Monday, August 08, 2005

Metro Police Part of National Gang Sweep

Metro Atlanta police on lookout for two 'leaders' of the Hispanic gang, Sur-13. Their names are Jose Tapia, 22, and Emanuel Avilia-Villasana, 21. Other members of the violent Hispanic gang have been arrested or deported in an attempt to sever the gang's command structure.

Atlanta had minor issues with gangs in the past but it is now a burgeoning problem city wide. Ethnic gangs had been a problem mainly in the Buford Highway corridor where large number of immigrants have chosen to live. Unfortunately, these new residents are susceptible to intimidation, extortion and coerced into supporting local gangs. Now, mainly Hispanic gangs are making their presence known from Gwinnett County, northeast of Atlanta, to Cobb County, northwest of Atlanta.

It appears that this latest enforcement activity is the result of an Anti-Gang Law Enforcement Summit recently held in the area. It's nice to see our enforcement agencies sharing information and working together on this issue that's bigger than any one community. But it's not enough.

I've personally witnessed gang tags appearring in my neighborhood. Typically they are for the Brown-Side Latinos (BSL) but occasionally a Sur-13 tag will crop up. In February, George Hatfield, Cobb County's new top cop, was quoted as saying "We have to be willing to adjust to changes in the community and be proactive." One goal, he said, is to add officers to the gang unit. "We can't ignore that we have gang activity," he said.

Local citizens can make a difference in this fight for local communities. Citizen watch programs, reporting suspicious gang activity, and the like. But how about we head this problem off at the pass?

You and I as neighbors can do more to make our new neighbors more welcome to the community. They've uprooted and moved to our community looking for a better life. By befriending our new neighbors and helping them develop a support structure that crosses their ethnic and language barriers, we can help them with their acclimation to their new home. Become friends with them, not to spy on them, but to help them become worthy citizens, contributing to the needs and prosperity of the community.

For instance:

Their kids likely lack the support structure of our families. Mom and dad can't speak English very well, much less aid in their homework, so their kids may need intense help catching up. Mom and dad typically are hard workers trying to realize their version of the American dream. That leaves little time for them to help the kids, even if the parents could speak English proficiently. How do you assist with this problem?

Join up with a volunteer organization that helps prevent these kids from being lost in the system, and feeling unable to adapt. These kids turn to what they know, and that is the culture of their home state. They'll turn inward and look for other "disenfranchised" kids. Inevitably, they'll find the gangs waiting to accept the new members or be pressured into joining one. Because the gangs speak their native tongue, and have similar interests, they'll be more comfortable with the gang than trying to assimilate into the community.

By assisting with their education, we might be able to stop this self-destructive death spiral. Not to mention actively assist in reducing the burden on the local school systems. A knowledge of their language is a wonderful asset but it is by no means necessary for you to be successful in doing your part. All that is required is patience, a love for children, to love your neighbor and a desire to make a difference in your community. I'm proof of that as I currently volunteer in an organization for this purpose.

Rather than watch your community go down the drain, how about you do something to avoid it from happening? Oh, and bring a friend, will ya? And do you have any ideas - other than just ship them all back?