Get yours in LA for $65.
Only miles from the scenic vistas and celebrity mansions that draw sightseers from around the globe — but a world away from the glitz and glamour — a bus tour is rolling through the dark side of the city’s gang turf.
Passengers paying $65 a head Saturday signed waivers acknowledging they could be crime victims and put their fate in the hands of tattooed ex-gang members who say they have negotiated a cease-fire among rivals in the most violent gangland in America.
If that sounds daunting, consider the challenge facing organizers of LA Gang Tours: trying to build a thriving venture that provides a glimpse into gang life while also trying to convince people that gang-plagued communities are not as hopeless as movies depict.
“There’s a fascination with gangs,” said founder Alfred Lomas, a former member of the Florencia 13 gang. “We can either address the issue head-on, create awareness and discuss the positive things that go on in these communities, or we can try to sweep it under the carpet.”
Some think such a tour is a bad idea.
Several observers have questioned the premise behind the tours, and some city politicians have been more blunt.
“It’s a terrible idea,” City Councilman Dennis Zine said. “Is it worth that thrill for 65 bucks? You can go to a (gang) movie for a lot less and not put yourself at risk.”
City Councilwoman Jan Perry said she would rather tourists see the development potential in the neighborhoods that make up part of her district. About two years ago, she organized her own tour in the area for about 200 real estate agents and business representatives, resulting in the development of buildings with homes and businesses.
“I’d prefer we focus on showing the community in a positive light,” she said.
It’s definitely something not found anywhere else.
No tour quite like this runs elsewhere in the country. Chicago has a prohibition-era gangster tour, and another Los Angeles group buses people to infamous crime scenes, including the Black Dahlia murder.
Lomas faces a quandary as he tries to show the troubled history of the area once known as South Central, before politicians renamed it South Los Angeles in 2003 in an attempt to change its deep association with urban strife.
The tour is billed as “the first in the history of Los Angeles to experience areas that were forbidden.” But tour leaders don’t want it to be voyeuristic and sensational. (Source: Fox News)
An interesting concept, though I’m not sure I would go on such a tour.
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- Los Angeles Journal: A Gangland Bus Tour, With Lunch and a Waiver (nytimes.com)