The lowriders that are saving lives
Underestimate this place at your peril. In the last three years alone, there were 16,398 verified violent gang crimes in the City of Los Angeles, including 491 killings, 7,047 serious assaults and 5,518 robberies. And membership is on the up. The latest FBI research shows that there are around 1.4 million active gang members from more than 33,000 gangs in the USA. A 40 per cent increase from an estimated one million gang members in 2009.
But there's an unlikely faction rallying against the tide. "With these cars, we're keeping people away from gang life," says Frosty (left). "I used to run with the Westside Playboys. We did it all, man - drive-by shootings, selling drugs - cocaine, marijuana, heroin. I had a meth lab. We stole cars, bought guns... lots of guns. And the LA riots. I was there. In and out of jail, too. Federal prison. LA County. I've had years in the penitentiary.
"But I've done my time and lost a lot of friends. I've got to give back now. So I show people that there's a way out of gangs. My club takes the cars to juvenile hall, so the kids banging [being a member of a gang] can see that there's an alternative. We show them that it works. I used to be a knucklehead, but now I'm doing something positive. We want them to do the same thing with their own car instead of getting in trouble on the streets, and we help them achieve that."
Frosty is from Old Memories Car Club, San Gabriel Valley Chapter. And like all of the groups we've met today - the Majestics, So-Lo Riderz, One Bad Creation, Resurrection and Showtime - it celebrates the lowrider custom vernacular. Which is, ostensibly, cars with switch-operated hydraulic or airbag suspension so you can adjust the ride height on the fly.