Not only has the area has seen a dramatic drop in violent crime, but during the manhunt for rogue ex-police officer Christopher Dorner, the community rallied around a police captain who was named as a target. Whit Johnson reports for the NBC4 News on Monday Feb. 25, 2013.
The Watts neighborhood in Los Angeles is fighting for a new reputation.
Not only has the area has seen a dramatic drop in violent crime, but during the manhunt for rogue ex-police officer Christopher Dorner, the community rallied around a police captain who was named as a target.
Even though on the streets of Watts, memories of a more violent time are fresh, after years of hard work, neighborhood leaders are witnessing a remarkable transformation.
"There was a time when our community was doing a lot of killing against each other. It wasn't people coming over here killing us," said resident Trent Moody. "We were shooting each other.”
Moody, a former gang member, said his life changed in an instant in 2004. That was when his 15-year-old son, Trent Jr., was gunned down in a drive-by shooting.
"It impacted my whole world. It's a feeling that I wouldn't want no parent to experience," Moody said.
Since then, the neighborhood has undergone a dramatic transformation.
Homicides in 2012 dropped 38 percent from the year before. Violent crimes were down 27 percent, and gang crimes down 23 percent.
Imperial Courts Public Housing Development was long known as one of the most dangerous places in all of Los Angeles, but last year it was a shining example of progress, with a 75 percent drop in violent crime.
Now Moody said his neighborhood hardly resembles the one he once knew. Some saw an example of that change during the recent manhunt for Christopher Dorner.
LAPD Capt. Phillip Tingirides has led the Southeast Area station for the past six years.
Tingirides, known as "Captain T," was named as a target in Dorner's manifesto.
During the six-day manhunt, Tingirides, his wife, who is also a police officer, and their six children were in hiding.
During that time, the Southeast community that he had overseen for so long, rallied behind his family, offering protection.
"They knew we had police protection, but they offered," Tingirides said. "'We'll come out there and we'll protect you. We're not going to let people take you and your wife from my community.'"
Fortunately that protection wasn't needed, and at a Watts gang task force meeting on Monday, Tingirides thanked the community for its support.
"We know in his heart, he believes in us, and we believe in him," said Dr. Perry Crouch, with the Watts Gang Task Force.
Crouch has been part of the task force since it began in 2006.
Moody helped start a gang prevention program called "United Cultures of Watts."
"I'm able to walk anywhere I want to right now, by the grace of god," Moody said.
Both say the positive results come, in part, from an improving relationship between people and police, built on trust and communication.
"They started looking at us as partners," Crouch said, "and as human."