Monday, May 28, 2012

“Is Race a Factor in Gang Related Violence and Crime?”

This past Memorial Day weekend, Seattle was hit with another rash of violence. In just four drive-by shootings committed in South Seattle, gunmen fired more than 60 rounds, riddling four houses and several cars with bullets. No one was hit in those shootings, but a teenage girl had to quickly dive to her bedroom floor in order to avoid being shot. In another shooting, at the Seattle Center Folk Life Festival, a Hispanic suspect and self-admitted gang member shot an innocent person after the suspect was involved in a confrontation with a third individual. A couple of days before, Justin Ferrari, a 43-year old father of two, was killed in the Central District. A few days before that shooting, there was another murder in the South End by a gangster rapper suspect who gunned down a well known OG during a rap video gathering, allegedly over a piece of jewelry. The accused raps about material things, nice cars, dope, money, pimping, bitches, and murder in songs like "Dumbass Slap":  

Not even half way through the year, Seattle had almost a dozen and a half homicides, while at the same timeframe in 2011 there were only three. The Seattle Youth Violence Prevention Initiative (SYVPI) is still in place. So what’s happening with all of the latest violence? Is it just a burp on the radar screen or a sign of a bigger problem?    

It is no big secret that White criminals mostly prey on other Whites. Hispanic gangs mostly prey on other Hispanics. In fact, it is rather shocking to see how often gang members who have racial pride tattoos and often play the race card, victimize their own people.  Crime statistics back this up. Recently, I came across communication from a former WA State politician that criticized the examination of “Black on Black Crime”. This individual claimed that the term “Black on Black Crime” was a nonsense term that caused “fear and loathing for an entire race of people”. Is this Correct or Denial? There is a program in Little Rock, Arkansas, that seems to differ:

Years ago, I had several arguments with some well known Chicano activists who blamed all gang activity on the “capitalist and racist system”. It was not the fault of the lumpen gang and criminal element, but the system’s history of abuse towards the masses. But, they negated to note that the fastest growing group of gang members (not the biggest) is suburban middle class White kids. Other local figures, who I respect but disagree with, criticized the large amount of young Latinos currently locked up in the juvenile justice system. Were they talking about L.A. I wondered? I visit the King County Youth Services Center frequently, and on average there are no more than a half dozen Latino youth locked up there at any given time, while the Hispanic population in King County is estimated in 2012 to be close to 150,000 representing approximately 7% of the population. In fact, lately the entire population in the youth detention facility has been under 100 inmates for a County of approximately 2 million people. Maybe the system is too lenient?

It is also no big secret that males make up 90-95% of the incarcerated population of the United States and that people of color make up a disproportionate amount of that population. So does this statistic lend a hand to the argument that males are far more violent than females? Why is it that so many Black and Latino youth are acting violently? Is there a grossly unjust system or are there other issues to consider?

In these individual’s defense, they properly identified education as a key factor in violence and gang involved activity. My own work and surveys show youth that are incarcerated, regardless of race, often dropped out of school between the 9th and 10th grades (Freshman and Sophomore years). Many of them could only read or write at the 3rd or 4th grade level. They could not function well in society and knew few good life skills to survive in the modern business age. Some did not even know how to fill out a job application, let alone know how to properly dress for an interview, or use professional language during a job interview. Many of them had single mothers that were too busy working to spend a lot of quality time with them and were absent a father figure or good role model when they were a child that could elevate their success in school or success in life.

The first individual mentioned also claimed that two young men robbed robbed their home recently and stated that the robbers were “victims” too. Another Black community leader, who I respect in many ways, promotes apologizing to the young Black generation for letting them down. This puzzles me? Again, all the blame for these criminal’s actions was placed on “the system” not working for them. These individuals often state they feel bad about the perpetrators being locked up, losing their freedom, losing time from their lives, and losing their place in society. There was no blame placed on the parents and no blame was placed on the criminals’ conscience decision to disrespect and victimize another human being. There was no indication in the first case that the criminals broke into the home’s kitchen cupboard just to have something to eat. There was no mentioning of learning about choices and consequences. Both of these individuals have correctly stated that positive interaction with the police at early ages can make a difference in how they view law enforcement and I have addressed many of these issues in my workshops and in my 1st book:

