When Gangs Come to Your Neighborhood — Part 2

Patrick Roberts
July 10th, 2006

[The first part of this two-part article is here.]

This story is a continuation on the first gang story we published last month, which provided an insight into the life of a just-turned-former gang member in Los Angeles, named Chris.

Front Sight Resorts recently had the opportunity to conduct an extensive interview of this ex-gang member, which has given us a rather eye-opening and sometimes chilling revelation of what could be, or is, going on with gang activity behind the scenes in even the best of our neighborhoods.

The first episode has met with very strong interest on the part of our readers,
so we are now presenting to you Part Two of When Gangs Come to Your Neighborhood. In this episode Chris talks about the use of guns and drugs in gangs.

We were lucky enough to have the L.A. Philharmonic come in and adopt this middle school full of little gang members. Says Chris, the ex-gang member we interviewed. The Philharmonic would come in to North Hollywood like once a month and play this classical music. And classes would come in and listen to it. I loved it, but everybody else was into rap. They’re sitting there listening to this music, some of them with guns stuffed under their shirts.

I’ve seen some gangs in North Hollywood, they stopped selling drugs and actually started selling guns. Chris continues. I don’t know where the guns came from. I know there are rumors they got them from ties in the Mexican Mafia around that area, no ones knows for a fact.

Well, you would see a lot of handguns, shotguns, every once in a while you’d see a sawed-off. That’s pretty rare. But mostly you would see handguns. They’d be used for someone wanting to rob someplace. They needed guns. They needed to be armed. Says Chris.

Or, when gangs wanted to start shit with one another. Chris continues. You’d have one gang that’s gonna pull the drop on the other one, so everybody armed themselves to the teeth. Get whatever they can get their hands on. You don’t really see people walking around with them. They like to stash them in their house. Or, stash them in their cars. With the handguns, they’ll just carry them with them all day.

According to a report released by the Department of Justice in January, 2004 entitled Annual Report to Congress, concern about gang-related homicide and violence has re-emerged in the last few years. Los Angeles has witnessed a spike in gang-related homicide. Police suspect that half of the city’s 658 homicides in 2002 were gang related. A particular problem with responding to gang violence is the lack of valid data on gang-related incidents. Without accurate information on when and where gang crimes occur, it is difficult to evaluate the effectiveness of anti-gang strategies.

In 2002 the National Institute of Justice completed research on a regional gang-crime tracking system designed to provide a clearer picture on the nature and scope of gang-related crime. The report showed that police are not over-estimating the incidence of gang-related crime, as was thought for some time, but that indeed law enforcement agencies tended to under-report gang incidents.

Half of all gang-related incidents showing up in the study were violent offenses including murder, rape, robbery and assaults. Following that, in order of frequency, were vandalism, graffiti, weapons violations, property crimes and narcotics sales.

North Hollywood had a whole lot of marijuana. Continues Chris. Weed was really a big thing. You really only saw crack and weed. Never saw ‘shrooms, acid or heroin. They’d have their hang-out spot for dope dealing. A lot of money would come from the crack sales and the weed sales. Some new gang would come in, and they’d start to push it. Then they’d arm themselves up with guns.

Now, it’s really funny, but some guy comes in with a bag full of ammunition. Chris says. Some guy I never seen before. He will pass out handguns to everyone, and then one or two people will get a shotgun. You never really see rifles all that much. These are not legal guns. These are not registered. These are kids under eighteen — thirteen, fourteen, fifteen years old. I had four or five friends in middle school who had guns that got them from connections in gangs they weren’t even part of.

A July 2002 report entitled Responding to Gangs: Evaluation and Research, issued by the Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice of the University of Missouri at St. Louis, states that … The breadth of activity with gangs as criminal organizations have great criminal versatility, participating in a range of crimes rather than specializing in a few crime types. From the police perspective, serious gangs are changing over time in ways that create more problems for police and the community.

The report further states … 78% of police respondents said serious gangs had grown larger in the past three years. While 72% said serious gangs had become more violent during that period.

Research estimates compiled in this report show that 74% of gang members had participated in assaults. 68% had sold marijuana. And nearly 50% had engaged in theft, motor vehicle theft, burglary and vandalism.

Despite the growth in gangs that has been currently under way, and the increase in the severity of their criminal actions, their organization structure remains primitive.

There’s usually not much order in gangs. Chris says. They’re usually, whoever has got the one quality that makes them stick out, like they can beat the crap out of every other gang member, or the smartest one. In the gang they will rule. You do what they say, or you can disappear. I’ve seen people missing. I’ve seen people not show up ever again.

There is a Sylmar gang that their initiation is you have to kill someone. Says Chris. You kill someone, you’re in. And what that is, is so they know. That’s their way of making sure everyone in the gang is what they call ‘hard.’ They’re all killers. You all killed someone, at least one person just to get into the gang. Sometimes that’s another gang member, sometimes one of their own. Sometimes they’re looking through neighborhoods for anyone.

What we are witnessing here is a scenario composed of gang members, headed by megalomaniac leaders, drugs, illegal guns, accessible automobile transportation, with continually escalating violent criminal activity. And their playing field is any city, any town, any neighborhood. This is a bad situation capable of influencing any of us at any time, no matter where we live.

You can do something to protect yourself, your friends and those you love. Get fully trained in the proper and safe use of firearms, and particularly a handgun. Really, when it comes to protection from gangs, your only real defense is a firearm. And there is no better firearms training than what you will get at Front Sight Resorts.

To find out more about Front Sight Resorts world-class gun handling and gun safety courses call.

Patrick Roberts writes on criminal victimization and self defense.