By Guest Contributor Alton Pitre, cross-posted from Juvenile Justice Information Exchange
I never chose to be raised by my grandmother in a South Central Los Angeles neighborhood filled with injustice, gang violence and police cruelty. This was my home and the kids on the block were my friends, many of whom eventually joined gangs. Being a native of this environment, I have seen many crazy things and have always felt like I was in the midst of a world war. I have countless friends who are either dead, in jail or doing nothing with their lives. Eventually, I became a victim of this society.
My first encounter with the police happened during my sophomore year in high school. I was leaving a childhood friend’s apartment with another friend when suddenly two Community Reform Against Street Hoodlums (CRASH) Officers trespassed and entered. Unfortunately, the friend leaving with me was already on their file as a gang member. Due to my personal photos on Myspace they knew who I was before meeting me face-to-face. I was arrested immediately. As far as I could tell, my crime was being with a friend in the vicinity of where we both grew up.
We were taken to Southwest Police Station and charged with a status offense, in this case trespassing. The police were able to do this because of a gang injunction law placed in my community of L.A. known as the Jungles. Gang injunctions are court-issued restraining orders against a gang that restricts one documented gang member from being with another within a defined geographic area. This allowed the police to summarily arrest any documented gang members who were together in a gang area. We were visiting, not trespassing. After that day gang unit cops harassed me wherever I went.