COMPTON, Calif. (KABC) -- Signs for Life, a new community initiative, is dedicated to helping a Compton neighborhood disassociate itself from any gang ties.
By posting anti-gang signs on local streets and hosting cookouts like the one held Saturday afternoon, organizers hope to break a chain of destruction that Peach Street community members have been living in for decades.
At the block-party barbecue, the food was an entrée to a much deeper purpose -- residents celebrating a moment of peace in their neighborhood.
The thoughtful idea was cooked up by Hector Tapia.
"Because a lot of these neighbors, they don't know each other," he told ABC7. "They have been living here for decades and they don't know each other. So today is going to be the opportunity for them to come out, sit down next to one other and have one big meal."
The neighbors didn't know each other because for decades they didn't feel safe. Historically, Peach Street was ravaged by gangs, Tapia said. His 18-year-old nephew, Devin Taylor, constantly lived in fear.
"It was just scary to come outside," Taylor said. "You would never know when you could just walk outside and people could just start shooting at you."
Said Tapia: "I would hate for somebody to gun him down, thinking that he was a gang member. So I had to come up with an idea."
Tapia launched the group Signs for Life and created the event called Meal With the Mayor, a celebration that gang activity has decreased.
Compton Mayor Emma Sharif applauded Tapia and the neighborhood for taking back their community -- and saving lives.
"I believe that unifying a community is one of the best things that we can do here in this city," Sharif said.
According to an estimate by the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department's Compton station, criminal homicide is down 54% as of November 2022, compared to the same time period the previous year. Violent crimes are slightly up, by 8%.
Signs of Life says the community continues to be victimized by outside gangs who assume certain gang members still live in Compton.
The group hopes events like the one held Saturday, and a street sign in the neighborhood, warning gang members to stay out, will help.