A Week in Watts (2018) Movie Script

It has been extremely controversial,
and it's played out across the country.
And right now, the perception of
law enforcement is people don't trust us,
and I think that these incidents
have affected Watts,
but not in the way that
people think they have.
We had media come in to this community
and try to rile up the community
and get them angry, and my phone
was ringing with community people saying,
"Hey, we just kicked Black Lives Matter
out of the developments
and told them we don't want that here.
We care about our community.
We don't want the negativity.
We went through that already. "
I talked to a lot of history scholars
in Watts and a lot of OG's,
I'm still learning, and I asked them,
I'm like,
"So tell me... about the gangs.
Tell me what Watts was like
in the 30s and 40s. "
And I talked to a gentleman
the other day, and he says,
"You know, in the 30s and 40s,
we didn't trust the police.
We formed the Watts Watchmen Group,
and we would go through these communities,
and we would patrol and police
our communities by ourselves,
because we didn't trust
the Watts Police Department. "
And then the Black Panthers came along,
and they joined them.
And the Black Panthers say, "We're going
to help you protect the community,
and in fact, we're also going to help
protect the community from the police.
Then you move into 1965,
you know, that traffic stop
that everyone still to this day thinks was
the Los Angeles Police Department.
It was a California Highway Patrolman
that conducted that traffic stop.
And then the riots started,
and they destroyed their own community.
But they didn't do it just
because of that traffic stop.
They did it because there's so much
built up anger and hatred for the system,
not just law enforcement.
For the criminal justice system,
for the lack of jobs,
feeling like a forgotten community,
all of that.
And that day they decided to have a voice,
and they did it in a destructive manner.
It was the most widespread,
most destructive racial violence
in American history.
The burning and looting, the shooting
and beating went on for nearly a week.
More than 1,000 persons injured
or wounded.
More than 200 business places
destroyed by fire,
seven hundred more smashed,
looted and damaged.
Negro merchants sought
to protect themselves
with hurriedly scrawled appeals.
Negro leaders blamed it
on a variety of social ailments,
poverty and unemployment,
poor schools and bad housing,
all of which add up to discrimination.
Was it a local riot
or the beginning of a national revolt?
What started it? What stopped it?
Will there be another Watts?
You look at '65 and look at
the beginning to bring in money.
What are we going to do?
We're going to sell drugs.
We're going to sell drugs to survive
because no one else is going to help us.
When we sold drugs, we broke up areas
and that's how gangs started.
Gangs came about due to one,
kids wanting a place to belong
and from there it escalated
to okay, now this is our area.
If you come over here,
we're going to defend it.
Watts traditionally
has always had gangs,
has always been a violent place.
The gangs are so on top of each other.
I could be on this side of the street,
on that side of the street,
it's another gang.
In Imperial Courts,
it's the Project Crips
and in Jordan Downs,
it's the Grape Street Crips.
Grape Street Crips is enemies
with the Project Crips
and the Bounty Hunter Bloods.
The Bounty Hunter Bloods
and the Project Crips have teamed up
and the past few years there's been
numerous shootings with homicides.
They established this territory
for several reasons.
One, it's their hub where they can
congregate with each other.
Second, it's where they store their guns,
sell their dope, commit their crimes.
When they commit these crimes,
law enforcement doesn't get cooperation
from the community.
So even though we solve a crime, we have
no one to come to court and testify.
The reason why it's such a challenge
is because these victims are living in
neighborhoods that are
often dominated by gangs.
And victims and witnesses know
that if we're successful
in prosecuting the suspects,
they can still be affected and impacted
by the gangs those suspects belong to.
Retaliations involve everything from
making people uncomfortable
all the way up until... to murder.
Your kids can be targeted.
Your car can be targeted.
They're going to get you
by any means necessary.
Unfortunately, there's a lot
of violence in the gang culture,
and a lot of that is domestic violence.
I went through
domestic violence more than four times.
And how did they treat you?
Like shit.
One case recently,
a patrol officer was
actually contacted by a woman
that lived in one of
the housing projects in my area.
There's no way she could ever cooperate
with us on a domestic violence case
because of the clout
that that gang member had,
she would be targeted as cooperating
with the police against the gang,
and that wasn't even an option.
But the gang member was also
involved in narcotics trafficking.
We ended up arresting this gang member
for possession for sales
and trafficking of rock cocaine.
All anyone's going to see is that
we targeted this gang member
for selling drugs,
which is completely false.
We targeted him specifically
because he was abusing this woman,
and she had no other avenue
to go to for help.
The location I'm going
to hit now is in Nickerson Gardens,
which probably sells more cocaine,
rock cocaine, than anywhere in California.
They're gangs...
this has over 2000 members documented.
They have about 600 to 800 active.
And they literally have hundreds
of its members selling on an annual basis.
There's probably three to five locations
that are operating on a 24-hour basis
with an established clientele.
They've a bunch of transients that reside
near Nickerson to purchase their cocaine.
A lot of their prostitution is generated
because of the sales on cocaine,
and that's their main profit.
The gang there is called
the Bounty Hunter Bloods,
and they've been there since
I want to say the early 70s
and it's over 2000 strong.
Their major operation
is in the sales of narcotics.
So right now,
the informant is inside Nickerson
and is approaching the location.
I don't know what law enforcement
would do without informants.
An informant is somebody we pay
or work with that provides information
to law enforcement.
Basically, they're an undercover
police officer without a gun.
One item is basically
to inform LAPD of the environment,
because I felt that
it wasn't safe for my kids.
I've given up dope houses, weed houses,
just seeing you walking around
with a gun,
knowing that you're wanted
or committed a crime,
I'm gonna call 'em and let them know.
There you go.
Hey, Josie. It's going to be a good buy.
Single male location,
male black, wearing a black shirt,
black hat, and he has
poured dope on the kitchen counter.
So now, it's going to be
a race between us opening the door,
him grabbing that board
and running upstairs to flush.
They usually have a cutting board
with a lineup of dope,
ten dollar pieces, five dollar pieces,
twenty dollar pieces.
The buyer comes in,
picks out what they want,
hands the money over and then leaves.
Police. Open the door!
Let's go!
They flushed all the dope,
but we made a pre-buy,
so we have that dope that was bought.
So the charge is going to stay the same.
The sentencing will be the same.
The only difference is he thinks
he flushed it, and he's going home.
He doesn't know that
it's already recorded.
Because of
law enforcement's effort
on cracking down on gangs...
Get on the ground!
Get on the ground!
...they're being more innovative,
such as commercial crimes
and prostitution and human trafficking.
On Figueroa Street, it's well known
that you can go and pick up a hooker there
for pleasure, give her cash
and then be on your way.
In Nickerson Gardens,
because of the demand for crack cocaine
and the effects
of what that cocaine does to you,
we have a different type of prostitution.
It's called crack whores,
and they literally prostitute
just to get enough money
to buy their crack.
Oh, what did she say?
Are you homeless?
How come?
- Huh?
- Why are you homeless?
Why I'm homeless?
Because I refused to be abused by people.
How long you been homeless?
- How long you been homeless?
- Huh?
How long have you been homeless?
About three years,
but I'm waiting for my housing.
I'm on the list,
but haven't got my housing yet.
I'm HIV positive.
The third part we're
talking about is the human trafficking.
