LA Gang Tour: “A Story of Redemption”

"Every jail we went by today, I was there"

Some LA bus tours will take you past celebrity homes, Rodeo Drive, the Walk of Fame and other Hollywood landmarks.

The LA Gang Tour
is different.

It has scheduled stops at the Los Angeles County Jail, the LA river bed, Metropolitan Detention Center and the Pico Union Graffiti Lab.

Alfred Lomas is the tour's founder. He said the purpose of the three-hour bus ride is the educate, not exploit.

From the tour's website:

The mission of LA GANG TOURS is to provide an unforgettable historical experience for our customers with a customized high-end specialty tour. We will provide customers with a true first-hand encounter of the history and origin of high profile gang areas and the top crime scene locations in South Central, Los Angeles. Each tour bus for LA GANG TOURS will have a guide from the South Central areas who has gained hands-on knowledge and experience of the inner city lifestyle.

Such as Melvin Johnson.

"Everything bad that could happen to you in gangs, happened to me," Johnson told a tour group. "I've been shot, stabbed, incarcerated. Every jail we went by today, I was there."

At the Pico Union Graf Lab, passengers exit the bus for a tour of the facility.

"This is just a place to get your art on," said one artist.

At the birthplace of the Crips gang, passengers meet reformed gang members. And, at the Watts Art Gallery, they can view original works.

Jorga Leap, a gang specialist, said she admires Lomas' motivation.

"But we can't treat it like it's Disneyland," she said. "Like it's another amusement for tourists to come and see when they visit Los Angeles."

Ana Parra, of Homeboy Industries, told NBCLA the tour can't capture realities on the ground.

"I honestly think it's a bunch of b.s.," said Parra. "We're not a zoo. We're human beings. People cannot really understand what being in a gang is by getting a tour."

Lomas said the goal is to create jobs for South Central residents. Profits from the tours go back to the area for "economic growth and development, provide job/entrepreneur training, micro-financing opportunities and to specialize in educating people from around the world about the Los Angeles inner city lifestyle, gang involvement and solutions," according to the tour's website.

"We're able to create jobs for individuals who may not have an opportunity because of felonies they've acquired in the past," Lomas said. "There's a perception out there that people can't change. This is really a story of redemption, that change is possible."

For example, Johnson is starting a non-profit that uses music as an intervention tool.
Lomas said because he has deep roots in the community, the bus is allowed safe passage. Others in the community told NBCLA there's no such thing.

The Saturday tours cost $65. 

Visit The LA Gang Tours website for more information.

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