Though there's always been heat from the police, but the first signs of a concentrated Crenshaw crackdown really appeared in the late-'90s, when Sundays on the Boulevard became a cat-and-mouse game between the police and the car enthusiasts. Lowriders would gather at a spot like Chris' Burgers diner, or the Wienerschnitzel stand, hang out, get run off by the police, and then move their party further up or down the boulevard, only to be chased off again. Tickets for hydraulics and small tires were common, and the police presence remained thick and intimidating. Tow trucks and impound lots became common hazards in the life of the Crenshaw riders, frustrating them to no end, and slowly sucking the soul out of the culture. The crowds eventually started to thin, especially around the dawn of the new millennium, as much of the youth segments' (and MTV/BET rappers') tastes turned to luxury rides with large rims. These "Donks" and "Fast and Furious" style import cars, became the hot cars of the moment, making the old-school lowriders take a backseat.
Undeterred, the dedicated lowriders remained true to the 'Shaw, as documented in Carol Strong's 2005 documentary, "Sunday Driver." Shot in the late-'90s and early-'00s, "Sunday Driver" shows what had by then become the standard Crenshaw setup: Hit a nearby park to hang out for the afternoon, then head toward Crenshaw by evening for some cruising and gathering, usually at a spot like Leimert Park. Still, the police hovered around the scene, and sure enough, things got worse. With Crenshaw's increasingly bad community rep, thanks in part to the Saturday night go-fast car crowd, the cops came down on the street again. "Ultimately, they organized," Wally Dogg says of law enforcement's early-'00s action on the strip. "They got their strategy together to basically take control again."
In the years since, Crenshaw cruising has gone through a transition that reflects the changing nature of lowriding itself, and the police are on top of it now more than ever. The so-called "street scene" has moved largely into parks and big-box store parking lots. More and more riders simply take their cars from show to show on weekends; some have even switched to motorcycles. With the general membership getting low in recent years, many in the Crenshaw lowriding community are left wondering if the next generation of youth can keep the scene going as it is, let alone bring it back to what it once was.
In order for outsiders to see the Boulevard party like it used to, those who were there back in the day recommend hitting the strip on New Year's Day or the Fourth of July. On those two occasions, Crenshaw really comes back to lowriding life. The rest of the year, the Crenshaw lowriding community has shifted gears, choosing to organize Sunday gatherings at parks around and near Crenshaw, but not on the strip itself. Not everybody has given up. Surprisingly, a few determined lowriders still roll down the strip on a regular basis.
For some, staying off of Crenshaw is all part of a plan, if only for now. Kevin "Kev" Lewis rolls with Original Riders and is a board member of the National Low Rider Association, an L.A.-based group comprised of area car clubs members that's tasked with organizing the scene into a united force. "The whole point of the association is to get these groups together, put their heads together, and we put a calendar up," he says. "It may not be one club's turn to give something (on a particular weekend), but we all congregate and we'll do a potluck. It's something to keep us from cruising down Crenshaw, so LAPD and (California) Highway Patrol don't jack us up." The NLRA coordinates the schedule, rotating the spot each week between different parks in different areas, most in South L.A. near Crenshaw. For these lowriders, the Boulevard is always looming in the background, both literally and symbolically.