When debating whether or not to make the big move to Los Angeles, consider two things: One, don't. And two, the city has a teensy weensy little bit of a gang problem:
The Times reviewed search warrant affidavits, police reports and other records filed in court and interviewed police officers and victims of MS-13. What emerged was a portrait of a gang that acts as a shadow authority in MacArthur Park and other parts of the city it considers its turf, deciding in some cases who is permitted in public spaces and who can engage in commerce, legitimate and illicit.
For decades, gangs have exacted "rent" from vendors and drug dealers in MacArthur Park. Periodic violence has spotlighted the shadow taxation system, such as when 18th Street gang members opened fire on a man who had refused to pay $50 for permission to sell radios on the sidewalk of 6th Street. The gunfire struck a 3-week-old baby, killing him.
The gang appears inclined to target the more vulnerable among the park's inhabitants, including "transgender women" (AKA biological men) and homeless drug dealers:
Jesus Mireles was a homeless, small-time dealer selling methamphetamine and living in MacArthur Park when he stopped paying "rent" to the gang in 2017. Barrera-Palma dispatched a crew of underlings, telling an MS-13 member in Los Angeles he was "sending down the wolves," prosecutors wrote in a sentencing memorandum.
Five minutes after midnight on June 11, 2017, someone wearing a hooded sweatshirt walked up to Mireles and shot him in the head, according to court papers and a coroner's report. Doctors pronounced the 48-year-old man brain dead three days later.
Recently, following several stabbings, a police response drove gang members out of the park and to a nearby homeless encampment. They quickly took over that encampment and turned it to a drug emporium, driving away nearby municipal workers and torching a nearby home they had initially seized before the owners locked them out.
Here's a wild speculation: Los Angeles police aren't going to be able to keep MS-13 out of that park, or any park, until they get aggressively, proactively serious about confronting gang activity in the city.
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