Gangs are now expanding into that
where they'll get foster care kids.
They'll give the kids
comfort, food, living
and then pimp them out on the street,
and it's becoming very, very popular.
Gang members will often
get girls hooked on drugs,
and that's a way to kind of
keep a leash on them.
How long have you had HIV?
When I was 11 years old,
I was involved in human trafficking.
Bad people.
Did they make you turn tricks?
Yeah, and undercover cops were in on it.
Anyone who spends any amount of time
in these communities sees drug abusers,
homeless people often
that are milling about like zombies.
- How are you doing?
- How are you doing?
...we are all gonna go up on roof.
Come here.
I'm just asking, you're not in trouble.
When is the last time you got high?
No. I got somebody
holding my basket for me.
They are just by the wheelchair,
and my mother just called.
When's the last time you smoked?
I kicked the habit
because I seen my daughter.
She was right- I seen her
a couple days ago. She's seeing her Daddy.
- Good for you.
- I'd like to go before they get my basket.
- That's a good idea. All right.
- Sounds good.
It's incredibly sad.
If you can just imagine being a child and
seeing maybe your mother or your father
walking around collecting cans
in a neighborhood
so they can get that next
small amount of drugs.
You know,
these people are treated horribly
by the gang members
in these neighborhoods.
You know, again, like I mentioned,
they often times walk around
like zombies trying to get their next fix.
Coming from specifically what we do,
we work the housing developments.
Um, I know we worked Central
which is mostly like Skid Row,
homeless communities, southwest.
You have a lot of different classes.
You have rich class,
you have a middle class,
and you have a poverty class.
More of this area,
southeast where we work,
it's mostly middle class and below.
You don't really have
anything higher than that.
And us working the housing developments,
we're mostly just working with
people that are in poverty.
I went to a homicide about a year ago,
and a young man was walking
down the street wearing headphones,
and he's special needs.
And someone got out of their car
and shot him 17 times in broad daylight.
And he landed right in the gutter.
And I remember responding to that scene,
and his mother came running out,
and the community came running out,
and I remember sitting back and then
seeing the black and whites
and the officers show up.
And I wanted to look in the officer's eyes
to see where their mental state was,
because they're coming up and seeing
this family rush toward this dead body,
and we've got a crime scene to protect.
And as each officer showed up
and they got out of the car,
and I looked at him because I'm thinking
crime scene management here,
and perceptions and the media showing up
and the media air ships are showing up,
and the officers got out of the car,
and they had this look of compassionate
empathy on their face.
And so, when they got there,
I'm like, "Okay guys,
let's get these families back.
We don't need our batons... and every
officer understood what they needed to do,
but at the same time they were
empathizing with the mom
who was watching her son
bleed out in the gutter.
And so, I remember having a conversation
with a gentleman
that was standing outside,
and he says, "How come
none of those cops look like me?"
And he was an African American.
And I looked at him and I said,
"Well, if the community
stops telling their kids to hate us,
maybe more people that look like us
will want to join the police department. "
Put your hands behind your back.
- I didn't do nothing.
- I didn't say you did.
Yes, sir?
We have concerns 'cause you're a juvenile.
Who's the responsible adult
that's in charge of you right now?
- Chino.
- How old is he?
What's his relation to you?
He's just a homie.
Where were you going to sleep tonight?
At my house.
I was going to go home already, but...
How were you going to get home?
- On the Metro.
- Okay. Would you like a ride home?
She's a juvenile, and under
our department policy and state law,
any juvenile after the hours
of 10:00 p. m.,
they can't be out on the streets,
and this kid,
she obviously needed to be taken home.
We can't drop her off at a bus stop.
We got to make sure she gets home
and we speak to a legal guardian.
Since we stopped you after 22:00,
which is curfew.
we can give you a ticket for
a curfew violation and you'll go to court,
then transport you home or we can just get
you home and make sure you're safe.
That would be what we'd-
- Yeah, you can take me home.
- Okay.
- Sounds good?
- Yes, ma'am.
You can't find a cop in the country
that doesn't want to help a good kid.
The narrative of law enforcement
is so disgustingly inaccurate.
I think it's important for people to see
what these cops are doing for the youth
despite what they see on the media
and news all the time.
I believe the media pushes it
because it sells.
And it's sexy to have
dysfunction in a community.
And in my opinion, it's irresponsible,
and you can't come in for 30 minutes
and get the feelings of two people
and then tell the whole country
that that's how this community feels.
So, I think the media has a responsibility
to learn the culture and the history
of the community
and the police department on both sides,
and then maybe help us make this change.
Listen up. This is how we're going to work
for Wednesday, March 9.
Jesse, you're light duty.
I got you down here.
Twenty-one is Will and Manny,
report to Johnny and Eric.
Is your partner here today? I hope so.
I'm actually in charge of the team
at Nickerson Gardens housing development.
It's myself and ten officers.
Johnny Coughlin is one of the officers.
Basically, our job is to...
supervise the officers in there
as they foster a relationship
with their community
being established within the development.
We currently work
the community safety partnership,
and it was created to go into
the housing developments
and bridge that gap
between the police and community.
The community, they're there every day,
seven days a week, 24 hours a day,
we just come in for
a certain amount of time
and do our police work
and then leave, so...
we're able to have that relationship,
and I think that makes a huge difference
in solving crime.
Over time, we've seen crime reduced
within the public housing developments.
But we haven't seen a crime displacement.
What we have seen is
the work that we've done saturated around
the public housing developments
has reduced crime
in the broader community.
What we try to have
our community understand...
it's not about you.
It's about the kids,
the mothers, the grandmothers
deserve to be able to go
in and out their door
and not be worried about being shot
or robbed or raped or kidnapped.
So them are the things
we really wanted to focus on
and through law enforcement,
we understand, we know that
they're supposed to serve and protect,
but we had issues over in the community
that we felt like that wasn't being done.
So we found a way to try to fix it.
You can smell that,
the stink smell of marijuana,
hitting me in the face right now.
I imagine that's probably coming from
that north parking lot
where all those individuals
were in the cars.
What's going on, brother?
You guys smoking? I can smell it.
You just get done smoking?
Someone did.
When you are on foot,
interacting with members of that community
whether they be gang members,
victims, witnesses,
just the residents,
employees that work there,
you really get to see the impact
of the crime and the gangs
and how they can
really take hold of a community.
I'm good with all the cops.
They ain't did nothing to me.
I've really been here all my life, though.
I been here 60 something years now.
Is that good enough for you?
- You live here a long time, sir?
- I used to.
- You don't stay here no more?
- I live in Vegas.
- Vegas?
- Yeah.
How long did you live here in Watts?
- Forty years.
- In Nickerson?
Nickerson, everywhere. I was born here.
- Were you here for the Watts riots?
- Yeah.
What's your perception of the police now
as you've grown up and gotten older?
I haven't been here.
Have you seen the police change at all?
- Honestly, you can say no.
- No.
- You haven't?
- No.
You don't see any change
in the LAPD coming up?
- You haven't seen anything get better?
- The sheriff, but not LAPD.
- Really? Okay.
- Yeah.
That's fair. I ain't mad at you.
Because the sheriff is going to like...
if you ain't got no knife, guns or...
they ain't going to mess with you.
They never cared about
a little bag of weed
or nothing like that, whatever.