It is obvious to me, more and more today, that many parents do not have good child rearing skills. Many of them came from dysfunctional families and have passed that dysfunction on. The school is viewed not as an institution that can improve their child’s life, but viewed as a convenient and affordable daycare. The children in the school rooms and hallways I visit often lack discipline. Bullying is epidemic! The schools often blame the parents for the child’s behavior and the parents blame the schools for inattention to their child. The kid gets caught in the middle…
I believe the schools not only need to teach the “3 R’s”: Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic, but “3 Other R’s”: Respect, Responsibility, and Reason. Of course, many schools will state that it is the parents’ job to teach good morals and values. Thus, we go back to square one, many parents are not doing their jobs! Kids should learn how to respect each other and about the harm that teasing and bullying does to the human psyche. They should learn responsibility for their own behaviors. Adults, including police and politicians, need to role model this behavior as an example to the child. Lastly, they should learn to reason and question everything, to think for themselves but use tact, cognitive and analytical thinking of the information that bombards them today in the media and other sources.
I also believe we can do a better job of overhauling the criminal justice system. Far too often people of color, who economically cannot afford an attorney and have little understanding of the process, are given public defenders that tend to push for plea bargains. The “War on Drugs” tends to effect minority youth more. They do not always have parents who can afford private counseling and often turn towards alcohol and drugs instead of seeking good coping therapies and learning conflict resolution strategies. But we must all take responsibility for our own role in crime and other problems in society. I also think we need to rethink our priorities on spending. We spend billions overseas when the infrastructure here at home is literally crumbling beneath our feet. When we do spend on infrastructure, sometimes it is not spent wisely. I saw on the news recently that approximately $30 million spent on Green River Flood preparations, for a flood that never happened, will not be reimbursed by FEMA. Juvenile Justice and Gang Workers were only requesting a few million for Prevention and Intervention programs that were promised but never funded.
I also suspect, as noted in my previous Blog post, “Major Reforms Ahead for Seattle Police?”, that some Officers in Seattle have been less pro-active recently due to threatened or active investigations of the force. This has occurred previously in other big cities under the Department of Justice microscope. We should address this situation now as well as other far reaching complicated issues effecting the Criminal Justice System and the General Public. There is no gang problem, there are gang problems, plural. Therefore, it takes multiple solutions.  Parents, Schools, Gang Workers, Church Clergy, Community Organizations, and Leaders should stop being enablers. Certainly, race, poverty, lack of educational and job opportunities are factors but not the only ones. If we decide to look at all of the issues, leaving nothing sacred or politically incorrect to discuss or examine, then maybe we’ll finally start to better control crime long-term in all of our communities regardless of race?

Monday, May 14, 2012

Drug Cartel Bloodbath as Mexican Elections Draw Closer

The dismembered bodies of 43 men and 6 women were found along a stretch of highway in northeastern Mexico on May 13, 2012. The bodies, some with heads, hands, and feet chopped off, were discovered by local authorities on the edge of the town of San Juan on a road that connects Monterrey to the Texas border. The bodies were believed dumped by the Zetas drug cartel since an arched welcome sign near the killing field had graffiti reading, "100% Zeta."

Jorge Domene, a state security spokesman said, “This is not an attack against the civilian population." But others disagree. On April 17, the mutilated bodies of 14 men were left in a minivan in downtown Nuevo Laredo. On May 5, the bodies of 23 people were found, some hanging from a bridge and others decapitated and dumped near city hall. On May 9, eighteen dismembered bodies were discovered outside Guadalajara, Mexico's second-largest city. Nuevo Laredo and Monterrey are considered Zetas territory, while Guadalajara has been controlled by the Sinaloa Cartel. The Zetas and Sinaloa Cartel are now the two biggest cartels in the country. Tourism, a major driver of the Mexican economy, has taken a hit due in large part to the cartel killings which are a daily occurrence.

In September, a Sinaloa drug gang dumped 35 bodies in Veracruz, Mexico. In August, a Zetas attack on a Monterrey casino left 52 dead. Since 2006, when Mexico's President Felipe Calderon announced a crackdown on cartels, more than 47,500 people have been killed in drug-related violence. Massacres have increased around Mexico in the last six months of escalating fighting between the Zetas and Sinaloa, which is led by fugitive drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman and Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada versus Zetas' leaders Heriberto “Z-3” Lazacano and Miguel “Z-40” Trevino. The Zetas were started by renegade Mexican Army special forces who used radio call signs, Z-1, Z-2, etc., pronounced “Zeta” in Spanish.

Under President Felipe Calderon's nearly six-year offensive, the two cartels have emerged as Mexico's two most powerful gangs and are battling over strategic transport routes and territory, including along the northern border with the U.S. and in the Gulf coast state of Veracruz.

Mexico is now in the midst of presidential race to replace Calderon, who by law can't run for re-election. The election will be held in July 1st, 2012. Drug violence seems to be escalating, but none of the major candidates has referred directly to mass killings. All say they will stop the violence and make Mexico a more secure place, but offer few details on how their plans would differ from Calderon's administration.

Do you think the wave of violence has anything to do with the presidential election?

What do you think it will take to stop the violence in Mexico?

How does it affect citizens here in the United States?

Also see: