The security camera video of Grammy-nominated rapper Nipsey Hussle’s murder will be an indelible memory for those who loved him, worked with him, respected his mission, were fans of his music, or anyone who has concerns about gun violence.
South Los Angeles residents are not strangers to gang violence, but to take down a music icon and a hometown hero in broad daylight left many to wonder: “How safe is this community?”
Clearly, change is coming to South Los Angeles. The metro rail is the most visible sign that the area is slowly being divided between the haves and the have-nots. Skyrocketing rentals and six- to seven-figure priced homes are being snapped up by an influx of deep-pocketed White residents.
Although change is a coming, Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas and the Los Angeles County Public Health Director, Dr. Barbara Ferrer, have launched the Office of Violence Prevention.
The announcement was planned months ago to commemorate National Public Health Week (NPHW), a national campaign to educate the public and policymakers about issues related to health, crime and poverty which occurs between April 1-7.
Ironically, the national observance took on new meaning after a recent surge in homicides, including the shooting of Hussle on March 31.
Although the county has operated a wide variety of prevention programs, they have not been coordinated or supervised under one office or agency within the county. Consequently, there have been gaps in services.
The county has allocated $6 million to create the Office of Violence Prevention to create strategic and coordinated services for more than a half dozen communities. The Martin Luther King Healing Center is the designated center in South Los Angeles.
“Far too many people in LA County are being injured and killed whether by homicide, suicide or intimate partner violence,” said Dr. Ferrer. “This violence is preventable. It takes community voices and multi-sector collaboration to promote healing and address one of the most pressing public health issues of current times.”
Hussle’s murder took place in Councilmember Marqueece Harris-Dawson’s district. He’s hopeful that the center will make a difference.
“We desperately need to address all of the ways that violence impacts our communities,” said Harris-Dawson. “I am proud to stand with the county to get to work.”
Both the Los Angeles Police Department and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department have 2019 crime stats posted on the department websites.
In general, the stats show crime is down in most categories from homicide to shots fired. The areas that show an increase include rape, robbery and child/spousal abuse.
“Too many times, people view law enforcement as just going after the offender when in reality, our work is much broader and includes the prevention of crime and the protection of victims,” LAPD Chief Michael Moore. “Trauma can have a lasting impact and, too often, our officers do not have the resources.
“With the Office of Violence Prevention, I’m encouraged for the first time that the County of Los Angeles is establishing a means to identify resources that exist, gaps that need to be filled, and coordinate the delivery of all those services to a County of more than 10 million people,” he added. “I’m encouraged that this type of innovation is going to result in Angelenos getting the necessary treatment and services that will help reduce and eliminate this cycle of violence.”
Some citizens, like LaWanda Hawkins, have been in the violence prevention trenches for years. Hawkins’ 19-year-old son was murdered in 1995. The founder of Justice for Murdered Children, Hawkins’ nonprofit recently launched a new billboard campaign that aims to generate fresh clues in unsolved homicides.
The billboards, which feature photographs of 48 unsolved homicide victims, have been placed at 10 bus shelters across Los Angeles County. The posters ask in bold red letters: “Do you know who MURDERED us?” The posters also include contact information for several nonprofit victim’s rights organizations.
Although Hussle’s homicide was deeply tragic, it appears to have only fueled and expanded the urgency of the mission he lived for in reducing gang violence and promoting positive uplift in South Los Angeles.