50 Years After Riots, Watts Police-Community Ties Better

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Echoes of Los Angeles’ Watts riots, which resulted in 34 deaths in 1965,  reverberate in places like Baltimore, Cleveland, and Ferguson, Mo., the Christian Science Monitor reports. In Watts, however, poverty, unemployment, and gangs still plague the community, but violent crime is down. Police officers coach youth football teams on weekends and play basketball with locals. Community members work with street cops to curb gang activity in the neighborhood’s three housing projects. The transformation, is largely the result of a long, painstaking process of forging relationships between the community and law enforcement.

Every Monday for the past 10 years, the Watts Gang Task Force – made up of elected officials, police, local leaders, and residents – has met in Watts to address the neighborhood’s toughest issues. Members of the task force have a message for cities now going through what Watts experienced for decades: Building trust within a community requires not just time, persistence and commitment, but a willingness by all stakeholders to be held accountable for their actions. Homicide in Watts has dropped by nearly 70 percent since the task force’s inaugural year. In 2006, the neighborhood saw 26 homicides; in 2015, there were eight.

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