This... I'm talking about
the 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s.
That's when I left.
- You haven't had contact with the police?
- No.
- That's a good thing, right?
- Yeah.
It's good and it's bad, you know.
All right. All right, sir.
Because the youngsters, they do
more crazy stuff than we used to do.
- Yeah?
- We thought we was off the hook but...
What do you think the police should do
when the youngsters do crazy stuff?
I don't know, because we, like, as elders,
we couldn't do too damn much.
The kids got they own perspective
and then how they trip.
You know what I mean?
And then they don't listen.
- They don't treat people with respect?
- No. They don't listen, so I don't know.
I'm a grandfather. I ain't got to deal
with these youngsters. Know what I mean?
I get that. I totally understand that.
All right, sir. Well, have a good visit.
But y'all doing a good start,
you know, like mingling.
That's the only way you
get an understanding.
Good. At least
we're doing something right.
- All right.
- All right, man. Thank you, sir.
All right.
We're in a really
tough spot as far as being able to
effectively communicate with
various different age groups
in the community
because their perspective is different.
For instance,
Friday night there was kids playing here.
Officers were watching the cameras.
There's 20 individuals gambling
under the easement over here,
and there was a bunch of kids
playing on the playground.
So they're gambling, smoking marijuana,
drinking in proximity to kids at a park.
Is that a huge deal? No, but if you're
trying to affect change in the community
and affect what kids are learning,
then that has to be addressed.
Sixteen through 30-year-olds,
they don't think it's a big deal.
They think, I'm just smoking weed,
gambling and drinking
a little bit of wine or beer.
They don't understand the pass down effect
that it's having on the community
because they grew up seeing that
so it doesn't shock their system.
So at what point...
Don't touch the gun.
You know not to touch the gun.
- That's a real gun?
- That's a real gun.
That's bullets.
- Boogers?
- Bullets.
Oh. See it?
No. Whoa.
- Are those bullets?
- Those are bullets.
- You don't touch those either, right?
- Because they for shooting people?
They can hurt people, yeah.
Only when you have to, though.
Only when we have to protect somebody.
Because someone else could get hurt.
Why do you need to shoot 'em?
If someone's trying to hurt someone
really bad, we might have to stop them.
- Oh, my God.
- I know.
Hopefully, it doesn't happen often
or never.
There was a statistic done.
I don't know if it was since
the inception of the cameras,
but the cameras have helped
or actually captured and solved
well over 500 crimes.
I mean, that's huge.
You're invested in crime
that's going on here,
but you're not investing in us,
the people that's in here.
The people are suffering.
On this video, two victims are
walking southbound on Success here.
As they cross the street,
three cars come up on them,
as a jeep, it's a white jeep,
passes them by.
Three suspects come out
and start shooting at two victims.
This video in the LPR was huge
in helping solving this case
because were quickly able to get
what car was used in this case.
We had rumor that, earlier in the night,
the suspect vehicle was driving around
Nickerson Garden projects and was shot
at by people that were in the projects.
So it's possible that it was
retaliation for that shooting.
You can all see
the rounds from the shooting
and impacted the walls
all along the bottom
and according to the video,
is consistent with victim number two
getting shot in the ankle
as they lead him across the bottom.
Rosco expired over here,
while the other member of Bounty Hunter
Bloods ran north just out of sight.
The vehicle then took off,
headed towards Jordan Downs,
and that's when
southeast homicide detectives...
I believe it was
Hicks and Bayhart took over
and they did convict one member
of the Grape Street Crips with the murder.
My first OIS was in Nickerson Gardens.
My partner and I were on a radio call
that we picked up,
but we were not in a black and white,
we were in an undercover car.
While we were answering the call,
it was a member of-
a gang member that went by us on a bike
and kind of flipped us off.
When he went around the building,
I heard several shots.
At that time I thought he was just
trying to provoke a foot pursuit.
My partner and I gave chase
and when we came around the building,
there were numerous members of this gang
executing another individual.
We then engaged in a gunfight
and at the end, two people were dead.
I blacked out.
I had just a couple of years on the job.
There was high power rifles involved.
We were very, very lucky and I didn't
remember a lot of the incident.
After the shooting,
officers and myself got together.
We were really frustrated with the amount
of money that's poured into rehabilitation
trying to save gang members
when the flip side is that
the people in this community
that were doing really well
were not getting the same resources.
Kids that were graduating high school
didn't have a path
or didn't have any finances to get there.
As a response to that,
officers in southeast started raising
money to provide scholarships for them.
Once considered the enemy,
police are now considered mentors
to some children growing up in Watts.
They're part of a program
called Operation Progress.
As part of Operation Progress,
each student is assigned an officer
who keeps track of their schoolwork.
Executive Director, Theresa Gartland, says
an LAPD gang officer founded the program.
The Operation Progress
LAPD Mentoring Program
is the highest form
of community policing there is.
Students apply to be
a part of it and are accepted in.
The kids are given scholarships
to private schools
with perfect graduation rates.
Verbum Dei and St. Mary's
graduation rate is 100 percent
compared to Nickerson Gardens,
which is ten percent.
What I found is that
working with the LAPD officers,
they're on these radio calls
and they meet these kids in,
you know, desperate needs of time
and want to help but don't have
the personal means to help them
and don't know how to.
Um... and Operation kind of
became that vehicle for a lot of officers
to give back to the community
that they were working in.
I didn't come from
rich background or anything,
but my parents worked hard
to give me everything that I needed
and the stepping-stones and
building blocks to become the man I am.
So I felt that it was only right that if
I pass that on to not just my kids,
but every kid
I get the opportunity to help,
I want to give them the same opportunities
that I had growing up.
I volunteered at a Catholic school
in southeast D.C.
you know, twenty minutes
from the White House,
but in a very gang ridden,
economically disadvantaged neighborhood,
and I realized that service work
is really my passion.
After I taught at Ascension
Catholic Grade School for three years,
I moved on to Verbum Dei High School,
and I worked there for several years.
There was a nonprofit
on Verbum Dei's campus.
That's where I got my roots
in this community.
You know, I think when
people come into this neighborhood,
they're either committed and you're all in
or you're not committed
and you stay here
for a brief period of time.
Theresa is clearly committed
to this neighborhood.
Gartland, to the kids,
doesn't roll off their tongue,
and so I said just call me Miss G.
So that kind of became my name
in the neighborhood and I feel like
a lot of people know me as Miss G.
One afternoon we started talking
and I asked her if she would
help with Operation Progress.
The two of us definitely come from
two different viewpoints.
In the neighborhood of Nickerson Gardens,
Theresa and I are opposite.
She's well liked by the community,
and I'm not.
Hey, where we going?
We'll drive through Nickerson together,
and I sometimes try
to scooch down in my seat
because I don't want to be seen with him.
But, you know, he'll open my eyes
to what people have done in the past,
which I didn't realize and I've been able
to say these are the success stories.
These are the kids
who really want to make it.
- Good morning.
- Good morning.
- How are you?
- Good.
So I met Jennifer three years ago
when we were just starting the program,
and she was one of our first students
that we put into St. Mary's.
I loved the process of
working with her because one,
she just is this diamond.
She just shines wherever she goes
and to see her progression over the
past three years has been so beautiful.
