A jumble of murmuring in Spanish and English. A couple of kids chase each other around in the back of the room, sneakers smacking against the linoleum floor. Up at the front, Sergeant Juan Franco of LAPD’s Rampart division leads a discussion on the changes taking place in Los Angeles as a result of recent elections.
The mainly Hispanic audience huddled in one of two buildings that remain open during renovations at The Salvation Army’s LA Red Shield Youth and Community Center. The center has long been a safe space for the many diverse pockets of the Pico-Union community--youth seeking refuge from the gang territory immediately surrounding the center, seniors looking to stay active through sports programs, students in need of resources, and so forth.
Tonight, a community with a less-than-friendly history with law enforcement sat listening, learning. The community forum was one of four events hosted by the LAPD in partnership with local communities. The department’s goal was to bridge the gap between law enforcement and cultures that traditionally saw the police as corrupt, untrustworthy officials as opposed to officers who were sworn to protect and serve. It was firmly established to attendees that police officers were unrelated to immigration and deportation and that immigrants who have been victims of major crimes are actually assisted by law enforcement in obtaining a special visa called a U Visa.
Senior Lead Officer Patty Braendle has worked with the Pico-Union community for 12 years and within Rampart for 15 years. Just the other night, a shooting around the corner put the LA Red Shield under lockdown yet again, something they’ve unfortunately become used to.Click on a colored block to learn more about the gangs that inhibit the area.
Pico-Union is home to 18th Street, the largest transnational criminal gang in Los Angeles. According to Ofc. Braendle, the impact that the LA Red Shield has on the community has been huge.
“I can’t tell you how many gang members--or, used to be gang members--came here, or kids that came here because they were scared. They thought that they were going to get jumped into a gang and basically this was their outlet,” she says.
The LA Red Shield provides quality, affordable programming designed to successfully keep kids out of gangs and instead getting them involved in Arts, Sports, and Educational Programs. Such programs include, but are not limited to, aerobics/Zumba classes, karate classes, ballet/yoga, and cooking classes.