Community · ethnography · News and politics

Critical Incident Stress Management Teams: Where Are They?


When living in a war zone, emotional support services should be available to help people manage the inevitable stress that accompanies witnessing murder, dodging bullets, or suffering abuses emanating from the environment.

We live in an occupied community, dominated by gangs who traffic in guns, drugs, and other illegal actions. They routinely bully and otherwise intimidate residents, leaving us living in fear, imprisoned in our own homes. There are some who would encourage us to move, but who can afford to pay $1000 a month for an apartment or a house in an area no better than this one?

That we are not represented by our elected officials is an understatement. For four years, I have sent letters of complaint and concern to Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas.

For about a year, I wrote to the supervisor’s office complaining about the noise assault issuing from the boom cars the gang members seem to use as communication devices as well as weapons to keep the community cowed. I also contacted public and environmental health to ask for their help in getting something done to curb the noise. I was finally referred to the Sheriff’s department, as they were deemed the only department capable of dealing with the problem. The majority of the noise stopped after two years of complaints, but resumed once the jails and prisons were emptied because of overcrowding.

Back to square one.  Here, we have witnessed murders, either by sight and sound, or by palpable sound. When high-calibre ammunition is fired nearby, it can be felt, particularly in this narrow street, where we are packed together like matches in a book. Population density is very high here with multigenerational families and/or multiple families sharing one dwelling. Many is the time I have had to hit the deck as bullets whiz past the house, audible as they swish through the leaves of the trees, our only shields from the violence.

If I leave my front door open at the wrong time of day, I’m forced to hear the verbal abuse that passes for parental talk to young children. Gang members know how to speak to their children they way they were spoken to as children, I suppose. However, the way they speak to their children makes my flesh crawl. And I feel beaten up by the verbal onslaught. Imagine, a daughter calls her mother a stupid bitch and the mother responds by calling her daughter a raggedy ho. It would be comical if it weren’t such a tragedy.

Where are the critical incident response teams? Where are the emotional supports for those of us who fear walking down the street, coming home after dark, or who dread having to ask our ‘neighbors’ to move their vehicles from across our driveways so that we can park on property for which we pay taxes?

Why should we have to suffer the presence of murderers, thieves, and career criminals without respite and without support? Why are they allowed to persist in our communities? It becomes ever more difficult to retain good neighbors, particularly those with children, because they move away as soon as they can after discovering the negative environment they will have to tolerate. 

We really do pay a hefty price for living in the 2nd Supervisorial District of Mark Ridley-Thomas.

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