Operation Progress provides students
with a great quality of education.
We each have the opportunity
to go to private schools
on a full ride scholarship.
They also incorporate
mentoring with the LAPD officers,
and I feel like that's also
a great part of the program.
Yeah, I'm getting used to it,
but my neighbors,
they'll creep out sometimes
and people give them stares.
I'm just like, "Okay. "
It is kind of weird,
but you get used to it.
My mentor is Officer Goosby,
and he was also there when
Operation Progress was beginning,
and he has been my mentor since then,
and he's always providing me
with words of wisdom.
Also, Officer Holliman,
I see him as a father figure in my life.
And they're just great people
to be around.
Jennifer has the drive
to where she would have made it,
because of her internal drive
to be successful.
However, it would have been difficult.
The designated school
I was supposed to go to
was this high school my brother went to
which is King Drew Magnet High School.
I probably would be focused on my grades,
but I don't think I would have been
as focused on my future
as I am here at St. Mary's Academy,
because St. Mary's Academy
has provided structure for me.
I know Jennifer is like
the poster child
so she like stands out
everywhere she goes,
but it's also because she's so bright.
She's so infectious.
Jennifer's my pioneer.
She's awesome.
We had lunch one day, and Coughlin
interviewed me at the station.
It was a bit nerve wracking because back
then my perspective on cops wasn't, like,
cops weren't somebody
I was able to talk to.
I was kind of intimidated by them,
and they were just around
when something bad was going on.
But Officer Coughlin since
the very first day I met him,
he made me feel like
he was somebody I can depend on,
somebody I can trust.
My name is Renaldo Chavez.
I am 17 years old.
Class starts at 7:30.
We have homeroom first,
but during homeroom
instead of just getting schoolwork done,
I have to be at AP Calculus
with my math teacher
and then we just work on
the homework we had last night.
He's quiet,
but he's always listening, very intense.
There's an inquisitive mind to him.
I have six classes throughout the day,
and then I have seventh period as well,
Jedis, which is like the club that I'm in.
It's an acronym. So it stands for
Jesuit Educated Disciple in Service.
Pretty much like the campus ministry team.
Having Renaldo in OP has been a blessing.
Operation Progress...
they've given me a lot of opportunities
that others don't usually have.
Last year I had a bad year
with Algebra II,
and Operation Progress
made sure I had the tutoring.
Thank you.
He is so grateful for this program,
and it came out when they went to Kenya
this past summer on a service trip.
And he came back, and he was saying
how it changed his life.
I had never been
outside of the country before last year,
and Operation Progress sent me to Africa
so it gives me a different perspective
on the world.
Having been to Kenya
and seeing the level of poverty there
made me realize that I'm very fortunate.
Despite the fact that I live in
a violent area and not the best area,
I still have a roof over my head.
I still have food in the fridge
and, you know, a warm bed,
clean clothes
and I just feel very grateful.
Things got exciting. Huh?
- You didn't hear it?
- There were gunshots.
Pop, pop, pop, pop, pop.
We just kept playing soccer,
and then they called us.
We were like... and we ran.
Every day, wherever I go.
I don't hear it near our school,
like when I'm in school,
but in my neighborhood, pretty often.
What just happened was
that there was a shooting,
and everybody in the school
has to go in one vicinity.
Please excuse the interruption.
Kids with practice, cheerleading
and daycare they received the all clear.
You guys can go back
to your original spot.
See you soon!
It's dangerous.
It's not really dangerous,
like, where I am kind of.
I know there's shootings and stuff,
but there's not where I have come
to where somebody's trying to put a knife
on me or anything like that.
So to me it's just
a little community that...
where bad stuff happens basically.
Something like that.
You know, watching Petra grow up here
and not having the safest neighborhood
to go out and play and her knowing that,
is so hard, because I get to go home
to a safe neighborhood where she doesn't.
When she goes home,
she doesn't go outside,
and that's for safety.
And there's a lot of kids who really are
like prisoners in their own home,
and it goes unnoticed
because they don't complain.
I think they're so busy just trying
to get through day-to-day life
with their struggles that there's
no time to formulate a protest.
And to be honest,
historically, nobody listens.
Why not?
Because if you complain publicly,
the results could be a beat down.
The fear and the intimidation, it's real.
Like, I hate it.
I hate it because...
something like, most of the time
I can't even go out to my friend's.
I gotta go into their house.
We can't even play basketball outside.
It is a hostile environment.
I'm not allowed to go outside
and associate with any of the rest of
the community members
that are associated with gangs.
It's weird, because Jennifer,
when I first met her,
I had no idea
she lived in Imperial Courts,
and that was the housing development
that I was assigned to
and it had already been two years,
and I've never seen this girl before.
And it was because she never came outside.
So a lot of people say it's dangerous.
It's a dangerous place,
and yeah, it's dangerous at times,
but I don't really go outside that much,
so I don't think it's that dangerous
around my neighborhood.
I actually mentored this girl named Daisy,
and I've had her for about four years,
and I met Daisy through, I guess
a homicide scene where we found Daisy.
We were coming back from
the restaurant and then we saw the cops.
We got off and then I noticed...
I saw Officer Moore, and I knew him.
So then... and then he talked with
my sisters...
well, with my Dad, then my sister, Laty,
and then she started crying.
She was like, "No, no. "
And then I kept asking why was she crying?
What was happening?
So they told me that she...
well, Julio, he was murdered or killed.
We were called out, told to meet with
Long Beach homicide detectives.
They were working on what might have
been a connection to a southeast case.
They got called out
to this arson investigation
where they discovered a dead body
and through fingerprints,
they identified the victim as Julio Mejia.
The victim was a member of
5th and Hill gang,
and one of their rivals
is Hacienda Village Boys.
What we learned is that
our victim was on 109th Street,
but he was first seen by Louis Perez,
and the motive of this murder
was that Carlos Gallegos was shot
probably by a 5th and Hill gang member.
He was shot in November of 2011.
So there was a retaliation
from Carlos being shot.
They beat this guy down
to pretty much being unconscious,
and one of them goes and retrieves
one of these black trashcans
that you can roll, from his residence.
They throw him in head first
into the trashcan,
and they wheel him down to this ranch.
The ranch was a sore spot
for the entire neighborhood
where all the- essentially the majority
of the gang activity took place
because they were able
to do it in privacy.
And at some point while they're at the
ranch while the victim was still alive,
Louis Perez carves a large V in his chest,
which signified the V for Village Boys,
and they pretty much leave him for dead.
They take Louis Perez's car,
drive down to Long Beach.
It's a known location to him.
They take the body out of the trunk,
put it on top of combustible materials,
put lighter fluid on him
and set him on fire.
I felt like I couldn't believe it.
I was kind of sad
because he really loved Rosie,
and really, he seemed like he
would have been a really good dad.
But sometimes he...
just got drunk, I guess.
You know, I can tell you that he
left behind his baby mama,
real good person and
a very young daughter.
My little niece, Rosie,
she was very small and so she didn't know.
She didn't know what was going on,
and I guess she was wondering
what was happening too.
But she didn't know.
And that's how we met Daisy
was through that call.
You know, it's interesting with Daisy
because on the outside it seems like
she hasn't been fazed by anything,
and I think that's with a lot of kids.
