L.A. Gang Tours Stir Controversy

by  Suzanne Steinert | Jan 25, 2010
Downtown Los Angeles
Downtown Los Angeles / Melpomenem/iStock

If you’re the type who likes travel that's a little rough around the edges and signs “potential danger” waivers without batting an eye, then you’ll want to add South Central L.A.’s new Gang Tours to your travel bucket list. Launched two weeks ago and run by Alfred Lomas, a tattooed former gang member who’s dedicated his post-gang life to helping low-income families in L.A.'s high-crime areas, the $65 tours take visitors wanting to see beyond the Hollywood hoopla on a guided ride through the city’s most notorious ‘hoods.

The tours seemed like a joke initially, with former Tonight Show host Conan O’Brien quipping, “A new tour is being offered in Los Angeles that takes tourists through L.A.’s most dangerous neighborhoods. It’s also known as ‘a cab ride from the airport.’” Others have called the tours “voyeuristic” and fear they might romanticize gang culture. But to Lomas, who insists the tours are more educational than entertaining and whose ultimate goal is to use the profits to “create jobs, save lives, and rebuild the communities” ravaged by gang violence, those criticisms couldn’t be further from the truth.

Already, Lomas’s endeavor has enabled four of the city’s most violent gangs (including his own Florencia 13) to agree to a cease-fire on predetermined turfs in which the tour operates, since the business promises to provide them with jobs and other entrepreneurship training programs (for instance, Lomas employs four or five current gang members to ride on the bus to keep watch and share their personal stories).

The two hour-long ride makes 12 stops at high profile gang areas, like the L.A.’s biggest jail (home to 20,000 gang members) and the concrete riverbed where Grease was filmed and where the Mass Transit Assassins created the world’s longest and most expensive (to remove) tag. Call 213-265-4950 for upcoming tour dates and to purchase tickets. Tours are scheduled monthly and include lunch.

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