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Invisible killings: The homicide epidemic in South LA




USC's Department of Public Safety officer secure the crime scene after four people were shot including one in critical condition during a Halloween party at the Tutor Campus Center on November 1, 2012 in Los Angeles, California.
USC's Department of Public Safety officer secure the crime scene after four people were shot including one in critical condition during a Halloween party at the Tutor Campus Center on November 1, 2012 in Los Angeles, California.
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

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In the United States, the leading causes of death are cancer and heart disease. But for young black men, add homicide to the list. Making up 6 percent of the population, black men in America account for 40 percent of homicide victims.

Many of these murders are committed by other black men. And despite a criminal justice system that disproportionately puts people of color through its machinery, many killers go free, leaving their victims’ families bereft.  

L.A. Times reporter Jill Leovy explores these killings through the lens of South Los Angeles, where one white detective is far exceeding the averages. Treating each case like a celebrity murder, John Skaggs is dogged in his search to provide families with answers. Leovy paints a portrait of one such case, a 2007 murder and subsequent prosecution investigated by Skaggs. Moreover, she details the legacy of racism and the monotony of frequent violence that has historically given cops and reporters alike little interest in pursuing the stories of black men killed in their own neighborhoods.

After a year of protest in the wake of police killings of black men in Missouri and New York, Cleveland and Los Angeles, "Ghettoside" shines a light on a neighborhood accustomed to fearing cops, accustomed to murder, and accustomed to all of it going unreported. How far can good police work go? And how far has the department come in assisting residents of South L.A.?

Jill Leovy will talk about her new book, "Ghettoside," this Thursday, Feb 5, at 7:15pm at the Mark Taper Auditorium at the Central Library in Downtown.        

Guests:

Jill Leovy, author of “Ghettoside: A True Story of Murder in America” (Spiegel & Grau, 2015). She is a reporter at the Los Angeles Times and founded the paper’s Homicide Report section 8 years ago.