They look like kids and they're wearing
these uniforms and they look so happy,
but Daisy, and like many of the students,
deals with a lot of PTSD.
I was in a fifth grade class at Grape
Street Elementary with another officer,
and we asked the kids how many of you
in this room know someone
that's been shot or killed?
Every single fifth grader
raised their hands in that classroom.
For the past two years,
I had two family members that died.
Imperial Court, two years ago, there's
a gentleman walking down the street.
His girlfriend's waiting for him across
the street, and he's texting on his phone.
And this car pulled up, and they got out,
and they shot him and they executed him.
And there were a group of kids walking
across the street that saw this happen.
And he literally landed in front of the
recreation center in Imperial Courts,
and he died.
That same car
left that housing development,
went to another housing development
and shot and killed somebody else.
And eventually, the car
was stopped by LAPD officers,
and he was taken into custody.
But to be that child that was
walking across the street
and just witness something
so cold and callous like that,
is just unimaginable.
And then, when you have an incident
like that occur that's very traumatic,
that kid goes to bed,
wakes up, puts on his clothes,
go to school, sits in a classroom,
and he's expected to learn.
How is he going to concentrate if no one's
even addressed that traumatic incident
that happened?
It's big time here,
because anytime you can bring
a six-year-old or five-year-old
or seven-year-old and they tell you about
witnessing their cousin or their best...
their uncle or somebody laying there
murdered and they have to witness that,
and that kid carried that for a long time.
But if you was living in another
entire different neighborhood,
you would have counselors.
You would have all kind of folks
who would come into that community
and try to help the families
on down to the friends.
You see it all the time on the news.
But it seem like in these type of areas,
you don't see that.
Oh, they'll be all right.
After the funeral, they'll be all right.
We now know that kids who experience
trauma in neighborhoods all the time...
don't have their brains developed
the way they were supposed to
because there's adrenaline all the time.
They get attention deficit disorder.
They can't concentrate in school.
And what we know now is that if
you are a child in that situation,
you may never fulfill your destiny.
You may never be able to be
who you were meant to be
because your brain's development
has been altered
because adults don't know how
to organize their neighborhoods.
We're reaching out
to our young people, you guys,
those who really not understanding
and understanding lives is precious,
and our young people losing their lives
like you go to the store and buy candy.
These kids have to grow up fast by seeing
all the trauma and hearing the stories.
It's not like these kids go home
to a normal house where dinner's made
and it's on the table, and their parents
are asking how they're doing that day.
They go home to hearing about
the gossip in the neighborhood,
who's been shooting who?
Who's coming after who?
The drug deals...
I mean, they know everything, right?
And how do you process that
at ten years old?
Between sex, drugs,
shootings, domestic violence,
we are trying to treat each kid
with post-traumatic stress here
just from the things
that they see on the street.
Who goes to school at 7:00 a. m.
and passes 15 prostitutes?
Walking to school, as innocent as that
might sound for some of these kids
becomes an adventure.
I even told my mom
that if she had a car
and she would bring us every morning,
I think I'll enjoy coming to school more
because I just don't like walking.
I used to have a car,
but they stole it from me.
So I've known Petra
since she was in second grade.
I've kind of been raising her
along with her mother
and helping her mom and her family out
and I love Petra, because she's just got
this great spirit about her,
but yet she's got sass and she can be
outspoken sometimes as well,
but she cares a lot about people,
and her goal is to become a lawyer,
and I see that in her already.
She's very much about justice.
Well, she says that
she wants to be a lawyer.
I want her to be a doctor.
I'm not really sure what she wants to do
when she grows up... Petra.
My name is Petra,
and I would like to be a divorce lawyer.
A divorce lawyer?
Is that what she said?
Petra said divorce lawyer?
That's crazy.
I like to put up a fight.
I like to argue for other people.
I just said that.
Meah and Petra, you're not in their group.
I'm sorry. What's with the together thing?
We're doing our definitions for you
because we had to move...
Yeah, but... Is this the situation
that we would have expected?
Meah has been there all my life.
She's my best friend.
She's my other half.
What would I do without her?
She's always been there.
She'll have my back
when somebody's talking about me.
- And I love this girl to death. So, yeah.
- I love you more, honey.
Okay, number 20, Ariel,
and that's not the...
isn't that a fish or something in a movie?
Petra's great. She arrived
in the sixth grade here at St. Lawrence.
She has a lot of potential.
It was just a matter of
harnessing her potential
and giving her some direction,
and once that was pointed out to her,
she really fell right into step
and she does well here at school.
She's well liked.
She gets along well with her peers,
and she respects all that we stand for
here at St. Lawrence.
So we really enjoy having
Petra here as a student.
- I brought you some Doritos.
- No, you didn't.
I did.
My favorite thing about school is
coming to see the lovely children.
They make my day.
- Can you do me a favor?
- Yes.
Can you run over there for me?
Oh, yeah.
I think Petra's unique
because she's at the tipping point
where she needs to make a choice
of how she's going to live her life.
She clearly has potential to do well,
but it's a tough age.
For me, I think
it's important to reach them
before they hit their early teens,
because when they're younger,
they're still at that impressionable age
where you can still kind of guide them
to do the right thing.
Once they hit 12, 13...
I mean, it's sad to say, but sometimes
they already made up their mind.
Eight to 13, that's where my focus is at,
because that's where they're
determining what route I need to take.
With all the kids from Nickerson,
Imperial Courts, Jordan Downs,
they all go to one middle school.
So you got three gangs
in one middle school.
So, obviously, at that point,
everybody's deciding
am I joining the gang for protection
or am I going to do something else?
The percentage of gang members
and gang memberships is very small
compared to the general population
in this area, in any area.
But the influence is huge.
When you become a victim
of your environment,
and it takes a lot of strength and courage
to be that person and say,
"I'm gonna go against the grain
from what I'm seeing every day. "
For someone who doesn't live
in this type of environment,
it's easy to say, "That's wrong.
You shouldn't do that lifestyle. "
But if you see it every day,
you become conditioned.
And so, it takes the individual to maybe
see someone that can help them be...
you know, make the good decision
not to go that route,
and it can be difficult if you're
not seeing the right positive people.
Perfect example is Rob.
He is the best example of
an individual making a choice not to join.
His path into the gangs was set.
It's in his family.
It's in his neighborhood.
All he had to do was walk into it.
Thank God for Coach Maye and Theresa
and the rest of the staff and the officers
and give all the credit to Rob.
So far, he's made the choice
that he wants a better life,
and he has an ability
to know the consequences
and I really believe
he's going to stay on that path.
I actually see Officer Coughlin,
he was at the park where I was at.
So one of my friends...
he had one of my friends,
and we was like... and he was, like,
"Make sure you stay away from this guy
because they said he was doing bad. "
So my friends, we don't hang out
with that boy no more.
Oh, my Rob. My sweetheart.
I love him.
Rob started with Operation Progress
three years ago.
He was going into the sixth grade.
And he was identified by
the Watts Bears' coaches.
So, we took a chance on him,
and he has just flourished.
And he's really just come to his own self
in making the best decisions for him.
I got to make it for my family,
especially my mom because my mom,
she always make sure
everything's good for me.
So, I want to make sure she'll have
no worries when she's old.
I can take care of her.
Rob's a good kid.
