Friday, October 23, 2009


To Whom It May Concern:

I'm writing to express my concern with the LAPD's harassment of people who are selling food on the street. I mentor a 16-year-old girl who lives in Koreatown; her mother, like many immigrants in the area, earns her living by selling donuts from a small cart. A couple of weeks ago (around Oct. 12), my mentee witnessed the police confront a congregation of street vendors on Normandie and 8th St. The police told the vendors they couldn't sell there, disbanded the group, and threw some of the vendors' food away. When my mentee verbally protested, one of the officers asked how old she was and sent her home.

I realize that because I did not witness this incident firsthand, I cannot file a formal complaint. But I agree heartily with what my mentee told me: "It's not fair because those are the only jobs a lot of people can find. They're not hurting anyone, and when their food gets thrown away, it's like losing money. The cops should be solving real crimes."

According to the LAPD's gang injunction map, that part of the city has an especially high level of gang activity--i.e. real crime. If the city of Los Angeles and the LAPD devoted more of their resources to programs linked to gang prevention (after school programs, job training programs, arts programs, parks staying open late), they would serve the community much better than by harassing street vendors. And if street vendors didn't have to work long hours for little money in risky conditions (risks which include having their livelihood disrupted by the police), they might be able to spend more time with their children, which would make those children less likely to join gangs.

I realize that police officers have incredibly difficult jobs, and I have great respect for those who put their lives in danger to serve their communities. But preventing hardworking people from selling food doesn't serve anyone.

Thank you for this opportunity to voice my concern.


Cheryl Klein


Anonymous said...

Not to go "The Onion" on this, but are you sure the police were throwing the donuts away? That's almost sacrilegious!

Peter Varvel said...

Yeah, that was my first reaction. When you combine the words 'cops' and 'donuts,' the phrase "thrown away" doesn't seem to stand a chance.

On a more serious note, your letter parallels my ongoing concern with religion in America, and the effort invested into pointing fingers instead of using the same time and energy to help the needy.

Cheryl said...

Wow, I didn't think about the cops/donuts correlation! Some people will go way too far to dispel a stereotype.

PV: I think that's true, which makes me all the more appreciative of churches and other religious institutions that try to reframe the the debate and think about things that matter. Like donuts.

El Changuito said...

I'd like to see a culturally sensitive approach. In Mexico, people sell food on street carts everywhere--remember Oaxaca? The food was delicious.

I'm sure that no one is reaching out to street vendors to give them a hand.