Saturday, February 23, 2008

LA Gang Coverage

Frontier Days hit NorthEast LA on Thursday, at least in the LA Times coverage. A local man walking with his 2-year-old granddaugher was shot by people in a passing car and later died. People who knew him shot at the car. About a half hour later, the cops stopped what seemed to be the same white Nissan. 3 guys emerged, the police say, firing automatic weapons. The cops shot back and killed Daniel Leon, above.

Today's Times backgrounder describes the Avenues as a fusion of the Mexican Mafia and a criminal clan that has been on Drew Street for generations. "Like hundreds of residents in the neighborhood, the Leons originally hailed from the village of Tlalchapa, in Guerrero, Mexico, neighbors said." Leon is one of 13 children who grew up in a house the cops called the gang's "mother ship."

What if we think of 3304 Drew St as a branch office in a multinational drug retail business?

Beyond its standard coverage, the piece cites local support for the Avenues. "I've been here 25 years and they've never disrespected me," said Modesta Hernandez. "On the contrary, they protect us. They help us."

The article has no explanation for the original shooting.

See also a much more in-depth piece from the LA Weekly on the legendary Black gang the Grape Street Crips. This one features the themes of permanent violence, occupied territory, outlaw rule, internal terrorism, and hints at civil war.

We need solutions as serious as these descriptions of the problem.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

How to Catch No One

The easiest way not to catch a thief or a bomber is to send in the Marines. This is what New York City is doing on their transport system. These guys can be spotted a mile away. They're slow. They are as likely to shoot perps or witnesses as interrogate them. They make everyone clam up within 20 blocks of the guns. They have weapons training, not detective training. They are the extreme opposite of undercover. They are a pure show of force - a symbolic display of power and nothing more.

The important thing about the New York Times article on the subject is that it doesn't even try to connect this military force in the subway to a real strategy. Why is it there? No answer.

Except "terrorism," of course, which apparently can cover for the most empty-headed but gun-toting activity. It used to be that you'd see armies patrolling the streets during periods of martial law under dictatorships, or in Mafia-controlled parts of Italy, or during the Red Brigade kidnapping days, or during urban rebellions. But even then the rule was the same: men with guns never uncover anything.

We bombed Afghanistan and did no detective work. Over five years later Osama is still at large. Afghanistan is once again the origin of 93 percent of the world's opium prodution, just like the good old pre-Taliban warlord days.

The M-4s will do just as much good in the NY subway. If a bomb goes off, these guys will be miles away. They will have no clue whodunit. They will know less that their bomb-sniffing dogs.

And so will we.