“These Hipsters Don’t Seem to Understand”: How Gentrification Reduces Community Trust in Search of Public Safety in Echo Park

Date of Award


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Rebecca Overmyer-Velazquez


Before Echo Park became a tourist location and a home to various artists, it was a neighborhood that was inhabited by bodies labeled as deviant: low-income people of color. Gentrification in Echo Park has played a crucial role in not only transforming the physical space of the community by implementing urban renewal and increasing the cost of living, but it has also established new social relationships among young men of color and community members. I argue that gentrification changes community social relationships and definitions of crime and deviance in Echo Park since the community has split into those who surveil deviant bodies and those who seek to protect the neighborhood, thus reducing levels of trust among residents. Most literature on gentrification focuses on the visible and physical transformation of space but not on the impacts gentrification has on long time relationships community residents have with one another. To capture the perceptions of community residents, business owners, and gang members about gentrification, 11 interviews and 2 focus groups with 2 and 3 people, fieldnotes were conducted in Echo Park, and quantitative data from the Los Angeles Crime Mapping system is presented. Likewise, to showcase how the community socially transforms under gentrification, deviance, neighborhood effects, and racial fix are used as key concepts. Although residents recall having stronger collective efficacy- neighborhood trust that supports community cohesion- with their neighbors before gentrification commenced, they recognize the value that whiteness, which fixes social and economic values in communities, has in the displacement of folks who participate in the local gang, thus making the community safer. They also call for an increase in police presence in the community even though the gang has become more private than in the earlier 2000s. For their part, gang members perceived a loss in community trust and unity since new upper- and middle-class residents avoid having any interaction with men who take up public space. Future research should include interviews that can be conducted with incoming residents and business owners to grasp a holistic perspective about crime and in an era of rapid neighborhood changes.


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