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The Gilbert W. Lindsay Recreation Center

A park threatened by gang violence yet sustained through community involvement.

Competition | Every weekend 16 teams gather to compete in a league tournament hosted at the GLRC.

Gilbert Lindsay | The GLRC is a multi-feature recreation center at the corner of 42nd and San Pedro. It has been established as a safe and festive environment.
Outdoor Gym | The GLRC's workout machines get some use by morning exercisers.

Gang Activity | Several LA gangs are active in the territory around the GLRC.

Multigenerational Park | Miguel Valencio watches the pidgeons and the skaters.

By Jordan Lee

Every day after school, Xavier Williams meets up with his "homeboys" at the Gilbert Lindsay Recreation Center (GLRC) to grind some rails in the skate park and smoke some weed.
"This is where we kick back," said Williams, "we're here every day after school, and sometimes before."
The GLRC, located in South Central Los Angeles near the area known as West Compton, is a recreation center that has become an important part of the neighborhood because of its reputation as a safe place for families.
The GLRC offers a variety of recreational activities and facilities: barbecue pits, a skate park, baseball diamond, children's play area, basketball courts and two soccer fields.
The park has been claimed by the community as a place where families can spend a weekend with their children, picnicking and watching soccer matches.
Just a couple of miles away is South Park, the only other recreational park in the nearby vicinity. Unlike GLRC, South Park has fallen into complete disrepair. There are no facilities and groups of transients make the park a dangerous place for children.
GLRC and South Park are both located in areas with heavy gang activity, including border fights and tagging, which means the marking of gang territory, often through graffiti.
But gangs can make their presence known in more creative ways.
"The other day one of the gangs had flipped a car in the middle of the road," said Olivia Macias pointing to the street that runs near the soccer field, "We all saw it lying there the next morning."
Macias, a high school student who grew up in the neighborhood, spends her extra-curricular time doubling as an undercover junior cop.
Every weekend, Macias comes to the GLRC to spend time with her friends and watch soccer games, but she also keeps an eye out for drug dealers and cart vendors who sell illegal substances and cigarettes to underage kids.
Macias, who is only 15-years-old, says she wants to do what she can to create a safe environment in her neighborhood.
"It's not fair that these gang guys can come around here taggin' and shooting each other when there are little kids who just want to play on the toys," said Macias, "I want to be a police officer so I can make this neighborhood safer."
There are over 250 active gangs in Los Angeles County, according to the Los Angeles Police Department. The majority of these gangs are active in the area known as South Central LA.
In the late 1990's and early 2000's, the neighborhood was dominated by the 43rd street Bloods, an African-American youth gang that fights with the Crips.
But gangs with Chicano origins have established a stronger presence in the neighborhood in the past decade, Macias said.
Florencia 13 and 18th Street, two of LA's largest Chicano gangs, are active in the area.
Florencia 13 (F13) is notoriously violent. In 2008, about 100 F13 members were tried for drug conspiracy and murder after a period of particularly intense fighting with rival gang Firestone that left dozens dead, including civilians with no gang affiliations.
The GLCC may play a significant role in moderating gang activity by providing an outlet for aggression through organized athletic competition.
Every weekend, the GLRC's two soccer fields hold league games.
Sixteen teams make up the official league. Each team has its own uniform, and many are sponsored by local companies, players say.
The weekend tournament games have become a community event, where entire families will bring folding chairs and picnic blankets and settle in to watch the matches.
Cart vendors and food trucks set up around the perimeter, selling everything from home-made enchiladas to bags of cotton candy.

Skating at GLRC | Xavier Williams and Tyler Van display some skill.
"It's a lot of fun because there is no coach, it's basically like pick-up," said Victor Cortez, who plays there every weekend.
Because the teams naturally form around familial and friend groups, the soccer pitch can become a platform for gang aggression.
"Some of the teams have members of the same gang," said Macias, although she didn't know whether entire teams were composed of members of the same gang.

"There are a lot of fights," said Cortez, who declined to say whether he belonged to a specific gang, "It can get pretty dirty, but it doesn't get out of control too often because the guys don't want the games to get shut down."
The community has established its own sort of security presence during the soccer matches. No one can enter a field without getting cleared by one of the señors sitting by the entrance.
LAPD officers frequently patrol GLRC. The skate park had two ramps taken away after police shut it down for drug-related problems.
"They shut it down because people weren't respecting [the skate park]," said Williams, the high school student who skates at the park every day after school.
Williams isn't in a gang, although at 15, he is at the prime age for recruitment. He says he's not interested, as long as he has the skate park.
"Maybe if [some gang] were telling me I couldn't skate in the park no more I might join to get into the park," said Williams.

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The Gilbert Lindsay Recreation Center