So this week is going to tie back into our very first episode, which was a 2 part episode, on Lonnie David Franklin Jr. who is also known as the Grim Sleeper. He was a serial killer in South Central Los Angeles who was operating for over 20 years and for the bulk of that time, LA Police Department did not know he was actively killing women in his neighborhood.
The bulk of the murders committed by Lonnie Franklin and the person we are discussing today took place in the 80s and 90s. During this time, the crime rate in south LA was very high and the 1980s saw what we now refer to as the crack epidemic and the lasting effects of that bled over into the 1990s.
There was a huge increase in the number of missing and murdered black women in south LA during this time. So many of these women were turning up murdered in their own neighborhood that the community became concerned that there was a serial killer roaming the streets, but LAPD didn’t really investigate.
It wasn’t until the community came together and formed the Black Coalition Fighting Back Serial Murders and actively lobbied the LAPD to open an investigation.
To placate the Black Coalition Fighting Back Serial Murders, LAPD opened an investigation into the staggering number of deaths in the area. They quickly said, yes there is a serial killer operating in the area and dubbed this person “The South Side Slayer” and the case remained opened, but no progress was made. Only the body count increased.
At the time we recorded our first episode we were pretty flabbergasted that the community had to lobby the LAPD to do their jobs. After putting together this episode, we are still flabbergasted.
Even more disturbing the lack of action on the LAPD’s part exposed several glaring issues with their approach to dealing with this community. Many of the women who were murdered were assumed to be either addicted to drugs, specifically crack, a sex worker, or both.
Now, none of these things should affect how a murder is investigated, but it did. These cases were not taken seriously, in fact murders that involved victims that were perceived to be sex workers or drug addicts were written off as being quote “victims of circumstance” or they were victims of “their lifestyle”.
It also came out that police department in general, not just the LAPD, would refer to these cases as NHI cases and NHI refers to ‘no human involved’.
And this really set the mindset and tone of the situation. Communities in South LA have long had a contentious relationship with law enforcement, and for good reason.
The LAPD has a long history of excessive force when it isn’t needed and indifference when police investigation is necessary. Who do you call when you know the police won’t show up or won’t take your case seriously? Who do you call to report your loved one missing when you’re afraid their case won’t be treated seriously or investigated at all because of how they make their money or if they use drugs?
So that is an extremely brief history of some of the issues South LA faced when they were dealing with a spike in violent crime. It was this neglect that allowed for not one but multiple serial killers to operate unnoticed by everyone except the communities where the murders took place.
References and Further Reading:
Research Assistance: Esther Jeon
Music by: The Blank Tapes
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