Saturday, June 28, 2008

Gangs on Drew Street III

The Drew Street neighborhood in northeast Los Angeles was back in the news with a huge multi-agency sweep that netted 28 suspected gangbangers and nacro-traffickers. By huge I mean it took 500 agents to roust those 28 people. Maria Leon and her bad luck 13 children made their trademark appearance in the piece. The rousted were sometimes ungrateful, as in the scene shown here. Check out Roberto Saviano's Gomorrah for why poor people in gangster-run neighborhoods don't like the cops. No, it's not because they are gangsters themselves or love their oppressors, but because the cops come and make a big show, break down the door and terrify the kids, and then they leave. Nothing changes. The journalists say it's because Drew Street is a clan transported almost intact from a "lawless region" of Sinaloa - yes where the big killings of top police happened last week - and that they have a quasi-innate hatred of cops. Naw. It's because the cops don't actually make things better.

Couple of other problems with the journalist view:
  • If the Avenues gang has been in the neighborhood for 60 years, it's interwoven into the society. The neighbors are right that cops and sweeps won't make a difference.
  • If convicted, the 54 Avenues now in custody will go to prison - from which la eMe runs the Avenues. The biggest "gang haven" in California is California's prisons.
What to do instead? Spend some redevelopment dough. Try much better schools and straight jobs. Do lots of good street work - without cops. The real revolution: decriminalize the big-money narcotics.

A final word on the end of gang week in the LA Times - their story on "Big Mike," a former Grape Street Crip turned gang interventionist. Big Mike fits the neighborhood in topping out at $17,000 a year. And he has left the neighborhood to raise his daughter in "the high desert."

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