Will Beall is the author of L.A. Rex, a novel about cops and crooks in Los Angeles' 77th Street District.
I'll talk about the novel later since I'm not done with it yet, but so far it's one of the best I've read this year, and that's saying something.
One of the interesting things about Mr. Beall is that he is also Officer Beall. He patrols the same 77th that he writes about.
The 77th Street District is the harshest, most ugly part of Los Angeles, hands down. It's 12 square miles and holds about 175,000 people. As of the latest published Compstat (warning .PDF), the 77th has had 64 homicides, 83 rapes, 1457 robberies and 1483 aggravated assaults this year alone.
Everything is worse this year. Though AA's look like they're down, the LAPD stopped reporting domestic violence cases along with AA's earlier this year in keeping with the FBI reporting guidelines. If you mix those two up you'll see that AA's have actually jumped to 2425, a sharp spike upward from last year's 1792.
A few days ago the L.A. Times ran an op-ed piece by Mr. Beall on the progress made by the LAPD to shorten the trust gap between the LAPD and Los Angeles' black community.
Black men have bled and died down here for generations. When you process crime scenes in 77th and collect the empty shell casings from the ground, sometimes you find older casings, tinged with rust — the leftovers from some earlier, unreported shooting. Tragedy heaped upon tragedy, death upon death, and the trail of blood stretches back further than most of us care to look.It's beautifully written. And sad. A stark reminder of a reality in Los Angeles for far too many.
Many people are content to let poor black men kill one another. Fortunately, the men and women I serve with are not among them. Our vigorous pursuit of black perpetrators is legendary; we're less famous for our corollary efforts on behalf of black victims. Officers work in 77th Division because they believe the powerless are worth protecting.
Read it. And if it doesn't make you cry just a little, then you're a harder man than I.