How Dangerous Is Compton, Actually? - Chronicling Compton - January 29, 2014

Now this is a question that I will keep asking and coming back to for as long as I'm here:  how dangerous is Compton, actually?

The question won't be answered with this one blog post.

But I should let you know that now that I am a resident, a homeowner, someone with a vested interest in the community, with an Anthropological point of view, I feel almost inclined to de-construct previous constructions of Compton and respond saying, "it's not that dangerous!"

However, I don't know much about other areas that are not West Compton, and have been keeping to my own for the most part --- not really going out of my way to interview anyone, simply living daily life here, taking what comes my way, and occasionally blogging about it.

First, the Quick Bits:
Shooting the Shit About Compton

There have been multiple quality discussions about Compton on various platforms, which always tend to center around its safety:
Shooting the Shit out of Compton

People have drove by and shot...

videos about the city.

The one at night being weird and paranoid riding along Rosecrans Avenue.

What the Stats and News Reports Say

The crime statistics seem all over the place at first glance, with de-contextualized numbers thrown all over the place, and labels such as "murder capital" or "violent reputation" also haphazardly being littered over a simple Google search. 

.As late as 2005, Compton had the most murders per 100,000 people in the US.  Using reported data from the FBI, the CQ press listed Compton as the 8th city with the highest crime score (crime score including rape, robbery, assault, burglary, and motor theft) for 2010.   

In 2008, the rates of murder dropped significantly.  If you look at the old statistics, you can see that Compton averaged almost 66 murders from 1985-2000.  The numbers have been reduced significantly to 28 in 2008, and finally dipping to 17 in 2011.  The LA County Sheriff's Office sort of pats itself on the back for its increased presence.

However, as of late, maybe were not out of the woods after all.  Through the Homicide Report, The LA Times has tracked 36 murders over the past 12 months, still making Compton the 6th deadliest neighborhood in LA County.   

Some website called neighborhood scout says that any individual has a 1/81 chance of becoming the victim of a violent crime;  a stark contrast to the 1/236 in all of California.  However, becoming a victim of property crime is slightly lower in Compton (1/41) than in California (1/36), which isn't statistically significant.  To me the violent crime rate being excessively high paired with the property crime rate roughly correlating to the rate in the entire state, suggests that the violent crimes are probably not as random as you would be lead to believe. 

Seems that network analysis of violent crimes detailing relations between an assailant and victim would really help in terms of helping people understand the nature of crime.

Narratives of Crime in ComptonThe Export Report

I think the majority of the way people in general interface with the word/name "Compton" is by way of hearing some rapper mentioning it or by hearing it as a place referenced by another (usually) black celebrity.

Compton was NWA's and gangsta rap's "container", meaning, the "physical environment", the city, that gave rise to gangsta rap.  There is no other regular, widespread interface with the word/name other than the rap songs about it, bits and pieces from local news, and stories from current superstar celebrities about the difficult "growing up" and "back in the day."

Rap has undoubtedly framed the narratives of Compton.  Rappers mentioning streets and locations has untraced influence on not only the insiders of Compton, but the outsiders who hear about it and become curious about it.  Rapgenius has a map, dotting a few places referenced in rap songs.  Compton has only 4 spots ticked off (Greenleaf Avenue, Gonzales Park, Nestor Ave, and the 110/105 interchange) which seems a little low. The Game's Stepfather has even started doing Tours of South LA and Compton based on rappers.

With the Grammys having passed and the Super Bowl still on the way, Compton is getting a lot of mention in the mainstream media by way of two different entertainers, both probably still not quite understood by "mainstream" America.  

A)  Kendrick Lamar
B)  Richard Sherman

Both grounded and proud of their roots.

There is no shortage of articles (or adjectives) celebrating them (or any other celebrity) for rising from the "dangerous", "low-income", "gang-afflicted" rough neighborhoods.

It seems like it's been this way all the time.

