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Conversation : Reclaiming Responsibility for Our Neighborhoods

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One clue that a neighborhood is ripe for picking by gangs is that it appears unkempt. A bottle left on a lawn. Grass not cut. A broken window in an abandoned apartment building that nobody thinks anything of. But the element you don’t want in your neighborhood is thinking about it. And, before you know it, they’ve moved in and they’ve taken over and you’ve got to fight to get your neighborhood back.

Apathy is the single most pervasive disease in Los Angeles. This indifference can lead to people taking the attitude: “It’s my neighborhood, but it’s not my job. Let somebody else do it.” They turn their heads and do nothing. What makes people so tolerant of somebody urinating publicly in 1995 when it would not have been tolerated in 1955? They wait for somebody else to take the initiative and solve the problems for them. Pretty soon they’ve forgotten how to do things--or how to get things done--at all.

If there’s graffiti on the building next door to you, even though it’s not your house or your garage or your fence, you still pick up the telephone and call the proper agency, not just the police, to paint it out. You don’t put your couch and your old mattress in the yard and just leave them there. You get on the phone and you call the bulk items section of the Department of Sanitation and you have them pick it up at a proper time.

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You’ve got make the people aware of which agencies to call and how to hold them accountable. Gradually--and I know this is a gigantic dream--but everybody in the city will be alert and interact with all these governmental agencies and we’ll have a wonderful, beautiful city.

I think what the ‘90s represent is a new way to deal with community problems. It’s a reclaiming of the quality of life. It’s a different kind of civil rights--an advance in civil rights--by reclaiming civil responsibilities. Get on the team. Get the passion in your gut and go out and do it.

The gang problem will not be solved simply or soon, but if gang members see that a neighborhood is well-cared for, they know they have no place there.


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