Friday, July 2, 2010

Gang violence hits small town America

Growing up in a small town you take certain aspects of life for granted. Smog, traffic, overcrowding and gang violence. But as the world becomes a global economy and our view the world expands through the internet, so to does the spread of suburban street gangs. Los Angeles, New York, Boston, New Orleans, Chicago, Miami and San Francisco. We get it. we understand it. We come to expect it. Ports of entry for immigrants of all nationalities. Big city crime was the norm.

But now in small towns and rural communities there is a new breed of gangster that's rearing its ugly head. Maybe it's the first sign of grafitti. Maybe it's first stabbing we read about in the newspaper. A subtle hint that something is amiss. This isn't a black thing. this isn't a Mexican problem. It isn't Irish, El Salvadorian, Russian or Ukranian. It's an American problem.

In my home town of Salinas, CA, a small rural farming community that boasts the birhtplace of John Steinbeck and the Lettuce Capitol of the World, we have a new record to boast about. The third highest murder rate per capita in the United States. In 2009 there were 21 homicides, all gang related, in a city with a population of 148,000. That's 1 in 7,048 residents. In comparison Los Angeles had 314, with a population of 3.9 million people.

Now we have politcal infighting. Everyone is fired up on one side of the fence or the other over illegal immigration the State of Arizona's response. The sad truth is that as long as our borders are unsecured we are at risk. Be it from terrorists, drug cartels or illegal immigrants flooding into our country. With this flood comes Sureno and Norteno gang members, MS 13 and any number of new groups forming once they arrive here, while our President does nothing to stem the tide.

I feel sorry for the residents of California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. You are the first wave of defense, while those of us in the north wait patiently for the gun fire to errupt in our cities. We hide away in our private sanctuaries, hoping the porblems will stay down south. But these simply illusions. Soon you will see the red or blue paint of gang grafitti in your towns. The violence begin and everyone will ask themselves, "When did this all start?"

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