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What I Learned from My 1L Summer Job


I was in LA for my 1L summer. I got an offer to work at the Los Angeles DA’s unit that handles gang murders: The Hardcore Gang Unit.

You think, oh LA; that’s Hollywood, the Walk of Fame, Chinatown, Koreatown, beaches, sunshine, surfing. Sounds fun. After a few weeks at the DA’s office, LA seemed a helluva lot more dark. People really do get killed for being in the wrong neighborhood, for wearing the wrong color shoes, and for no particular reason at all. The gangs of LA are quite brutal.

Part of the reason is that killing someone gets you increased status within the gang. The other part might be the fact that about half of all murders in LA County go unsolved. That’s not an accident. There’s no shortage of witnesses, but they don’t want to talk. They’re afraid of gang retaliation. I saw a man who witnessed the murder of his best friend refuse to testify against the killer.

Most gang murders seem to begin with a simple, “Where you from?” That really means, I know you’re from a different gang, and I’m here to kill you.

Being in public won’t save you. Bus stops, gas stations, nightclubs. Cameras everywhere. Thirty people hanging out in the park. You’re still not safe. True, gang members usually kill other gang members. But, they don’t care about who gets caught in the crossfire. And they’ll kill you too, if, for example, they want your cellphone.

If you’re thinking of visiting LA, stick to the college bars. Don’t go to Hollywood nightclubs. Hollywood is “gang neutral territory.” This means gang members go there to party, and they’re not supposed to start any trouble, but they often do. Avoid people with face tattoos, and anyone wearing red or blue hats. Leave your Phillies, Cardinals, Twins, Cowboys, and Suns hats and shirts at home. Actually, to be safe, don’t wear any sports team apparel at all. Gangs use sports team apparel as uniforms.

LA is a fun city. But it sure does have a dark side.