By Sharon Byrne
The Police Chief and City Hall recently reported gang violence is down. As of last week, it appears it was just in remission.
Remember the article on the tagging of the newly-opened Cacique underpass last week, and how Joel said that it signals trouble is coming?
Monday April 24:
1 - Westsiders vandalize Cacique underpass – newly opened gateway to the lower Eastside. Story covered only on Santa Barbara View.
Sunday April 29:
2 - 9:13 PM Roger (EdHat) reports fight in 1300 block Punta Gorda – 5 males
3 – 11:00 PM Rollover accident black Infinity sedan at Punta Gorda and Canada St. Car was stolen at gunpoint from Eastside resident.
Going into Monday April 30:
4 -12:05 AM – possible shots fired, another fight at 1100 E Mason, vehicle collision. Two suspects fled to residence in 1300 block E Mason
5 – Police surround residence and arrest Ernesto Lopez and Augustine Cruz, who had been stabbed. He declined to articulate by whom. Police suspect the second crash is related to second fight on Mason.
6:00 AM – KEYT’s John Palminteri films graffiti removal crew washing gang scrawls from Cacique underpass.
6 – 7:00 AM Franklin Elementary students walk by blood from fight on sidewalk 1132 E Mason.
Like Cruz, Lopez is also an Eastside gang member. The Indy starts down the road of connecting the dots, reporting Monday:
…Cruz, recently bailed out of jail after a judge lowered his bond amount from $500,000 to $100,000 in a 2009 assault case. He and another suspected gang member are accused of brutally beating two men within minutes of each other…
Lopez and another man were arrested in 2008 for assault with a deadly weapon after they reportedly attacked two men in the Milpas Street Jack in the Box. He was also arrested in 2007 for trying to start a gang-related fight during that year’s Santa Barbara High School graduation.
So he’ll be back in the neighborhood by the time you read this.
Circling back to where this started, with graffiti on a brand new bridge, here’s the net:
Gang graffiti = bad.
Warring gang graffiti on same wall = really bad, trouble is coming.
A neighborhood that worked hard to get rid of gang violence is again beset. It started with scrawls, and escalated to known felons fighting, stabbings, gunfire, and crashing cars in the neighborhood. All within one week.
We do indeed have a gang problem.
Granted, we don’t have drive-by shootings, but a carjacking at gunpoint and shots fired… it’s not much of a jump to shootings from there. We certainly don’t have carte blanche to make the mistake of soft-pedaling. Gang activity is like a cancer – it spreads and grows.
Now, hold off on those EdScat-Indy screeds on immigration, parenting, schools, (insert your gripe here). Beware false-choice framing looking for a place to happen! Griping solves nothing at the street level. Besides, there are a lot of rich executives 90 minutes south of here making fortunes promoting ‘it’s hard out here for a pimp’, and similar “Bangin’ in the ‘Hood” memes to all of our children while living in gated communities and chauffeuring their kids to private schools. If you’re going to throw stones, at least land a few in that camp.
As for tools that can help, where’s that gang injunction? The Lower Eastside keeps asking that question. Advocacy groups have charged that the injunction encourages racial profiling and names people who aren’t active gang members.
So fix those cases.
But this, clearly, is not one of them.
Wherever you stand on the gang injunction, you must acknowledge the damage gang activity does to a neighborhood, its families, and its children.
No child should hear gunfire, be awakened by sirens late at night as police chase felons in the area, or walk by bloodshed on the street on their way to school.
Intervention and prevention programs for minors are worthwhile, but Lopez is 23 and Cruz is 21. After-school programs aren’t going to work for them. That’s where the injunction comes in as one tool that can help with the adult felon set.
Wanting safety is not the same thing as profiling all Latino youth, however. It’s another false-choice frame. We can all work to avoid stereotyping and profiling, but it’s a peculiar act of cruelty to deny people, in dire need, access to tools that can help provide them with a safe neighborhood.
What can we do to make our neighborhood safe? We can organize. We can partner with the police. We can watch out for each other. We can text, email, and phone each other when suspicious activities are occurring. We can call in gang graffiti and paint it over.
In short, send out a strong, unified message: there’s no tolerance on this block for gang violence.
A city that is intolerant to gang activity, on every block, is a safe city.
Santa Barbara should, and can, be such a city.