Straight Into Compton: L.A. County Sheriff's Department targets city's image
05/13/2016 4:24 pm PDT
Compton has seen some of the most violent turf wars in gang history. Now the L.A. County Sheriff's Department is determined to turn that image around.
Compton, California, is only 10 square miles. And that small area has seen some of the most violent turf wars in gang history. But now the L.A. County Sheriff's Department is determined to turn that image around.
Compton gets a pretty bad rap. Most people wouldn't drive though here without a bible, a prayer and a bulletproof vest.
"I don't think any police officer signs up to do this job to quote-unquote 'Have an easy day,'" said one deputy.
It's the birthplace of Gangsta Rap and the burial ground for thousands of gang members. Even the funeral home here has bulletproof glass. In fact, it's the only drive-thru in the state, so mourners can pay their respects without paying the ultimate price.
But forget about what you saw in the movie. This is the new Compton.
A myth about the city? "That you're gonna get murdered," said L.A. County Sheriff's Captain Myron Johnson. "That you're gonna go out and get killed, you're going to go out and get shot at -- that's not the case."
L.A. County Sheriff Jim McDonnell and his team of deputies are hell-bent on cleaning up Compton.
"Every deputy here is here because they want to be here," said Captain Johnson. "These deputies that work the streets in Compton earn the same amount of money as our deputies that work some of our more affluent areas."
"I love it here. I couldn't see myself working anywhere else," said Deputy Anthony Federico.
Federico is giving us a rare look at life on the beat in L.A. County's most notorious city.
"A lot of these people are good, hardworking people that are trying to do the right thing and have a better life for their family," said Federico.
Gonzalo Jaime is one of those good people. He runs a restaurant in the heart of Compton.
"Trust me, Compton has changed a lot, it's not the same Compton that they're used to," said Gonzalo Jaime.
Jaime says it all started the day the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department took over.
"When we changed to the sheriff's department, it affected it," said Jaime. "We saw the change, and it was for our good."
But keeping the people here safe isn't easy.
"It's scary coming to work with a target on your back already," said Deputy Federico.
Just look what happens minutes into our ride-along: a major drug bust.
"We have a .357 Magnum, which was loaded, five rounds, revolver, some tar heroin, and a little bit over an ounce of methamphetamine," said Federico.
A short time later, a suspect is arrested on an outstanding warrant for taking a car.
And on this night, Deputy Federico is being extra cautious. Recently a murder happened right here, and the suspect is still on the loose.
"Anybody in the area that fits a particular description, we're kind of looking at," said Federico. "We're looking for a murder suspect."
Then Deputy Federico rolls up on a suspicious cargo van.
"We're going to check them out. There's like three or four guys sitting all in the front seat. It's kind of weird, so," said Federico.
Within minutes, the men in the van are in handcuffs. Shaking down cargo vans can be dangerous here, but this is a good night. After checking these guys out, they come up clean and they're set free.
"You know, I don't come to work every day wishing to shoot somebody, or to get in a fight with anybody," said Federico. "I just want to come to work and do my job, and if somebody has to go to jail, they're going to go to jail."
One of the most infamous crime scenes in Compton is the parking lot where former rap mogul Marion "Suge" Knight is accused of running over and killing a man. That was caught on camera. Knight is now sitting behind bars awaiting trial.
"A lot of these people here are real good people, they're hard workers, but a lot of times they don't want to get involved because they're in fear of retaliation. That's really frustrating because we're here to help them out," said Federico.
Deputies know they need the help of the people who live here as much as the people of Compton need law and order.
"We have a good relationship with them, and trust, and build a good rapport with them to help solve some of these crimes," said Federico.
Although the movie Straight Outta Compton has propelled the myth about this city, these brave deputies lay their lives on the line to make sure anyone heading straight into Compton stays safe.
To the bad guys and to the bad girls walking the streets of the city of Compton?
"You better get right because we're serious about cleaning up this city, making this city safe, and if you're not right, we're coming after you," said Captain Myron Johnson.