What do you think of when you hear the phrase "L.A. Gangs?"
How about 6-figure salaries and academic tutoring?
If those last ones seem out of place, watch World Report on HDNet tonight at 9pm ET. "The Gang Member Next Door" is a piece I produced about street gang members who say they have left the life of crime...but continue to associate with their gang.
Our crew spent time with two men from the Bloods -- Yusef and Big John. Both men were hard-core gang bangers back in the day, hustling drugs and defending their turf against rival gangs. But after multiple stints in prison, both men decided to turn their lives around and go straight. Yusef tutors school children through a federal non-profit and Big John is an electrician who makes over $100,000 a year.
Yet despite their conversions to middle class lifestyles, these men have maintained their gang ties. They still hang out with their old Blood brothers and continue to live in the same dangerous neighborhoods where they used to commit crimes. Why? Yusef puts it this way:
"You see, everybody's got a maternal family - but what you do is you adapt your homeboys and your friends and your community as your extended family.... It's a family. That's all it is, it's a family."
Law enforcement doesn't buy it. They say that anyone who claims he has left a gang but continues to run with the same crowd is lying...or is at least walking a tightrope that could land them right back in a life of crime.
Tune in tonight to see Yusef's and Big John's stories... and you be the judge. Watch a clip of the episode here.
"Gang Member Next Door" re-airs Wednesday night at 9pm PT, midnight ET, and is available for download on iTunes.