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From the Archives: In 1979, no more cruising on Whittier Boulevard

Growing crowds and rising violence led the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department to shut down the weekend tradition known as cruising Whittier Boulevard.

Staff writer Joy Horowitz reported in the Aug. 8, 1979, Los Angeles Times:

...Whittier Blvd. on a Saturday night. It’s an odd ritual–a cross among a harmless urban mating dance, a California car obsession, a relief from boredom and a senseless flirtation with death–that brings a subculture of Mexican-American teen-agers to this incorporated section of East Los Angeles just east of the Long Beach Freeway on weekend night.

But it is a tradition gone sour, tarnished by gang violence. And in a matter of weeks, it is a tradition that will come to a screeching halt, at least on the mile-long strip (of Whittier Blvd.) between Atlantic Blvd. and Eastern Ave. that recently gained national attention as the scene of the film “Boulevard Nights.” …

According to the Sheriff’s Department, in the past year-and-a-half 16 homicides have occurred on Whittier Blvd., comprising 50% of all gang-related deaths in the sheriff’s 14-square-mile jurisdiction in East Los Angeles.

During the same period, the Sheriff’s Dept. reports arrests for 164 felony assaults, 119 weapons violations, 8 rapes, 3 arsons and 73 burglaries along Whittier Blvd. Eighty-five percent of those arrests involve people from outside the East L.A. area, the Sheriff’s Department says, pointing out that cruisers come from as far away as San Jose, San Diego, Santa Barbara and Pomona. …

On Aug. 31, 1979, the Sheriff’s Department closed Whittier between Atlantic and Eastern. At 11 p.m., staff photographer Rick Meyer took the image below of a movie theater at Atlantic and Whittier playing “Boulevard Nights.”

In 2017, retro cruising events have officials looking to curb cruising on Whittier Boulevard once more.

See more from the Los Angeles Times archives here

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