Pasadena: Take action against gangs

Take action against gangs

Pasadena Star-News, CA
May 12 2004

EXCEPT for state Sen. Nell Soto, the silence out of Sacramento is
deafening. Why have area legislators remained mum on the problem of
gang violence in their districts?

Perhaps they believe they can do nothing. But shouldn’t they at least
try something, anything, to prevent the kind of senseless violence that
took the life of California Highway Patrol officer Thomas Steiner and
effectively ended hopes for a life outside of prison for his alleged
killer, 16-year-old Valentino Mitchell Arenas?

The teen allegedly shot Steiner as he exited the Pomona Superior Court,
perhaps as a ticket into Pomona’s oldest and most violent crime family,
the 12th Street Gang.

Only Soto has reached out to Pomona Mayor Eddie Cortez who hopes to
form a gang task force. A community forum Tuesday in Pomona explored
the problem.

Intervention is badly needed. As chronicled Monday by Staff Writer
Sara Carter, Arenas was born in the heart of 12th Street territory;
family members were part of the gang and did time behind bars.

It’s time state lawmakers, especially Latino legislators who could
stand as role models, take a long hard look at such gang activity
and say “enough’ because gangs aren’t just a Pomona problem.

If communities don’t work toward solutions, gangs will continue to
prey upon one another and the wider population. A generation of young
people are being rubbed out by each other.

Here’s the sad, tough truth. Only Latinos can end the internecine
Latino gang killings by standing against gangs.

Only Asians can stop the assaults and home-invasion robberies that see
Asian gangs preying on their own people, setting up extortion rackets,
prostitution rings and trafficking in human slaves. Who will say

We must get at the root of gang culture that sees generation after
generation follow the gang lifestyle. For Arenas, belonging to the 12th
Street Gang was part of his environment. That sad cycle must be broken.

It will take involvement from those leaders in the community who have
either been there and managed to claw their way out of gangs or those
who found a way to resist joining.

Schools too must look for underlying gang involvement in interracial
violence on campus. Azusa found most of the so- called hate crimes in
their city sprang from a local Latino gang striking out at African
Americans. March 5, fighting erupted between Armenian and African-
American students at Pasadena’s Marshall Fundamental High School.
Armenian gangs are the newest ethnic crime component.

Racism, ethnic hatred. Communities must actively work to end these
old hatreds. Peer mediation at Marshall and other schools have helped.

But a multipronged, concerted effort is needed, beginning with
all-important adult role models who have been silent far too long.

Now is the time for Soto and fellow Sens. Martha Escutia and Gloria
Romero along with Assembly members Rudy Bermudez, Ron Calderon,
Ed Chavez, Judy Chu and Carol Liu as well as community leaders to
speak out against gangs and map strategies to end their influence
on young people. We agree with Soto: “We need more than thought. We
need action.’