It's as if coming from Compton (or any other type of "underserved, underprivileged, downtrodden, subaltern" is today's black celebrity's rite of passage.  It's almost like these celebrities needed it to be "tough" so that they could "learn" and "be great" --- as in the status quo of guns, murder, drugs, and poverty, was needed to make them who they were.

I'm sure that over the years, many many smart minds have wanted to somehow reform Compton.

The latest idea comes from our 31-year old newly installed mayor.

The new Brooklyn.

Says mayor Aja Brown.

Hope hope hope like that mural you see along the Blue Line when you enter the Compton stop.

Richard Sherman Is Probably Smarter Than You - Chronicling Compton - January 22, 2014

Richard Sherman Is Probably Smarter Than You:  The Export Report

Well, by now, a lot of commentary has been laid upon Richard Sherman for an interview he gave immediately after having made the key play that took his team to the Super Bowl.

I'll be honest.  As a casual NFL fan whose loyalties are with Da Bears, and non-native of Compton, I didn't even know who he was during the game.

I'd vaguely recalled some guy with dreadlocks getting burned a few times by Kaepernick.  I'd thought that was Richard Sherman.   However I was informed by said best man, that he'd only been thrown to twice.

Turns out that Richard Sherman is actually one of the top cornerbacks/defensive players in the entire NFL.

And he hails from...

Dominguez High. 

He graduated #2 in his class with a 1400 (out of 1600) on his SATs, went to Stanford, yeah, that's more than a lot of people already.

Not that these accomplishments and stats are an end-all be-all for intelligence, but it doesn't seem like it'd be smart for anyone to box him in with one label, particularly a negative one.

Before the game started, it was all about the Quarterbacks, Colin Kaepernick vs. Russell Wilson.  Kaepernick looked great until that final interception. It seems like this will be the next big rivalry.

But after the game trolling the internet for rapid reaction to the game, expecting to see boo hooing 49er fans, I didn't find much except the video of Sherman.
The titles linking to the video were suggesting that this video was outrageous, hilarious, etc. etc.

I ignored these links initially, but then started seeing other people share it.

In the two question interview,  Sherman didn't appear to answer the question posed to him, but instead made a super-enthusiastic, bold statement to the wide receiver that he had been covering all game, Michael Crabtree.

He basically said that he was the best and that the wide receiver Michael Crabtree was "mediocre."

Reaction ensued, with some predictably making comments with racial overtones.  For instance, labelling him a "thug"  or "cuckoo", the same predictable labels assigned to black athletes.  I already knew what was coming in these posts.

The best piece of media re-buffing these labels?  Richard Sherman himself.

 "There was a hockey game where they didn't even play hockey, they just threw the puck aside and started fighting. I saw that, and said, 'Oh man, I'm the thug? What's going on here?'"
 I know some 'thugs,' and they know I'm the furthest thing from a thug. I've fought that my whole life, just coming from where I'm coming from. Just because you hear Compton, you hear Watts, you hear cities like that, you just think 'thug, he's a gangster, he's this, that, and the other,' and then you hear Stanford, and they're like, 'oh man, that doesn't even make sense, that's an oxymoron.'
"You fight it for so long, and to have it come back up and people start to use it again, it's frustrating."

I checked in with a conservative source, Michelle Malkin's Facebook page. She had over 5000 comments.

While there was a fair amount of labelling and prejudice-throwing based on that short interview, which (sadly) I've come to expect, I was sort of impressed at how there was some semblance of nuance in some peoples' answers, with some people actually defending him.

It's anecdotal, but I do follow that page every so often on key issues.  There is very very little room for anyone to defend Obama.  Anyone who defends on Obama policy on that page is hastily shouted down.  However, there was considerably more positive, even nuanced reaction for Richard Sherman.  People even seemed rational!

Reminds me of a quote by some French philosopher about how there is an intelligence people have reserved for sports that doesn't show a lot in other domains.

Here's a few of the better pieces about Mr. Sherman:
I look forward to a Super Bowl where he hopefully overcomes NFL marketing golden boy Peyton Manning, incidentally of New Orleans.

