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USD Professor Explores Violence In America’s Poorest Neighborhoods

USD Professor Explores Violence In America’s Poorest Neighborhoods
USD Professor Explores Violence In America’s Poorest Neighborhoods GUEST: Cid Martinez, author, "The Neighborhood Has Its Own Rules"

Please community relations have been a major topic of study and discussion. Instances of racial profiling and the use of force by law enforcement have led to widespread distrust of police in some neighborhoods throughout the country. When you think you can't call the police, how do you keep the peace? A sociology professor at the University of San Diego studied urban poverty race and violence in South Los Angeles. His new book describes how the neighborhood has found alternative ways to address conflict. Joining me is Cid Martinez author of the neighborhood hazards on rules. Latinos and African-Americans in South Los Angeles. Welcome to the program. Thank you for having me. Why did you pick South LA lacks Originally I was working on my dissertation when I was a graduate student at UC Berkeley. I wanted to know how the area had changed because it was an area that in literature was mostly a black ghetto. If you look at the demographics, it had gradually changed and was increasingly becoming more Latino. I wanted to understand how we can conceptualize poverty and in terms of thinking about it in terms of black and brown. An interesting point you made there. In doing this research you say you saw the statistics but you did a reliance statistics. You moved to South LA. How did they change the nature of your study? I did after not Murphy and one version is what's called participant observation. This is not interviewing people, you take the time to get to know them and so what I did was what's known as a community study and I resided in various parts of South LA. I volunteered and liquid parishioners at a Catholic church and volunteered and worked at a school with kids who were on probation and kick out for alleged cane behavior and I volunteered to work with the newly formed Los Angeles city neighborhood councils. The goal was to do a community study and see how community life in the way people respond to violence through the lens of various community institutions. You say South LA is a higher crime area but that it's remarkable that there is not more crime. What you think the neighborhood should actually be more volatile than it is? This is a good place to introduce my key concept from the book. I use this concept, what I refer to as alternative governance. It starts with the idea, when I volunteered in the neighborhood councils with the city of Los Angeles, I wanted to see how people participated to address community problems like crime and what I found was that they were really willing to participate. They wanted to be cynically involved but what I discovered was they were more concerned about, equally concerned about police accountability and police abuse as they were about violence and gang's. That's very odd if you think about it. What is up happening is the councils were important, because they showed that people resorted to what I call alternative governance. In places where you have high levels of governance, people, protection becomes paramount and people want to feel safe. What ends up happening is people look to others who are like them for safety. Often times a community becomes divided by race, is when you see other Latinos were African-Americans there is a sense of safety and security a goes along with that. The first part of alternative governance is based on avoidance. The second part is a principle that we hear a lot about called no stitching. Is the idea that you keep the police out and don't go to the police. I realized how important this was the first week that I moved into South LA. When I moved into this one neighborhood, there was a car that this group of men owned a new homeowner had bought the house and the car was on the premises. They came up and said we need that car. What they told him was, they tried to encourage him to give the car back but he said the car was under investigation for a crying. They were upsetting Québec later that night and about 3 AM I look at my window and there are flames shooting out of the house where this dispute had gone down. The next morning when I woke up, a homeless woman was pushing her card and stops and looks at me and says that's what happens when you snitch. This is an important part of keeping conflict and problems outside of the purview of the police. How they keep the violence down, this is another key component. In negotiation, it's an attempt for residents to deal with some form of mediation or negotiation rather than retaliation. This becomes a second key component and I think people underestimate the creative strategies that the urban poor use to minimize violence. We don't hear about this because there are people that see this kind of stuff but it's important to note that they are not violent communities the way we think about them. There are strategies we don't know about and the third part is what I refer to as retaliation. We know violence does happen. I chronicle how the area has the highest violence in the country. When strategies one in to fail, when avoidance and negotiation feel, then we can retaliation and it's often the last resort. Do you see similarities between the neighborhoods in South Los Angeles and neighborhoods in San Diego? In urban poor neighborhoods, that are over policed and what I mean by that is there are instances were allegations of police misconduct and in neighborhoods where we have police, under police, I mean people with high levels of violent crime, that's the formula for this kind of thing to take place. You can get alternative governance and all sorts of urban poor areas that have these conditions. How can law enforcement agencies you sure concept of alternative governments as they tried to forge new relationships in many neighborhoods? In my current research tries to do that. Right now I wrapped up a study for a new book that looks at the community policing program in Sacramento that I was an active member in. What they tried to do is Ridge the police and the community using people like clergy members were former gang members who are part of the alternative governance structure. Often times people in these communities have more trust in their local pastor or in a former gang member unfortunately than they do with local police. If there is a way for law enforcement to tap into that, I think that's a way of leveraging the legitimacy that you get in alternative governance to deal with crime. I want to go back to a point you made. You write about the self separation between African-Americans and Latinos. That has created a more peaceful environment in South LA. That segregation is hard for Americans to feel good about. Is that the only way to keep the peace? No. This is a response to the violence, and I think actually the violence, I would argue that contrary to what most people think, interracial relations don't produce violence. Unchecked violence, communities that are over policed and under policed where residents don't feel safe, create the condition so that both groups start to look to one another. The more that people feel integrated coming in a community, the better that they are connected to City Hall, the better they feel about the police, and those are ideal strategies for bringing them together. The avoidance I talk about is a result of the under police that I mentioned earlier. Cid Martinez will be talking about his book the neighborhood has its own rules tomorrow at 4 PM at the University of San Diego and Friday at 1 PM at UC San Diego. [music] the journey of a lifetime for some Korean adoptees is documented in the new film. It's 12:45 PM and your listing to KPBS Mid Day Edition.

Book Events

Wednesday 4 p.m.

University of San Diego

Friday 1 p.m.

UC San Diego

With the national spotlight on the relationship between police and the communities they serve, a new book offers insight into why urban poor communities often distrust police and alternative methods they use to keep the peace.

Cid Martinez, an assistant professor of sociology at the University of San Diego, studied urban poverty in south Los Angeles.


His book, "The Neighborhood Has Its Own Rules," reveals how African American and Latino communities manage conflict in their neighborhoods and the role churches, local government and even street gangs play in that effort.

Martinez, discusses Wednesday on Midday Edition, how his research relates to recent officer-involved shootings and the slight increase in violent crime across the U.S. in 2015.

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