And I met Robert when he was
a sixth grader,
and Coughlin came to me and said,
"I got this kid that I want you to meet. "
He's this kid we're trying
to get into our program,
and he's going to come to school here.
So, when I first met Rob,
I knew right then and there,
I said, me and him
are gonna get along real well.
His energy is just...
you can feel the energy that he brings.
He said it's chocolate curry.
Steve. Live and direct.
Alright, come on, Rob.
You can do it with your little arms.
Live and direct.
- First one, huh?
- Live and direct.
Amir came into
Operation Progress three years ago
when she was identified by Officer Goosby
who was working in Imperial Courts,
and he saw what a sweet girl she was
and how great her parents really were.
They were really on top of her,
very involved in her life.
And so, he thought she'd be
a great candidate for OP.
It turns out she has been.
And she's exceeded
all of our expectations.
She's always achieved
above a 3.5 every semester,
but she's one of the quiet ones.
Amir's that quiet kid who really just
kind of sits back and pays attention
to what's around her.
It's going down. Y'all better be there.
Y'all better be there.
It's going down for real.
We're going to have
a football game going on.
We're gonna highlight two of our students
who are two of our premier players
on our football team this year
with one being Robert Turner,
eighth grade,
and one being our future
with Keywon Brooks in the seventh grade.
Everybody really coming out
to see me if y'all didn't know.
I was always told
not to talk before the games.
I be scoring, like...
my career high is six touchdowns.
So it still gets better dudes than them.
Them... if they really pass me the ball,
every time I touch the ball,
it's a touchdown.
I'm on Keywon's team. I'm team Keywon.
I'm team Keywon today.
Robert's our MVP in football, though.
Robert led our team with touchdowns
this year with flag pulls this year.
Robert has been our MVP
for the last two years in football.
So Robert's kind of the go-to guy
around here in football.
So to kind of have Keywon,
which is our future,
which is who will take his place
when Robert leaves next year,
kind of go at it with him a little bit,
it just brings some fun
and some good, exciting energy
to our school.
- It's all about...
- Robert.
No. Coach Maye's team.
- Because my boyfriend isn't on that, so...
- And my... friend,
- her jug is on that.
- My friend.
I'm rooting for Robert
because I'm on his team
and because I think
he's very good at football.
And we have a good team
and a lot of good players.
Who's wearing what color? They all
look like they're wearing the same thing.
They are. But they're gold and black.
See how some have black and gold
and some have gold and black?
That's a slight variation of the uniform.
Make some noise.
Officer Goosby is going to be
our referee for the day.
Everybody say Goosby.
Officer Goosby and Holliman
have been involved in Operation Progress
from the start.
They have a great interest in the kids,
and it's not just the kids they mentor,
it's all of the kids.
They're two amazing men.
They just don't get enough credit,
and they really should. They deserve it.
It's a great combination, a great
partnership that we have with them.
I never played football before, but...
Let's go black team!
Let's go gold team!
Rob's gonna surprise
a lot of people in high school.
A lot of people look him off
because he's short,
but if you see the guy play,
he has things that, as a coach,
I couldn't even teach him,
whether it's his quickness,
his lateral movements, his...
just everything, his IQ for the game.
So Rob's the man.
I look forward to good things
for him in high school.
- That was a good game.
- Did you think so?
- Yeah, but-
- Was it better than being in class?
- No.
- No.
That's my Robert. That's it.
It was a tie game, though.
So nobody won.
I would like Rob to get an education
and to do something that he wants to do.
He talks about owning businesses
and things like that.
He really wants to be in that position.
And, you know, ten years from now,
I think he's 14 now, 13 or 14 now,
he's 23, 24.
I look at him graduating from school,
opening up a business somewhere.
You know what I mean?
Or on that route.
If sports don't work for him.
After I scored that first touchdown,
I popped my leg back.
- It feels good.
- It started feeling good.
Then the second one, the second one hurt.
I stress to Rob a lot
about having a backup plan,
like, how sports can be taken away
from you just like that.
It doesn't matter how good you are,
you know what I mean.
You can get hurt, and that can be it.
An accident can happen. That's it.
I really thought about it
when I came here.
Everything's not about football,
because what if something happens to you?
Then you need a backup plan.
So my backup plan...
I want to run businesses.
So right now, I'm thinking about
when I go to college,
do business management
because my brother did that.
My hopes for Robert is just to...
overcome everything,
see everything
from the right point of view
and handle it accordingly
because there's gonna be obstacles.
He just has to overcome them, go at it
with a full mind and stay focused.
- You look like a 6th grader.
- That's my daddy right there.
- Where?
- Over there. What's up?
- There's my daddy right there.
- That is your Dad.
In 2008,
we started a Randy Simmons
volunteer program
at 99th Street Elementary School,
and we started doing Muffins with Moms
and Donuts with Dads.
And so we asked the principal
to get a count
of how many Dads were in the homes
so we can do this Donuts with Dads event
and then tie it into
education and reading
and bringing the officers in
to read with the kids.
And so, we took a couple of weeks
to plan it and get it together
and then the principal called one of the
sergeants and says we have a problem.
A lot of the kids don't want
to participate in Donuts with Dads
because they don't have
a dad in the house.
And majority of the kids
either had a dad that was in prison
or had been murdered,
and they were embarrassed.
So we enlisted in the officers to come
to the school to be that father figure
and there were literally six to seven dads
that showed up for this event
and the rest
were police officers and firefighters.
I believe there's a lack of fathers
in the families
because one, we have
a criminal justice system that's broken.
Two, a lot of the fathers
in this community
grew up during the crack cocaine
epidemic, and we...
our answer, law enforcement's answer
was lock 'em up, put 'em away.
Let's not provide a resource.
Let's just put 'em behind bars.
At the same time, I see a lot of fathers
in this new generation
that want something different
for their children.
I can't speak for
everyone's situation,
but I believe that...
just a lot of fathers aren't doing
what they need to do...
and staying around for their kids
and just a lot of people
want to be in the streets
and live the street life
and don't know what's important,
which is family, the most important thing.
I mean...
I feel like if fathers would stay around
and experience what I experience
with my kids, they would get
an understanding of how great it is
and that the stuff out there
is not important at all.
It's great when I come home from work.
It's like they haven't seen me in years,
and I was just here eight hours ago,
and just seeing their eyes light up
when you do little things for them
that aren't really big
like going to the movies
or going to dinner or something like that,
it's just a wonderful feeling
just to take care of them.
Well, my mom, she's always there for me
if I go through bad times,
she's always there motivating me
and telling me I can do it.
Watching you on camera.
My dad, he's always there for me also.
He tells me just to do my best
and if I fail, we'll try again.
In this neighborhood,
and of course I'm generalizing,
it's difficult to see a community
be grateful
because a lot of things
are given to them.
Amir's step dad has taken
this scholarship that Amir has gotten,
and he's given it back twofold.
He's always helping Coach Maye coach.
I think he's taken over
the basketball team.
He's a great dad to all his kids.
He has a great relationship
with the officers.
Amir is a really smart girl,
both street and at school,
awesome personality.
I think the sky's the limit for her.
I like those flips.
Hey, look at those flip-flops.
What do they say?
I didn't even know we
had our own clothing line.
