Gang cul­ture now less overt

The cul­ture is less overt than in the past, but slay­ing of Tavin Price over his shoes shows risks re­main.

Los Angeles Times - - CALIFORNIA - JEROME CAMP­BELL­bell@la­ Times staff writer Ni­cole Santa Cruz con­trib­uted to this re­port.

Colors aren’t as im­por­tant, which is why fa­tal shoot­ing stands out.

Melvin Farmer re­mem­bers the days when Bloods and Crips openly flashed their colors. Gang mem­bers wore an evolv­ing uni­form; ban­dan­nas, T-shirts, shoes and even ear­rings to sig­nal their af­fil­i­a­tion. But Farmer, a for­mer Crip who now works as a gang in­ter­ven­tion worker, said that for many years colors re­mained the key distinc­tion.

To­day, colors, so tied to gang af­fil­i­a­tions in popular cul­ture, are rarely at the root of street con­flict. As au­thor­i­ties cracked down on gangs with in­junc­tions and other new tools, the cul­ture has be­come less overt.

“If you dressed in gang at­tire with the colors, it was pretty much a red flag for of­fi­cers,” said LAPD Det. Chris Bar­ling, who has been work­ing homi­cides in South Los An­ge­les for more than 20 years. “Gang mem­bers don’t wear their colors in public any­more, so those colors don’t tell as much about the in­di­vid­ual.”

This is what made the killing of 19-year-old Tavin Price stand out. Price went to a carwash in Hyde Park with his mother May 29 when a man has­sled Price over his shoes: red Chuck Tay­lors. Po­lice be­lieve that the color of the shoes may have played a role in the shoot­ing.

Price, who had a men­tal dis­abil­ity, left the man and re­turned to his mother. The man fol­lowed and de­manded that Price take off the shoes. When he did not com­ply, the man opened fire and fa­tally shot Price, who was rushed to a hos­pi­tal where he died in surgery.

“He was not a gang­banger. He did not hang out with any­one in a gang. He never did any­thing to even be re­motely as­so­ci­ated with that life­style,” said Jen­nifer Rivers, Price’s mother.

The fa­tal shoot­ing was the sixth within a one-mile ra­dius in the last year, ac­cord­ing to re­cent coro­ner’s data. The carwash is also on the di­vid­ing line be­tween two ri­val gangs, Farmer said.

“It’s about where you’re from,” Farmer said. “Crips and Bloods could be in the same area, but if some­one wan­ders out­side of their area, then they risk get­ting killed.”

Three days af­ter Price was killed, a 51-year old man was shot to death two miles away in Manch­ester Square.

Po­lice say that Carl Betts and an­other per­son were sit­ting in a sedan when a dark-colored car pulled up and a per­son in­side mut­tered what some would say are the most danger­ous words in the county: “Where you from?”

The gun­man opened fire, strik­ing Betts, who was pro­nounced dead at the scene.

In the 77th Street Divi- sion, where Price and Betts were killed, the num­ber of re­ported shoot­ing vic­tims is up by nearly 20 in­ci­dents over the same pe­riod last year. Most of the shoot­ings in­volve gangs.

Wes McBride, the ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor of the Cal­i­for­nia Gang In­ves­ti­ga­tors Assn., said that gang crime is cycli­cal. Af­ter years of his­toric lows in crime, some ar­eas are see­ing a rise in gang shoot­ings.

“Hope­fully [it] doesn’t get rolling again,” McBride said.

Any­one with in­for­ma­tion is asked to call the Crim­i­nal Gang Homi­cide Di­vi­sion at (323) 786-5113.

Those who wish to re­main anony­mous can call Crime Stop­pers at (800) 222-8477.

Lawrence K. Ho Los An­ge­les Times

JAMES PRICE at­tends a vigil this week for his brother Tavin Price, killed at a carwash on the di­vid­ing line be­tween gang ter­ri­to­ries.

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