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Skipp Townsend: Peacemaker with Bloods and Crips cred

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Skipp Townsend
Skipp Townsend, photographed at the Los Angeles Times in El Segundo on Sept. 8.

The war between the Rollin’ 60s Crips and the Inglewood Family Bloods was past its 50th year when Skipp Townsend brought the sworn enemies together over brunch.

During the meal at a swanky open-air restaurant in Manhattan Beach, Townsend never broached the topic of peace. Just breaking bread, he hoped, would be enough to humanize the other side. The $286 tab, covered by Townsend’s nonprofit, 2nd Call, was a small price to pay. Since that day in February 2022, there has not been a single homicide between the rival gangs, according to Townsend.

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In Los Angeles’ labyrinthian networks of Bloods and Crips, with their countless subsets and shifting alliances and feuds, Townsend is a rare breed: a mediator with credibility on both sides.

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“Those who wear blue, those who wear red — it’s important that they know each other and build relationships to stop the violence,” he said.

After 11 o’clock on an August night, Townsend’s phone lighted up with news that several people had been shot at a South L.A. park during an event meant to prevent gang violence. Townsend set to work tamping down rumors that could lead to retaliation. “It was NOT the 9-0s shooting a Hoover,” he told his contacts, referring to two local gangs.

Townsend commands respect across a broad swath of Black gangs from Crenshaw to Inglewood to Compton.

Townsend, 60, is long past doing time in county jail and flaunting his allegiance to the Rollin’ 20s Bloods by tooling around in a red ’64 Chevy. But it’s still risky for him to venture into Crips territory, say gang leaders who work with him. Whether Bloods or Crips, he’s received death threats from those who aren’t ready to lay down their guns. Those who favor peace, and who know their homies’ limits, caution him when he pushes negotiations too far. He relies on these leaders to hammer out the details of the talks he sets in motion, or to stop violence from escalating. A bald, bespectacled senior figure among the area’s many gang interventionists, Townsend commands respect across a broad swath of Black gangs from Crenshaw to Inglewood to Compton.

Skipp Townsend

The man who once did his share of antagonizing Crips is earning his karma back, and more.

“Would you go somewhere that you know you could get killed? Or that you know you could get beat up or stabbed?” said Shamond “Lil AD” Bennett, a Rollin’ 60s leader who attended the Manhattan Beach brunch and considers Townsend a mentor. “He’s a Blood. He’s going into a Crip neighborhood. There’s no more bigger sacrifice than that.”

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