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Online chatter spawns fear of violence

LOS ANGELES — Ongoing gang violence coupled with social media rumors about a 100-day, 100-murder campaign have some South Los Angeles residents taking unusual precautionary measures to avoid possible bloodshed.

The violence among the gangs is rumored to be a competition to see which gang can be the first to kill 100 people, and can be found on social media under the hashtag #100days100nights.

However, the original social media post had nothing to do with how the public currently interprets it, said Bill Scott, deputy chief of the South Bureau for the Los Angeles Police Department.

“The rumor is the exact opposite of what we have out there,” Scott said during a phone interview with The Wave. “We’re trying to corroborate a post. Many folks in the community have told us what they heard has nothing to do with violence. It had to do with something totally different.”

The deputy chief would not discuss the details of the original post but said the department’s division, Real Time Analysis and Critical Response, investigates online trends that pose a threat to public safety.

During the vetting process, Scott said the department could not find supporting evidence to validate the hashtag’s claim.

Instead, he said the spike in violence was cyclical and “unfortunately, not too uncommon.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JYIjtcrEX2s&feature=youtu.be

Violence normally goes up in the summer time. It’s a trend that goes in and out, he said.

Between July 24 and 25, four shootings took place within the LAPD’s 77th Street Division, according to police officials, causing the South Bureau to go on tactical alert,

Under tactical alert, officers’ shifts are extended and they concentrate on priority calls as officers from other divisions step in to handle other calls.

Shootings that happened in South L.A. after July 25 were not gang-related, Scott said.

The shooting spree, he said, is a prime example of how cyclical crime rates are in urban areas.

“We get a spike, we throw resources, deploy people where they need to be deployed. Things normally cool down.”

Social media users expressed mixed views as #100days100nights continued to trend.

One social media post that became widely circulated included a map of a highlighted area in South L.A. where an alleged gang war is taking place. The map covered the area between Normandie and Western avenues and Imperial Highway and Florence Avenue.

Along with the map, the user wrote, “Supposedly a gang member from the Neighborhood Rollin 100’s was shot and killed. … So word is that two gangs made a bet to see who can get to 100 kills first and the other word is that they’re going to be shooting it up for 100 days straight.”

Another user rebuffed the rumor by stating on Twitter, “They put out these fake #100days100nights gang killing rumors every few years. They had a similar rumor about the Bloods a couple of years ago.”

Other social media users are using the hashtag, “Pray for LA” as the alleged gang war makes national headlines.

Scott said these types of rumors can take a life of their own as the department and city officials try to ease the public’s fear.

Police Chief Charlie Beck spoke with reporters July 29 in an effort to ease the fears of residents.

He said he did not believe the shootings were related to the social media posts that threatened ongoing gang violence.

“There are many, many urban myths, and many of them coincide with gang activity,” Beck said. “We’ve dealt with [many] of them in the history of the Los Angeles Police Department. I would hope this is one of those. We have not seen any increase in events we can directly tie to this, but we are looking closely at it.”

Beck noted there has not been any sign of continuing violence in South Los Angeles since July 25, as the online posts might suggest.

“We have not had what we would consider unusual levels of gang violence or a continuation of the incidents of Saturday night,” he said.

The chief suggested that the posts were probably being made by people who have no involvement in any activity in the area.

He said the rash of shootings last weekend rash of shootings can be traced to a fatal shooting that occurred in South Los Angeles in mid-July, Beck said. When the funeral was disrupted over the weekend, it led to retaliatory violence.

“That is, unfortunately, a story that is as old as gang violence in Los Angeles,” Beck said.

Mayor Eric Garcetti issued a statement saying the city has been busy working “around the clock to address these shootings and prevent further violence.”

“We have allocated more than half of the $5.5 million in increased funding to expand gang intervention programs in this year’s budget that will go directly to support gang prevention, intervention and juvenile re-entry services for South L.A. communities,” the mayor said.

“We will continue to do everything we can to keep our city safe,” he said.

On July 29, Garcetti, accompanied by police officers and several reporters walked along Crenshaw Boulevard near Leimert Park to calm the fear of residents, whose concerns are forcing some to be more cautious in their daily activities.

“I try to make sure I get home before it gets dark and park my car in the back of my driveway so I don’t have to get out of my car in front of the house,” said James Cooper, an athletic trainer who lives in Los Angeles.

“I drive a longer route to avoid certain areas. I continuously pray, inform and encourage others to stay away from the hot spots,” said Los Angeles resident Adjoa Smith.

“The picture of the map going around on social media with the gang territories drawn around is what everyone is looking at to see the areas not to go,” said 23-year-old student Jesslyn Chatman.

A peace rally held July 27 on the border of Inglewood and Hawthorne brought together pastors and community residents to raise awareness about the violence in the community. Community activists expressed the importance of staying vigilant in order to remain peaceful.

“We have to put on some white jackets, go out there at night time, and tell these young brothers to stop killing each other,” said the Rev. Phillip A. Lewis, pastor of New Mount Pleasant Missionary Baptist Church.

City News Service also contributed to this story.