Blue Byline

A cop's perspective of the news and South Sound matters

Spending the anti-gang dollar: cops or programs?

Post by Brian O'Neill on June 15, 2011 at 10:38 am with 7 Comments »
June 16, 2011 8:28 pm

Away from his colors, his homies, and his neighborhood, the gang-banger in the backseat of my patrol car was pleasant enough. He talked quietly, then leaned forward to take the weight off his handcuffs and just watched the clouds roll by.

Despite that, you could tell he was nervous. Having just turned eighteen, he was anticipating the criminal element’s version of the manhood ritual, adult jail, and his anxiety was easily understood.

So I spared the kid–I mean adult–the usual lecture. After all, he was a veteran of drive-by shootings, both as (alleged) triggerman and victim, had the blessings of the gang’s shot-caller, and walked the streets with a swagger that, if I were to replicate it, would likely pull several muscles. For all of that, he was just beginning to realize that his increased speed on the road to being a badass would only make the final stop come more rapidly and explosively.

“I’ve been looking for a job,” he told me with a hint of self-consciousness. I told him that was great, and joked that it might cut into his career as a gangster. He ignored my comment and instead talked about the ideas he had for work and the future. This kid–I mean adult–who had given me more dirty looks and frozen stares over the last couple years was talking about the future?

Instead of gangs and jail, we discussed options. In the end the conversation looked, smelled and tasted like progress, and it was hard not to get too excited and blow my cool. Gang-bangers (and cops) don’t like to get too squishy.

Will he make a change? We’ll see.

Still, I believe that encounters like this one represent an excellent chance at suppressing gang violence.  Some of the kids and adults in thrall to the gang lifestyle have more arrests on their record than they have spent years on this planet, so clearly that routine has its limitations. More important to the future of these kids, and the safety of our communities, are the opportunities available to them to engage in activities that might keep them away from gangs.

Sure, that’s nothing new, but what got me thinking about this incident was Kathleen Merryman’s excellent piece on cuts to kids’ programs on Tacoma’s East Side. These cuts will, unfortunately, cause more kids to wander aimlessly through an area rife with gangs. Recruiting a bored kid wandering the street is obviously a lot easier than convincing one who is enjoying a worthwhile activity.

The end result of short-changing programs for kids, especially in vulnerable areas like Tacoma’s East Side, will be more lost kids and more crime. From a cop’s perspective this will mean more work, more overtime and more money.

Instead, I wish that money were spent at a playground near you.

Leave a comment Comments → 7
  1. gogoDawgs says:

    This is a tough question and a tough road to travel, because neither more money for ‘programs’ or more money for police are the answer. The deterioration of the family is where the problem begins… yet that is who the government takes the money from to pay the police or pay for the programs.

  2. @gogoDawgs,

    This is only a tough question, if you’ve never been poor, hungry and afraid to leave your yard, for fear of violence. The East-side Boys Club was literally the only safe place in the neighborhood to go and it is now closed. I learned to play baseball there, how to safely jump on the trampoline and they had cookies there.

    More funding for services is part of the solution for these at risk children. I’d like to see police officers start a program where officers can become father figures for some of these younger children. It may be the only responsible male that they may have in their life that they can trust. This takes money. I see no reason why these children should suffer in silence.

    The City of Tacoma will ultimately be judged by how it treats it’s most vulnerable members.

    I wish them luck sleeping at night.

  3. Omega6234 says:

    maybe they will destroy themselves??? Problem solved.

  4. smokey984 says:

    Save the lecture to these dudes in your back seat Brian. It wont do no good. Folks know the difference between right and wrong, and it was clearly on display as he pondered his future in your back seat. A mans gotta be held accountable.

    Folks its only gonna get worse from here. Peak oil surpassed us in 2005. These idle unemployed kids will multiple 20 fold in the next 20 years. Dwindling tax revenue form higher unemployment will gut our first responders departments. Which is why Ive mentioned in previous blogs the exercise of open carry to help deter crimes the police will no longer respond to nor have the manpower to clean up.

  5. BlaineCGarver says:

    An an NCO in the Military, I’d have problem punks sometimes. Once busted, they would talk up a good game in hopes of getting a break. In the bad old days, a little beat and release by the irish cop on the corner turned many a wayward lad into a straight little dude, and some you just can’t save. However, yes…it’s amazing that Gubment can’t see the value of parks or places good kids can go to escape the heat and thugs. I think we all know it’s punishment for not going along with their huge tax increase requests. You can bet, though, that payments will never stop to fifth generation welfare sponges, or benefits to gay couples, or providing lavish care and comfort to illegals.

  6. Until the “parents” (using that term loosely) do something, there will never be a solution to this problem. And asking the cops to be “father figures” is silly. I’m pretty sure the cops have their own lives to live. Why not have the fathers, oh, I dunno, act like father figures? Or go down there yourself and volunteer?

  7. smokey984 says:

    Good point Gandalf. Parents have lost their way in our society today. We haven’t been raising these kids right since the late 60’s. Exceptions of course…

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