We see the shrines throughout our travels. Burned down candles, half filled balloons floating just above the sidewalk, stale and wilted flowers in a vase with a religious symbol. Another makeshift memoriam to someone killed either by another or in an auto accident, or who knows how we wonder. When it is one of their own gang-bangers will mark the sight of their dead homie with graffiti and signs of his gang affiliation. When it is one of their victims law abiding citizens will ask "why?" and state "this can't continue." But it will.
In May 2008 I wrote in the Long Beach Post that the City of Long Beach had announced it spends almost $30 million per year on gang prevention programs. Between then and Melody Ross' murder in front of Wilson High School on October 30th the city has spent approximately $45 million on gang "prevention." The City has the Human Dignity Program, the Youth and Gang Prevention Task Force, police department school district and countless non-profit agencies dedicated to gang prevention. In their parlance, "provide our youth with alternatives to gangs and reduce the root causes of gang violence" is their objective. And has been for decades. $30 million per year from the City budget for gang "prevention."
Los Angeles County spends tens, if not hundreds, of millions on gang "prevention" programs; the State of California spends millions and millions on special grants and funding for gang "prevention programs"; our Congressional and Senate representatives tell us funding for gang "prevention" programs are priorities. All told hundreds of millions of dollars are focused on gang "prevention" programs in our community and county. All directed by our progressive elected officials and bureaucrats who through their decades of efforts and direction of "prevention" programs have failed.
The programs fail because the focus has been on preventing kids from entering gangs and not on eradicating the gangs. The programs fail because the culture that fosters gangs and gang membership is left alone and individual children are asked to go against their brothers, cousins, absentee dads and mothers. The programs fail because while politicians like to get elected on solving the gang problems in our community, once elected they become passive and fall into the politically correct "prevention" programs.
The Los Angeles Sheriffs Department began a very successful gang sweep and interdiction program in the City of Hawaiian Gardens. Historically a city controlled by some very violent gangs, they citizens of Hawaiian Gardens have lived under gang rule and seen their kids murdered or pulled into the gangs. Rather than welcome law enforcement coming into their community to rid it of these murders and drug dealers, the citizens protested. They protested the Sheriffs Department actively pursuing known gang members and removing them from their city. Members of the clergy protested accusing the Sheriffs of racism, ignoring the racist element of the city's gangs targeting citizens of a different race. Mothers who have lost children to the gangs protested. In elections last week politicians who ran against the Sheriff Department's anti-gang program lost. The voters protected the gang bangers.
The outcry following Melody Ross' tragic death underscores the issues facing our community, and others, moving forward. There are those who are upset that the juveniles arrested for the murder had their name published. There are those who want all of us to understand how three 16 year old kids crossed paths, one an honor student, athlete and wonder young woman, the other two gang members and now murders. They feel it is important for me to understand how society failed the two murders that led them to gang membership and violence. There are those who blame you, and me, and all of us for this murder because of gun laws, violence on television, rap lyrics, everything but where the blame should lie.
Until our community elects officials at all levels of government who are willing to put the rights and values of our community first and those of gang members and their enablers second, or third, fourth...we will never have any solutions to our gang problems. Here are some places we can start.
Stop protecting Cease with the withholding names and photos of perpetrators of violent crimes, regardless of their ages. Society, school mates, parents, teachers, have a right to know if a criminal is in their class, or neighborhood. Further publish the names, photos and addresses of any known parents. Let's see the faces of those who reared the murderers of Melody Ross. Let their neighbors know "The people responsible for the child who murdered another child live here." They took no accountability to this point for their children, make them do so now.
Restitution If you child graffiti's a building you are going to be financially responsible, can't pay then community service or time in jail. Your child commits physical violence on another? Community service and possible criminal charges if it recures. Your child murders another you are charged with criminal negligence and child endangerment. When police do gang sweeps and arrest minors their parents get picked up too. Both parents, track the Dads and pull them in as well.
Audits We need to have serious audits of the hundreds of millions of dollars that have obviously been wasted on "prevention" programs. I call on City Auditor Laura Doud to audit the City of Long Beach's spending on gang "prevention" programs. At a time when our police department budget is under fire and our schools are losing millions from the state, it is time to see what funds are being wasted by our city. Who gets the $30 million per year? What are the measurable results? Are there specific outcomes that are posted for the funds? Are those using the funds actually adhering to the programs used to solicit the funds? And I come back to results, what are the results of the city spending all this money year after year?
Political Our elected politicians need to have the courage to call out the gang communities. Call out the failing parents and culture that exist in the neighborhoods where gangs thrive. For $30 million per year we can set up permanent patrols and 24/7 police presence in the five neighborhoods where most our our gang activity originates and cultivates for decades. Give the police the authority and the direction to erradicate the gangs. Have the courage to take the heat for a pro-active police department pursuing gang members and going block by block with warrants and crack downs. Resolve to get gangs out of our city.
Enough Enough with the current failed methods of "prevention." We have tried and failed, failed Melody and her family and hundreds of others over the past several years when "prevention" became the progressive method of solving our gang problems.
Sadly in the not too distant future we will read of another tragic shooting, another innocent daughter, son, mother, baby, killed by some bullet meant for another. And the community will say "we need to stop this." And the community will not.