Where’s the Black Sheep? Here’s the Black Sheep

Weekly column by Sharon Byrne

Here they come. Yo. Here they come.
Where’s the Black Sheep, here’s the Black Sheep
Watch me swing like this, why should I swing it like that,

From The Choice Is Yours, by the Black Sheep
(recently featured in Kia Soul commercials, the one with the gangsta’ hamsters…)

Our black sheep hit us hard Saturday evening on W Gutierrez and De La Vina, between 7:00 and 8:30 PM. This rots because:

  1. We’ve been safe for a couple of years thanks to SBPD and a strong neighborhood watch
  2. We just got streetlights installed that will reduce their ability to vandalize us
  3. The city apparently has no money to actually turn them on…

The graffiti is interpreted as follows:

ESK = Eastside Krazies, a subset of the Eastside Gang.

Reverse-upside-down 3, 5, 6 = ESG = Eastside Gang

VP = vital projects. Similar to Westside gang lingo WP for Westside Projects.

93103 = Eastside zip code

Guilty = vandal’s codename

Annoying? Yes.

In a neighborhood that was terrorized by gang violence? Bad news.

West Downtown is ‘Westside’ territory to the gangs that divide the city at State St. We used to have a slew of Eastsiders living here, with one of the leaders next door to me. He led Nazi-style initiations in his back yard and terrorized his family and the neighborhood.

Naturally, Westsiders targeted us with graffiti and assaults to drive out the Eastsiders living in ‘their’ territory. They firebombed the tree in my front yard years ago to send the homie next door a message.

In December 2008, he shot a fellow gangster on our corner. The police caught him, and it was off to lock-up. We breathed a collective sigh of relief.

Three months later, in February 2009, 6 Westsiders murdered a boy in the street. He’d just moved here.

That was the final straw for the neighborhood – we organized into a firestorm. It was a strange coalition: women, children, seniors on Brinkerhoff, and men from the surrounding halfway houses (there’d been a murder at the Lighthouse, in this same neighborhood, in Nov 2008). 200 of us marched through the neighborhood, past the tourists on lower State, demanding an end to the violence, and putting the gangs on notice.

We’d had it.

Rumor is my neighbor threw a rat, as they call it, in lock-up. He sang like the proverbial canary, and the Gator Roll followed in 2009, where scores of Eastsiders were rounded up and arrested on federal charges.

The Eastsiders haven’t forgotten. Even though he is in lock-up somewhere upstate, they periodically come over here to remind his mother that her son is a dead man.

One night, I heard smashing glass outside. I ran out on my balcony in pajamas, and saw two youths on the street. I yelled ‘did you do that?’ They jumped when they heard me, and took off. I called the police, and waited out front for them. My neighbor was shaking. The vandals had smashed glass all over her front porch. I thought it was the usual bar rats that just love to tear up our neighborhood at 2 AM. She knew what it was – a warning to intimidate her.

Tonight I watched six self-proclaimed Eastsiders saunter down our street – likely our vandals from Saturday. My guess is one has moved in, so they’re visiting, and marking up their territory. We’re certainly not eager for them to congregate here again. So it’s back to walking in pairs for us, calling the SBPD often, and letting it be known we won’t tolerate violence and crime here. I’ll be walking the dog at night from now on, instead of letting my daughter do it.

After two years of peace, I am angered our hard-won safety is threatened again.

I sometimes daydream about alternative ways to defend our neighborhood from vandals and gang encroachment. Warning: do not try these at home!

First: there’s always humiliation. I’d stencil MORON or SHEEP-TARD over their stupid scrawls as an ego blow. Hey! You! You’re not macho and cunning! You’re an idiot! (insert annoying kid laugh from The Simpsons: ah ha!)

My version of The Neighborhood Strikes Back: get on a rooftop with a high-powered paintball rifle, equipped with a sharpshooter scope. Watch for that spray paint can to be raised, and then open fire on the vandal. Paintballs sting, leave big welts, and explode into a splotch of paint. There’d be howls of surprise and pain. Vandals would be splattered in a pattern reminiscent of ‘Jersey cow’, as interpreted by Warhol. Nauseatingly feminine colors, like Easter Chick Yellow, Baby Girl Pink, and Luvley Lavender = impossible to miss by alert enforcement. Cops would chide: how’d you come to be sporting such an astonishing paint collage of…well…girly colors…wouldn’t happen to have a paint can, would you, underneath that adorable palette of Parisian pastel splots?

Booyah – here’s your black sheep!

Sometimes, when things look bleak, you just gotta’ laugh.

Back to painting the graffiti over, calling the beat cop, and staying vigilant.

About Sharon Byrne

About Sharon Byrne Sharon Byrne found herself unwittingly thrust into municipal and political issues when she took a sabbatical from her corporate career, and moved to West Downtown in late 2008, a neighborhood in serious decay. She helped engineer a major turnaround there working with engaged neighborhood women. She served on the Franklin Neighborhood Center Advisory Committee, and the Neighborhood Advisory Council. She is the executive director for the Milpas Community Association, and currently serves on the Advisory Boards for the Salvation Army Hospitality House and Santa Barbara County Alcohol and Drug Problems. She is a former Deputy Director of Common Cause in California, and has worked on several ballot initiatives locally and at the state level. Her education in engineering and psychology gives her an unusual mix of skills for working on quality-of-life, public safety, and public policy issues.

4 Responses to Where’s the Black Sheep? Here’s the Black Sheep

  1. Anonymous March 7, 2012 at 7:27 am #

    Like the interpretation. Guilty as a code name? Thanks Sharon.

  2. Boycott Boy March 7, 2012 at 10:53 am #

    Even I know violence begets violence…Leave the taunting and chest beating to the cops!
    As you so eloquently described, peace was lost after the organization of the south coast task force…. (200G for a coordinator.)
    So you’ve done the ride along, speak the lingo, know the back stories, and even recognize gang bangers from other neighborhoods. Yet why you haven’t even touched the tip of the iceberg?
    For every black sheep in town there are ten grey ones living under the radar.that can be manipulated to serve their cause. Drug mules, fencing stolen property, identity theft, extortion, prostitution…right under our noses With increased power within this culture comes the increased opportunity to commit crimes outside those boundaries. Terrorism, drive bys, arson…. They won’t stop at just trying to control the drug trade and the prison system, not when there’s such easy pickings to be had!

    http://projects.latimes.com/mexico-drug-war/#/its-a-war

  3. anon. March 7, 2012 at 1:45 pm #

    Sympathies! It’s totally frustrating: I’ve had to repaint my fence twice and keep a can handy for the next time. Fences near the TJ parking lot regularly get hit.

    One thing that I find very sad is that many of the posts and phone poles around Franklin School, on the sides facing the school, are littered with what is probably gang graffiti, reminders to the child-innocents of who’s outside, who’s watching. Recently, the litter around the school was picked up; perhaps the janitors could be sent out to clean the posts and poles?!?

  4. Axman March 8, 2012 at 1:03 pm #

    When I lived on the Westside I used to take a marker and write “is a fag” under gangmember tags. I like to think I sparked a gang war or two.

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