Inside Opinion

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Tag: Hilltop Crips

May
25th

Hilltop Crips deserve the conspiracy charges

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

Thomas Felnagle is a fine judge, but we devoutly hope he’s wrong about using conspiracy charges against street gangs.

The Pierce County Superior Court judge ruled Friday that prosecutors cannot target members of the Hilltop Crips solely on the basis of their alleged affiliation with the violent gang; any prosecutions must tie defendants to specific criminal acts they personally participated in.

As it happens, his ruling may not have much effect on the cases against three dozen suspected Crips who’ve been rounded up since February by a task force of local, state and federal law enforcement officers. That’s because there was such an abundance of crimes to charge: shootings, robberies, assaults, burglaries – more than 50 felonies in all. Read more »

April
22nd

Racism and the Hilltop Crips

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

The issue of race still shadows the arrests of 36 men now charged with criminal conspiracy as members of the Hilltop Crips. Tuesday’s demonstration on their behalf again put that issue front and center.

Despite suggestions that the small demonstration represents “the black community,” there’s no evidence that it reflects the views of a majority or even a large minority of Tacoma’s African Americans. But many blacks do have concerns about the racial dimensions of the case – some simply because they know the public is seeing the faces of so many black suspects associated with a single violent enterprise.

Tarring an entire race or class of people with the misconduct of individuals is the essence of bigotry. Blacks in America have endured humiliation by association for four hundred years. Their raw nerves are understandable. Under the white hoods of their Internet pseudonyms, vile racists have indeed been linking the Hilltop Crips to the black community at large.

But nobody has offered serious evidence that the sweep that targeted these suspects was racially motivated. The fact that the defendants are black reflects a hard-to-miss fact about street gangs: They tend to sort themselves out along racial and ethnic lines.
Read more »

March
31st

A criminal gang merits criminal conspiracy charges

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

There’s never been a spectacle quite like it in a state court.

Thirty-two accused criminal conspirators – alleged members of the Hilltop Crips – crowded into one courtroom, with 30 defense attorneys, four prosecutors and more than 20 law-enforcement officers. Outside, sheriff’s deputies patrolling the lobbies and exterior of the County-City Building.

That’s what a major conspiracy case against a street gang looks like. Other states have successfully pursued such cases, as have federal prosecutors, but this is a first for Washington’s criminal justice system.

The strategy is promising, and the target looks well-chosen.

The Hilltop Crips – whose origins go back to the 1980s – have been described as Tacoma’s oldest criminal gang. A police offensive devastated them in the 1990s, but they’ve been mounting an aggressive comeback in recent years.

It must be emphasized that the “Hilltop” in the gang’s name is an anachronism. The Hilltop, once plagued with gang violence, is now one of the safest parts of Tacoma. For the most part, these thugs live elsewhere and commit their crimes elsewhere.
Read more »