Former gangster turned humanitarian offers LA Gang Tours

Air view LAIn the best spirit of, "If all you have is lemons, make lemonade", a Los Angeles group has launched tours of the local gang turf.

Tourists for whom "Cops" is just not real enough can visit the killing ground of the city's notorious drug and crime-infested area.

The bus tours of the city's notorious South Central section are led by guides from the area who know first-hand its history of crime and the gritty details of inner city life.

Stops include the site of the Symbionese Liberation Army shootout, the birthplace of the Black Panther party, the county jail (O.J.'s former crib) and the Los Angeles River bed. The group claims to have reached an agreement with the local gangs to allow them to offer these tours, in negotiated gunfire-free safety zones.

LA Gang Tours was established to create jobs, provide work training, help bring money into the area and educate others about the area's people, culture and challenges. The founder, Alfred Lomas, also directs a good works ministry that feeds more than 50,000 people per month.

According to the Los Angeles Times, Lomas, once a crack and meth addict and member of the Florencia 13 gang, is now known as a gang interventionist, using the trust he has built with local gangs to act as an unofficial liaison with local police hoping to curb violence in the area.

In 2003, The city government of Los Angeles actually took the trouble to officially change the name of the area from South Central to South Los Angeles after the nickname became synonymous with the crime and urban decay. The area, once predominately African-American, is now heavily Hispanic. According to police department statistics, gang-related crimes in all of Los Angeles have dropped by more than 25% since 2008.
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