Blue Byline

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

Random nature of gang violence requires extra measures

Post by Brian O'Neill on Feb. 5, 2012 at 2:38 pm with 5 Comments »
February 5, 2012 8:48 pm

For those of us who live within civilized boundaries, homicide is an almost unknowable quantity. We do have a few common weaknesses, such as rage, greed or jealousy, built into our systems. These motivations – or failings, if you prefer – are somewhat understandable to us, though the taking of a life still remains abhorrent.

But what if a person, perhaps a well-loved young woman, was killed because of a color?

Vehicle hit during drive by shooting/ AP Photo

The recent homicide trial of five young men, which concluded with last Friday’s sentencing, was another prime example of random gang violence. The convicted individuals, who were all identified as members of the same Sureno gang set, were driving around one night in February, 2007, hunting for rival gang members. Instead, they found Camille Love and her brother Josh, who were neither rivals or gang members. The Love siblings were simply young people whose only mistake was to drive a red car into the vision of several armed thugs whose blue bandanas, misplaced sense of righteousness, and the low self esteem endemic to gang bangers made such a random action a fatal one.

This incident, including the trial and sentencing, is a case study in gang investigations today. Some factors, such as the random nature of the violence or the absurdly juvenile motives, have not changed. However, gang legislation and law enforcement methods have evolved.

The first glimpse of the modern nature of gang violence for most of us was the 1988 movie, “Colors.” The Los Angeles gang culture, which has since spread throughout most of the U.S. in “franchises” known as gang sets or cliques, has given us terms such as Crips and Bloods, drive-by shootings and do-rags, gang tagging and turf wars. In the early ’90s, gang members left LA in search of more markets for crack, and these new terms became news images filmed in the Hilltop, East Tacoma, Lakewood and other areas in our region.

Police departments were, in most cases, slow to react to this new threat. Fortunately, Washington State’s gang phenomenon lagged California’s by a few years, giving us the ability to pick up a few things from agencies such as LAPD, which had already started developing anti-gang strategies.

So we created gang units. We conducted anti-gang operations, both large and small. After several frustrating years we even decided to seek help from the people who actually lived and worked in the communities plagued by gang violence. We made a lot of progress, and it seemed to make a difference.

Now gang violence, which quietly simmered until just a few years ago, is resurging. Our legislature has finally waded in, beginning with the simple but crucial step of defining a criminal street gang (a group of 3 or more individuals, using common signs or symbols, and – this is the part that eliminates the Rotarians – whose main objective is criminal activity).

Using this new statute as a guideline, police officers have been developing standardized criteria for legally identifying street gang members and their gang affiliations. Cops today are trained to watch for these signs during contacts with gang members. After noting the revelant criteria, information is then passed along to gang experts for vetting.When a gang member is later arrested and charged with a crime, investigators can produce the gang background information in criminal court (though a judge must still decide whether or not to allow the jury to view the gang information).

The gang mentality, with its singular need for unprovoked violence, was on stark display in the Pierce County Superior Court case involving Camille Love’s killers. To measure the gang factor in this fatal drive-by shooting, try explaining the incident without it. Go back to the night, February 7, 2010, and find the car containing several Sureno gang members and remove, somehow, the entire gang mindset from the occupants. Now that the gang factor is gone, try and make a reasonable guess at what, exactly, would have happened to Camille and Josh Love that night.

The answer is that, most likely, nothing would have happened to them. That is all the example necessary to identify the destructive nature of criminal street gangs.

Their violence could touch any one of us, at any time.


Leave a comment Comments → 5
  1. We need to put weight on the problem that subsidized housing
    has with gangs and druggies. They just drag everyone down.

  2. Chippert says:

    We need to expand the definition of conspiracy and organized crime (the Rico statutes) to allow for the fact that, if you are a verified gang member then you are by definition guilty of every crime that any gang member commits. In other words, EVERY Sureno gang member should now be guilty of those murders and when arrested, the only criteria that needs to be investigated is substantiation of membership. If verified, a rapid sentencing should follow for these crimes. You want to be a member? Fine, you have just taken on the responsibility for each and every crime committed and have walked onto the path for a life sentence without possibility of parole.

  3. smokey984 says:

    So how do we solve this? Most will say make more laws…

    The age old, “Times change” and the Subjective emotional Argument.

    That is since every individual with any sense of humanity detests seeing families destroyed, innocent children sacrificed and promising lives snuffed out as a result of violence. The argument is advanced that increasing the number of laws on the books will produce a safer society.

    While this argument appeals strongly to our instincts, interestingly such arguments are fallacious.

    I argue the key to a safe society rests with not the regulation of society by rules/laws, but rather the regulation of the heart, something accomplished only by the combined influence of religion and education.

    Civil laws attempt to regulate and restrain outward conduct by defining norms of behavior, these laws can not address the heart, the actual source of violence and crime.

    This influence over the heart is an influence beyond the reach of laws and punishments and can be claimed only by religion and education.

    Civil law cannot prevent hate, but religion can; and while the attitude of hate, legally speaking, is not a crime, it often leads to a crime (assault, murder, slander, etc); and it is not law, but religion/education, which successfully confronts hate and thus can prevent its crimes.

    Neither the wisest constitution not the wisest laws will secure the liberty and happiness of a people whose manners are universally corrupt.

  4. Chippert says:

    smokey, so are you saying that all we need is institutionalized religion and the problem will be solved? How would you go about “converting” these gangs to a religion (any religion other than the religion of violence, drugs and death)?

  5. smokey984 says:

    No Chippert I’m not saying that at all. In today’s world it would be considered socialism, dictatorship, tyranny, etc etc.

    I was merely saying crime prevention starts every night at the dinner table with your children/family.

    It continues through the teenage years with the family attending church and living a lifestyle in accordance of Gods 10 commandments, followed with an advanced education in college.

    Its a statistical fact god fearing people with advanced educations are more law abiding than those who aren’t.

    Its personal accountability thing…

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