I think... unfortunately, I think maybe
the kids who grow up with single parents,
and if the mom's the only person
in the household
and she has that strong work ethic,
the strong family values,
where she wants to make sure
that her kids are doing well,
even though they don't have
a father figure in the family,
I think the kids will do well
because the kids going to see,
wow, my mom's struggling
so hard to give me a better life,
that I'm going to do whatever I can
to help my mom out.
My dad, he left a long time ago,
but I see him sometimes,
but my mom, I think she's my best friend.
And I think it's better with my mom,
because it's just me and her
and my siblings.
My mom, she's my super hero.
She raised my brother and I
as a single mother.
I grew up without a father
and I have never met him,
but still she has played
a double role in my life,
and that alone itself isn't an easy job,
but still she was able to persevere.
Jennifer is my inspiration.
She's my motivation.
She's my motive.
The mothers in this community
are so resilient,
and I'm so proud of them,
but I also hurt for them
because behind all of their efforts,
I know there's this nagging hurt and pain
that they carry with them
because every mom-
I'm a mom, I have six children total-
every parent wants something better
for their child than they had.
And when you have to try to parent
and be a mother in a community like this,
it's so heavy and hard and you have to
find your beacon of light and your hope.
You see moms coming in and out of
the Operation Progress office,
and they're smiling
and they're coming out proud
and they're picking up their daughter
from one of the classes,
and you can just feel that.
You feel it.
Then you can walk across a mom
in one of the housing developments...
both of her sons have been murdered,
and she's carrying something different.
And so, if we can plug these moms
into organizations or entities
that have resources and they feel like
someone else is supporting them,
then it's going to help them
in their effort of changing
and providing something
better for their child.
When I was a child, she used
to work all day just to provide for me.
She'd leave early in the morning before
dawn and then come back late at night.
She used to work at a sweatshop,
so I used to see how she would struggle
just to pay the bills.
While me and my sister were at home,
she would be working
in order to provide for us.
I look up to her because
I want to be hard working just like her.
OP is helping Watts,
because it's giving the kids
an opportunity
that some of the kids here don't have,
and sometimes the public schools
in this area are not the best.
When I was going to Grape Street,
I saw a lot of violence
and things that affected me,
and when I went
to St. Lawrence through OP,
it showed me better things
and I got a better education.
In public schools, the teachers...
they didn't really see
one to one to a person.
Like, the teachers... they didn't care.
I only had one teacher that really cared.
Also, they wouldn't focus on
who were being bullied
or who was being hurt or anything,
and I would see a lot of fights
in my other school on 112th Street,
and I hung around with the wrong crowd
but not to do bad stuff,
but so I wouldn't get bullied either.
I forgot what it's called,
the Assembly for Awards.
The Awards Assembly. There you go.
They give all the certificates
for people who've been responsible
and people who
haven't got deficiencies or citations.
And people... yeah, and honors,
first honors,
second honors and third honors...
and also people who been here, like,
every day and haven't been tardy.
I got it in sixth, seventh grade
but not today. No.
My life is pretty much at Verb.
I like coming here. I love it.
It's been the best four years so far.
I started here and I was really shy,
but over the years,
I feel like I've grown.
Verbum Dei High School
was opened initially in the early 60s.
The first principal, really critical with
respect to his educational philosophy.
Wanted to make sure these kids
graduated from college.
My friends have the same ambitions
as I do. We all want to go to college.
So we all know that our priority is doing
our schoolwork rather than going out,
but we still like to hang out.
So it's a good balance.
Instead of them sending me
an acceptance letter,
they sent me a letter asking me to send
them money as if I graduated or something.
All right, see you.
Definitely from the Nickerson Gardens
to Verbum Dei is a transition
because when I walk out that door
in the morning, I'm in my suit and tie.
People look at me different, you know.
They don't see me as a typical
African American living in the projects.
They see me something much more,
and that gives me confidence.
It tells me in my head
that I can do certain things.
I can make it out of the projects.
I can get my family out the projects,
and that's my ultimate goal is to get me
and my family away from here.
I'm doing pretty well.
How are you doing?
Well, I'm really interested in attending,
but I'm not sure yet if I want to make
the final decision yet.
I get home from school and I look forward
to looking at the mailbox
hoping for a college response.
But I know Reed College,
they send it through mail for sure,
that's the only way they send it.
That's the one I'm looking for
every day because I know everyone else
will send me an email before.
So my first college acceptance
was from St. John's,
and they sent me a text,
and I woke up to the text.
So it was like a good day.
Daisy came into
Operation Progress four years ago,
and she was a fourth grader.
And she was very shy.
I mean, hardly spoke at all.
And you even approach her,
and she would kind of clamp up.
She didn't know what to do.
It was just her
going to school and back home.
She didn't do much outside the house.
With Operation Progress, we give her
the opportunity to leave that environment
for a few hours, either go to the horse
program or we take her to field trips
to Disneyland or Magic Mountain.
So, she's doing a lot more.
She's more active now.
She will have
a full on conversation with you.
She is so friendly and outgoing.
She participates in all of our programs,
and she's just a girl
who wants to be a girl.
She doesn't want anything else.
All she wants is to ride horses.
You can spend hours
talking to her about horses.
That's her thing.
The horses, you share a bond with them
and the people over there are really nice
and generous and they're very loving.
I love horses a lot,
and just like the people there,
they're very good listeners,
and they love us.
They're like family.
It's just a way for me to relieve stress
from all the stress from school.
It's not that stressing. I'm only 16.
Jennifer's very wise beyond her years.
She's got this old soul, very caring soul,
and I think it comes out because
she loves working with elderly people.
So I think that's...
I think it's so depicting of who she is.
On Saturday mornings,
I volunteer at a hospital, St. Francis.
The environment was just very...
it was very soothing.
And they give me a free meal.
So that's nice.
After hospital, one of the officers
picks me up from the hospital,
and we head on over
to Silver Spur Stables,
which is where we go horseback riding.
Every time we go somewhere,
that's the best.
We did a lot of activities before
when my cousin was in the program.
We went to Mulligan's,
then we went laser tagging,
go-cart riding, bowling.
I had confidence,
but I couldn't show my confidence
because I never got to do stuff.
I tell my mom about every
field trip we ever had,
and she really liked
that I'm in Operation Progress.
Are you feeling that?
I've been staring at that wall,
trying to make it even.
One of
the hardest afternoons was
we had taken the kids surfing,
and, you know, in the morning,
they're so afraid to get in the water.
They think they're gonna die and drown.
By the end of the day at five o'clock,
they will not get out.
I mean, we were pulling them
out of the water to leave.
And we left and were driving home
and we're coming back from Malibu,
and we're on Central Avenue,
and we're about to enter in the projects,
and there's
a police helicopter above and sirens,
and it was just so hard to see that
these kids were going home to that.
You could feel it with the kids, too.
They don't want to be dropped off at home.
They don't want to go back to their house.
Well, the crime in Watts
has actually improved,
and Watts is only a small area.
It's about ten square miles.
Southeast in general is ten square miles.
When I came in here eleven years ago,
we were averaging over
110, 115 homicides a year.
Now, I think last year,
we had maybe 30, 32 maybe.
So it has changed a lot, and I think a lot
has to do with the officers we have here
in southeast that are willing
to go out there and work hard,
and a lot has to do with the partnership
we have with the community.
It seems like the community
tends to trust us more.
