgiving.

Steven Reynoso, 30, was last seen at 6 p.m. on Nov. 25 leaving the Renaissance Hotel on 7th Avenue, according to the NYPD. He was wearing a black pea coat, black jeans, black tennis shoes and carrying a black bag.

Reynoso was in New York with his girlfriend. She told police that Reynoso had told her he was going to visit friends as she was getting ready to see a Broadway show.

The story then adds some interesting details via the New York Daily News, which notes the following:

  • When the man’s girlfriend didn’t hear from him for a day, she called her mother out to NYC to stay with her and wait.
  • When she ran out of money after a few days, she flew home to L.A.
  • She then dropped off the man’s luggage at his parents’ house, and according the man’s father Angel, who also said: “That was the last time we saw her, We don’t know anything about her.”
  • According to his father, Steven Reynoso was the inventor of a hangover cure, and was in New York City to market his invention.
  • Also according to the father, it would be a bad idea to make a public appeal on camera. He told CBS2 that “I can’t go on camera,” he said, “it might do more harm to my son.”

Meanwhile it’s been over two weeks and Reynoso has not been heard from. The police describe Reynoso as 5 foot 10 and 260 pounds and say he was last seen by the girlfriend leaving his Hotel near Times Square. As a service to readers, please don’t read the comments on the L.A. Times website. They are literally mostly jokes about the man’s weight and ethnicity.

MONDAY 11/3: EYEHATEGOD in Los Angeles

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MONDAY 11/3 get ready for EYEHATEGOD on tour with POWER TRIP and IRON REAGAN with local heroes WITCHAVEN and DEADBEAT at Los Globos!  3040 W. Sunset Blvd in Los Angeles.  18+ 8pm.  Limited advanced tickets available now at Headline Records 7706 Melrose Ave.  $20 at the door night of the show.  More info here.

Change the Name Protest Against the Washington Redsk*ns ~ Photos by Douglas Miles

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Douglas Miles is an artist living and working on the San Carlos Apache Nation in Arizona. Here he recounts his experience at the recent “Change the Name” protest in Phoenix, and shares his photographs of the event.

On Sunday October 12th the Phoenix Cardinals were to play the Washington Redskins in Phoenix Arizona. My friend Monica and I were invited personally via facebook by Amanda Blackhorse to attend an anti-mascot protest rally. This meant I would not only be there but I would photograph this radical event. For those that don’t know, Amanda Blackhorse was the lead plaintiff in Blackhorse v. Pro-Football, Inc. which sought to revoke trademark protection of the term “Washington Redskins” because it is disparaging and racist to Native Americans. She won. The Redskins team is now suing her in a “payback” move. Amanda, a single mother from the Navajo tribe, currently works as a social worker on the Navajo Nation.

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R.I.P. TRIGZ

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Mr. Trigz AKA Trigger AKA Christopher Pebley Sr. was one of the beloved figures of the Los Angeles underground art, tattoo, and graffiti scenes. His charisma was evident whenever he walked into a room, and he made friends across a wide spectrum of L.A. He was a dedicated father, who leaves behind a fiancee and five kids from age 2 to 23. While he fit into some categories like “party animal”, “artist”, “criminal past”, “Tattooed Man”, he transcended all of them and to most people grieving today he was simply a friend. Many people across Los Angeles and around the world are mourning the huge loss of Trigz today.

News reports are still sketchy, but the basics of the story is that LAPD believes a simple street dispute escalated to the point where a single suspect, described as male in his 30’s, shot Trigz in the torso and escaped in a white Honda Accord. This happened in North Hollywood near the Black Derby Smoke Shop.

Friends and family are raising money for funeral expenses here.

All photos by Trigz’ close friend Pep Williams.

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Surfers Shoot the Malibu Pier (Two Videos)

The above drone video shows surfer Allen Sarlo “shooting the pier” at Malibu the other day. Shooting the pier is a classic California surfing maneuver meaning to go between the pilings and not fall off (or die, see below). Back in the early days of California surfing in the 1950s and 1960s it was what could set you apart from the rest of the gang and get all the beach bunnies riled up. From a Malibu Patch article from a few years back that mentions Sarlo shooting the pier during the last huge Malibu swell:

Sarlo made it through the pier several times, approaching it at speed and looking for the gaps that hid broken pilings that could have killed him if he’d hit them. Sarlo shot the pier several times, made it through on all of them and even did a big reentry in the shorebreak— detonating in front of the parking lot.

Shooting the Malibu Pier is dangerous business. The pilings aren’t angled correctly, and you have to pick a wave that stays green as it moves through. Back in the late 1950s, an African-American surfer named Nick Gabaldon died when he hit the pier while trying to shoot it. The incident is mentioned in the 1957 novella Gidget.

Another angle from the beach when Laird Hamilton shot the pier.

Want to know more about Nick Gabaldon? Check out the clip below:

Updated Skid Row Mural ~ Downtown Los Angeles

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Update on the Skid Row mural we posted about earlier this year…

The name “Skid Row” is known to everyone in Los Angeles, but it does not appear on ANY official City of los Angeles map, street sign, or city documents. Earlier this year, Fire Station 9, which serves the area and is known as “the busiest fire station in the United States” was ordered to remove any Skid Row designations from their 5 fire trucks. In response they created a web-site and petition to restore the name to their vehicles: http://www.firestation9skidrow.org/help.html

The city prefers the name Central City East and would possibly like to pretend Skid Row, and what it represents, doesn’t really exist. Anyone who actually lives Downtown know it as Skid Row and knows where its basic borders lie.

Defining Skid Row is thus a challenge and an opportunity to those who live there or nearby. In 2006 a court case known as Jones Vs. the City of Los Angeles (case No. 04-55324) the borders of Skid Row were defined as Main St to the West, Alameda St. to the east, Third St to the North, and Seventh St to the South.

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LAPD on Social Media: Selfies, Big Guns, and Live Coverage of Crime Scenes

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In 2011, I published a piece here on L.A. Taco calling out the LAPD and Homicide Detective Sal LaBarbera for using Twitter in I what I felt was an unprofessional style. The post set off a firestorm of criticism and praise of my stance, and started a conversation in the media about the proper use of social media by public employees. Since then, numerous law enforcement agencies and their officers have have adopted social media to stay better connected with communities and to give their perspective take on the news. You can literally look up the majority of departments on the big three social media channels: Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. As with anything else in today’s hyperconnected world, sometimes there’s such a thing as overly connected, and it leads to interesting results. Let’s review some recent postings…

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