LA Gang Tours: Education or 'Ghettotainment'?

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Taking a bus tour of the homes of movie stars is one of the most popular things to do when traveling in Los Angeles.

Now there's a tour that takes you into the city's rougher neighborhoods where gang members live. However, not everyone who lives there is for the idea.

Critics call it "ghettotainment." But founder Alfred Lomas calls it LA Gang Tours.

"Well, I say, come on the bus and experience what we have to offer," Lomas said.

What Lomas has to offer is not your average Hollywood tour. Pay $65 and you'll get a two-hour trip through what organizers call "the forbidden streets of Los Angeles."

But do not forget to sign the waiver promising not to sue if you get shot.

Considered the gang capital of the world, Los Angeles is home to the infamous Crips and Bloods. Police believe there are around 90,000 gangsters in the city limits.

Lomas is a former gang member himself. He does not allow any photography on the tour, except at designated stops.

At these places, he has hired former gang members to tell their stories.

In the area, a former gang member talked about how he was arrested at 14 and spent the next 22 years in and out of prison. His story had an impact on tourist Mary Lou Licht.

"I've lived in Los Angeles my entire life and never really realized how bad the violence really is," Licht said.

But critics said the gang tours are exploiting people who call these neighborhoods home.

"You're going to have a what? Bring someone here to look at us? To look at people who live on the ground, who live under these conditions?" asked an incredulous Francisco Ortega, Human Relations Advocate for Los Angeles.

But Lomas said when he shows people these conditions, it is not about turning his old neighbors into exhibits.

"They won't get the wife beaters shots and the people standing around, and the people throwing dice," Lomas said. "You're not going to get that."

Still, he does acknowledge it is a business and a draw in a city known for people watching.

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Mark Martin is a reporter and anchor at CBN News, covering various issues from military matters to alternative fuels. Mark has reported internationally in the Middle East and traveled to Bahrain to cover stories on the U.S.S. Dwight D. Eisenhower. Follow Mark on Twitter @MarkMartinCBN and "like" him at Facebook.com/MarkMartinCBN.