Toyz In The Hood?

What comes out of a gumball-like machine may look harmless, but the palm-sized figurines called Homies are a topic of debate in many Latino communities, reports CBS News Correspondent Vince Gonzales.

The toys are diminutive gangsters with names like Smiley and Big Loco, which police officers say depict a lifestyle of crime.

"The toys are not for kids," one young woman says. "They promote gangs and violence."

One policeman says he's concerned the dolls will lure children into a dangerous existence.

"It bothers me that we are going to further glamorize this style of dress and some kids are gonna want to dress like this and have to pay for it with their life," he says.

Father Gregory Boyle, who has worked to rehabilitate gang members in Los Angeles, says the only threat from the toys is the negative image they portray. In his opinion, it takes a lot more to drive a child into a gang.

"No amount of images or little toys that you can create will lure a kid who's hopeful into a life that's pretty despondent," Boyle says.

Ex-gang members at Father Boyle's Homebody Center laughed, saying they didn't believe the toys could pose a threat.

"Not really, because if they get one of those little G.I. Joes, are they gonna want to be a G.I. Joe, too? Want to join the Army? I don't think so," former gang member Gus Monica says.

Frank Saenz agrees.

"Kids want to join gangs because they want to join gangs - not because of little dolls like this..." Saenz says.

Over a million Homies have been sold in the last four months. Their creator says he doesn't push gangs. The toys, he says, are based on people he grew up with and are not tools for gang recruitment.

Reported By Vince Gonzales