Adjunct Professor of Social Welfare Jorja Leap spoke to the Los Angeles Times about the current debate surrounding the Los Angeles Police Department’s use of CalGang, a secretive statewide database with information about suspected gang members, including their family members, nicknames and tattoos. Since only approved law enforcement has access to the database, it has been nearly impossible for those outside of law enforcement to gauge the integrity of the process or check the accuracy of its records. At least 20 LAPD officers are suspected of falsifying information used to identify gang members, putting additional pressure on the state Department of Justice to reform the system to prevent law enforcement from unfairly targeting people by race and economic status. Leap said the LAPD investigation “is the booster rocket to say this has got to be reformed and it’s got to be reformed not in a superficial way but in a meaningful way.”
A new LA Stories episode on Spectrum News 1 highlighted the work of Jorja Leap, adjunct professor of social welfare, who has changed the narrative surrounding gang members by sharing their stories. As a social worker in South Los Angeles, Leap earned the trust of many current and former gang members and forged bonds with people she now considers family. “I think if each person could hear the story of even one gang member, their views would change radically,” she said during the interview. Leap argued that these communities are worthy of investment and that the people in them deserve our help and attention. Leap has published two books sharing the stories of those she has come to know and is the co-founder of the Watts Leadership Institute, which provides community members with the resources to create positive change. “It’s not enough to understand. I had to take action,” she said.
Urban Planning Professor Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris shed light on women’s interactions with transportation systems in a Rewire article explaining female riders’ frustrations with rideshare services. Loukaitou-Sideris said sexual harassment is incredibly common in transportation settings around the world. Incidents of sexual harassment and uncomfortable behavior with rideshare drivers have prompted requests for increased safety measures, especially for women. While nearly 45% of female rideshare users have expressed their preference for a female driver, only 20-30% of Lyft and Uber drivers are female, and neither rideshare service allows female riders to request a female driver. Loukaitou-Sideris’ research on women-only public transportation in other countries, such as women-only train cars, found that women worried such an arrangement would “perpetuate discrimination” by taking away the option to sit in other cars of the train. Many women express their desire to be able to safely use the same service as men, instead of needing a women-only solution.
Anne E. Brown, MURP ’14 Ph.D. ’18, a researcher at the Institute of Transportation Studies (ITS) at UCLA Luskin, authored a Los Angeles Times op-ed about L.A.’s taxi industry and discrimination against black riders. Comparing taxi service in Los Angeles with ridehail services such as Uber and Lyft, Brown writes, “when it comes to timeliness, technology, and – most troublingly – racial discrimination, taxis lag significantly behind their flashy new competitors.” Brown’s findings, published in her doctoral dissertation, come from her groundbreaking equity audit of ridehail and taxi services in the city that compared wait times and trip cancellation rates by race and ethnicity.
Despite recent gains in lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights in the United States such as gay marriage and the right to serve openly in the military, the fight against equality for LGBT people appears to be gaining strength, according to Kian Goh, assistant professor of urban planning. Violence against LGBT people has continued “unabated, however, during the recent period of legislative wins,” Goh writes in a recently published article, “Safe Cities and Queer Spaces: The Urban Politics of Radical LGBT Activism.” In the online article in Annals of the American Association of Geographers, Goh cites data from GLAAD and the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs, indicating that 2015 and 2016 were the “most deadly on record for transgender people in the United States, overwhelmingly affecting transgender women of color.” In LGBT communities, homelessness continues to be an issue, and socioeconomic disparities are reinforced, “particularly among women, people of color, young and old, and gender-nonconforming.” Goh adds that these overlapping identities and “systems of oppression exacerbate the marginalization of LGBT-identified people, creating ‘unjust geographies’ that intertwine race, class gender and sexuality.” Goh looks at how researchers, planners and others who contribute to the “making of cities” can understand and contribute to social movements, change and justice, and — through participatory observation and working with these groups — examines the efforts of two New York-based queer activist groups fighting for social and spatial change. — Stan Paul