Compton in Pop Culture 

Thinking about the Richard Sherman narrative, and how Compton is used as a synonym for hardship and struggle, it's always interesting how Compton is portrayed in various mediums in pop culture.

Unless they're talking about our new mayor, there isn't much positive yet.

There's a somewhat funny article about moving out of Southern California from a former Southern Californian:  20 Things Nobody Tells You About Moving Out of Southern California.

Check out slide #6.
Our beloved town is commented on:

To you, Compton is just a place off the 105 freeway that used to have a high murder rate but is actually pretty chill now.

To the rest of the country, Compton is like Somalia. Even the word "Compton" is used as a synonym for Murdertown USA. Tell someone you grew up in Southern California, they immediately want to know if you've been to Compton. When you tell them you have, they immediately think you're a Special Forces level badass.

In the News
Real-Life Dwightmare - Dwight Ave and Compton Blvd:  The Bike Report

There was a death on this very intersection about a week ago, as reported by Bikinginla.

A white man in his 50s who is identified as "Don Pete" was riding his bike very early before 5AM on a Wednesday morning.

The details as to what exactly happened are unclear.

A white bike has gone up on the Northwest corner of Compton Blvd and Dwight Ave in memoriam of Pete.

On the Southeast corner of Compton Blvd and Dwight Ave, another white bike has been a fixture for almost 4 years.

On February 15, 2010, in the broad daylight of a Monday morning at 8AM, a Ford utility van took out 40-year old Ovidio Morales, a father of five.

According to Bikinginla, the driver blew through a red light on a right turn from Dwight to Compton, and hit Morales, dragging him beneath the car.

The driver checked on him briefly, then fled the scene.

Eyewitnesses say that the driver was on a cell phone.

Despite the surveillance video footage, the case has remained unsolved.

So what's up with Dwight and Compton Blvd?

View Larger Map

As someone who regularly uses Compton Blvd. and crosses this very intersection quite regularly, usually to get to the Blue Line (and one time, the Compton Creek), I hate this fucking street.

There are two lanes, the right lane is narrow.  The speed limit is 35.

I definitely didn't feel safe on Compton Blvd in general at current conditions even before knowing of these two deaths.  I definitely would not allow my non-bike-commuting fiance to bike on anything other than the sidewalk.  I feel even worse knowing about these tragedies.

Drivers appear to have caused their respective tragedies due to neglect while at this particular intersection.

There doesn't seem to be anything especially dangerous in the environment other than scant lighting in the 5AM darkness that took away Don Pete.  I'm not sure what the excuse was for the Ovidio's killer.

It's these deaths and the fecklessness with which they seem to be treated that make me believe that when it comes to biking, physical environmental change is much more important and critical than simply "education" or an attitudinal shift and bike awareness for drivers --- the only way they get that is by riding a bike themselves on the street.

Neighbors Who Care

I didn't want to end on a negative note, well mostly not negative, unless you're part of Government public works or whoever the hell picks up our trash.

We took down our Christmas tree right on the morning of Wednesday, January 8th.  I de-ornamentized the tree, swept up everything, and plopped the Christmas tree right next to our garbage cans so that the garbageman could pick them up, the next day, Thursday, the trash day.

I'd been planning to cut it up and dump in in the green trash can, the plant refuse can, but then I read on an LA County website that I would be able to leave a Christmas tree there.  See Below.

I didn't see anywhere where Compton had any special instructions.

Of course when Thursday came, nobody actually picked it up.  It remained sitting in the sidewalk for a few days.

By the next Tuesday it had been kicked aside and was lying down, as if some kids had just fooled around with it.  I mean, yes it was trash, but still that was our tree.

It looked so hopeless.

I was working and too lazy to retrieve it till the time came, which in retrospect is no excuse at all.  However, I wouldn't have been given the chance to write this bit.

Before I left for work on Thursday morning during the next trash day, I had to roll out the trash cans.  I rolled our cans out and looked for our tree, only to find it stuffed in our neighbors' green trash can.

I wasn't sure how, why, and/or when but they took care of it.