- Bye, Officer Ortiz.
- Bye. See you, buddy.
- How you doing?
- Good. And yourself?
- Good.
- Glad to see you here.
Oh, thank you, sir. Thank you.
People are now afraid
to do more crimes now,
because they know that there are
a lot more people watching.
- So you've noticed a change?
- Yes.
Before, this used to be an area
with a lot of drugs and prostitution.
Now it still may happen,
but it has to happen after 11 or 12.
So the people are happy with it.
Well, crime has went down
here in this community,
which is in Watts.
The relationships
have change tremendously.
Do we still have challenges?
Yes, because you're going
to have it even with law enforcement.
You're going to even have it
with the community.
But this is the way
we work the problems out
and how we solve any conflict of...
towards the relationship.
We work together to make it right,
and it has been very successful.
Give somebody
your information with an I.D...
I do intervention for SEA:
Soledad Enrichment.
I try to do gang reduction.
That's my specialty.
I try to talk to the youth
and I don't know gang members.
I just know people of the community,
and if I'm not out here doing the job,
how can I say what I do is effective?
So I have to get out here, be out here
in the community to talk to these guys.
My guys right here,
these are a couple of my clients
that I'm reintroducing them
into my program.
So the moment they cut them loose,
I'm going to talk to them
and see what's going on with them.
I try to see if we can come up
with a solution Monday
and try to help them get a job
or something, get themself together.
What's going on, I don't know.
It'd be up to them to talk to me about it,
and I'll be able to translate better
with the police and be a bridge
between the streets and the police,
make it a little safer out here
for both parties.
There's going to be no tolerance.
We'll do a probation compliance check,
and he's good to go.
If they ain't did nothing,
why must you do that?
If he didn't do anything, he's good to go.
Donny and Smurf are gang interventionists.
So about an hour ago, members of this gang
caught their rival gang members
slipping in the city of Linwood,
and they gave them a beat down.
So now, word is that the rival gang
is formulating a plan
to get retaliation tonight on this gang.
So I go to Donny,
who's the community liaison,
and I told him
there's gonna be no tolerance tonight.
Anybody who we can legally take to jail,
we're going to take to jail.
And we do that, not only
to get people off the street,
but for actual... their safety as well.
It's gotten way better, and across
the city just recently this year,
the chief did a press conference about
the increase in crime in Los Angeles,
and what's really compelling about that is
while crime went up throughout the city,
it continued to decrease in Watts.
So if you look at Operation Progress
as being part of this holistic approach,
we've been able to reduce crime.
We're saving the city money.
We're educating our youth,
and we're creating a safe environment
so that we can bring socioeconomic
development into this community
and change the past historical context
of what this community was.
You do anything wrong?
No? Were you in school?
- Huh?
- How old are you?
- Six.
- Six? What school do you go to?
Grape Street.
- You in...
- I go to Grape Street, too.
- Are you guys twins?
- We're both six. Yeah.
Is that how you both lost your teeth?
You like the camera, huh?
When we go out there,
you see kids running up to us,
giving us hugs.
They want to talk to us.
When before, and I'll be honest with you,
before you could talk to a little kid
and the mom and dad
would yank the kid away.
Why are you talking to the police?
Don't talk to them.
You'll see people actually wave
where ten, 15 years ago,
that wasn't necessarily occurring.
Me, personally,
I think I want to be a police officer
to serve and protect the community.
I was thinking about it...
at first, I didn't talk to them that much.
I used to wave at them
when they rode past,
but now I talk to them
and it's like we friends now.
The guy on the corner
might say the police are bad,
but now since he has
a first-hand view, he talks.
He gets to see them.
He hangs out. So it's different.
You get to form your own opinion of them
and everything,
and you realize
they're human just like us.
So I think that's pretty good that
he gets to be around officers like that.
My brother's been to jail.
And a lot of my siblings are...
I don't want to say the word,
but they have a bad image of the cops.
And so after getting to know the cops,
I kind of have a view from both sides
and not just a biased view.
I felt like people were going to ask me
why are you associated with them
or are you the snitch in the hood
or something like that,
but no one has asked me that.
They just say, are they your friends?
I say, "Yeah. " Because I'm not going
to say, "No, I don't know them. "
These cops being with the kids,
it's changing the minds of the kids
which change the minds of the parents,
which change the mind of the communities.
When you have an organization come in
that's willing to work with kids
to mentor them, to turn them into leaders,
to provide educational opportunities,
it's huge.
They're involved with
after-school activities in OP,
which means they're not going to be
hanging out on a street corner
or being influenced by the gangs.
You're creating leaders and when you pair
them up with an officer who's a mentor,
it's almost like a full circle.
So, to have the opportunity
to take a kid out of an environment
and place them into a private school
where they're going to get one on one
education and mentorship, is huge.
And Operation Progress
has already grown in this community.
It's a household name.
You can walk down the street and "Oh, hey,
it's an OP kid. " Or, "Where's Miss G?"
It's already part of the community,
and I think that the impact that it's had,
we might not see for another
couple of years long term, but short term,
it's definitely been a tool
to reduce crime in this community
and build leadership in this community.
Operation Progress is opportunity.
I'm really happy that I'm in OP.
I think it's really changed me,
and like it says on the shirt,
it gives you an opportunity.
Our kids also need life skills.
Our after school programs
like healthy eating,
conflict resolution
and community service
give them the tools
to not only survive, but to thrive.
These funds will build relationships
between youth and police.
Tonight we're at the Skirball Cultural
Center celebrating fast pitch competition
where it's a program every year.
They accept 20 nonprofits
into the program.
They help you develop your best
three-minute pitch for your organization.
And tonight is the final competition where
the ten finalists will go up in front of
500 people and give their best
three-minute pitch for their organization.
We have two more presenters.
Know that they've been sitting there
like you have waiting, waiting, waiting,
getting more and more nervous.
Our ninth presenter, please give
a very warm welcome to Operation Progress.
Thank you.
It's a great platform to tell them
who we are and what we do,
and how we make an impact in the community
and how they can be
a part of that as well.
It's a typical day in Watts,
one of the most gang-ridden neighborhoods
in Los Angeles.
The parking lot at St. Lawrence School
is packed with police cars.
This usually means a gang fight
has broken out, but not today.
Today is report card day and the halls
are filled with LAPD officers
checking their mentees grades.
Report card day is one example of
the many ways Operation Progress' mentors
are involved in our students' lives.
Thank you.
Theresa Gartland, Operation Progress.
You killed it.
Thank you.
- Thank you.
- Thank you.
- Thank you, Derek.
- Good job.
Thank you. I wanna get a picture of you.
The biggest lesson I've learned
from working here for 13 years
is that the number one thing
these kids need is validation.
That's all they need, is somebody
to tell them and look them in the eye
and say, "I'm proud of you. "
Because they don't get that at home.
I hope to always maintain my true self,
to be humble
and always give back to my community
and do service,
because helping others
also helps me inside.
I hope to still continue on
with missionary work,
because I feel like I've been blessed with
so much that I should help others as well.
I'd like to stay here
just because I grew up here.
I want to leave during college,
but I want to come back.
I want to come back
to be in a program like OP
so I can help other kids
and I could teach them that
living in a place like in Watts can't stop
you from looking up to your dreams.