18 August 2013

"Season of Shootings"...

The best thing about being a reporter is you gain access to worlds that you normally would only view from the outside: whether it’s a recording studio or a Palestinian refugee camp or a chartered plane with Rihanna or a Polish film festival. My life as a journalist has never been less than thrilling to me, for which I’m so grateful.  There’s something incredibly pleasurable about researching a topic and then diving into a space that you previously knew nothing about. People open up their lives to you, even if it’s only for a few minutes. It’s a privilege I never take for granted. 

As you may know from reading a few past blogs, I’ve been working on an article on Homeboy Industries, a gang-intervention program founded by Father Greg Boyle. My interviews and my research have led me to read up on Los Angeles gangs. I’m very aware when I go to Homeboy’s offices that I am surrounded by ex-gang members, many of whom are covered in tattoos and have led lives incredibly different from mine with little of the middle-class access and ease that I just happened to be born into. And yet I feel very at home there because Boyle has fostered an undeniable feeling of kinship and respect within those walls.

What my research hadn’t taught me was that July-September is considered the “season of shootings” in Los Angeles. Hospitals double down to prep for GSW (gunshot wounds), many of them gang related. Today’s Los Angeles Times has a moving story about a surgeon’s struggle to save a teenage boy who got shot in an alley and who came in through the front door via someone, not an EMT, dropping him off. “The hospital staff calls it the homeboy ambulance service: patients brought in with injuries often from gang shootings,” writes Thomas Curwen in the LAT piece.

With no knowledge of how old the boy is, his name, or his next of kin, the surgical team sets about to save his life after a bullet enters his torso and lodges in his spine. It’s a compelling, dramatic read as death comes perilously close as the doctors discover internal bleeding. He survives, but the doctor knows the next gunshot victim is never very far away. “‘Why so many guns,' [Dr. Brant] Putnam asks. ‘It once was fistfights. It once was stabbings. Now it’s a whole new world out there, and with guns, it’s just too much.'" 

According to V2K H.E.L.P.E.R., a gang intervention program based in Venice, Calif. (a gang hotspot, believe it or not),  one-third of gang homicide victims are not members of a violent gang; the median age of a gang homicide victim is 21, and guns were used in 95% of gang-related killings. I didn’t know all that, but I bet Dr. Putnam did.

V2K H.E.L.P.E.R. works with the LA Probation Dept. and LA Country Office of Education to develop programs that improve the social and economic condition of Venice residents. They also pair with community and faith-based organizations, as well as business leaders. 

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