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Gang colors in Manteca are white & brown

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POSTED March 26, 2010 2:10 a.m.
This may come as a shock to those who are convinced that all of Manteca’s 500 documented gang members are Hispanic.

A rather large number are Caucasian.

Such facts offered by the men and women who should know - the Manteca Police force - simply get in the way of arguments by more than a few that believe the upswing in gang-on-gang  violence in Manteca is the fault of illegals or, more precisely, Hispanics who are in this country illegally.

Police Chief Dave Bricker noted that of those Hispanics that are gang members very few - if any - are illegals. Instead they are more often than not third or fourth generation United States citizens as well as third or fourth generation gang members.

Just like Manteca’s ethnic make-up, most gang members in town are either Hispanic or Caucasian.

And just because they identify themselves by the Spanish names for north and south - Nortenos and Surenos - doesn’t mean they are Hispanic. A number of members in the gangs are Caucasian.

Those involved in this week’s most blatant gang-on-gang incidents - a drive-by shooting that injured five and a gang fight at a North Main Street convenience store that resulted in weapons being shot and a high speed chase ending in a crash - were either primarily Hispanic or had Spanish surnames.

Gang members who have committed some of the most savage attacks on other gang members in recent years in Manteca have more often than not been Caucasian.

They include the attacker of a gang member that almost bled to death and another that was the shooter of a rival gang member who sustained life-threatening injuries in a neighborhood south of the Highway 120 Bypass.

At the same time, the kingpin of gang activity for years in the Southside Park neighborhood in Manteca where police four years ago were able to drastically reduce gang problems was an illegal in his 50s from Mexico who ultimately got deported.

That brings up another key point. Gang members aren’t teens or young adults. They also consist of older adults and kids not even out of puberty.

Just a few months ago gang-wannabes who were still in eighth grade used air pistols to shoot at “rivals” wearing the wrong color in two separate incidents. Both were Caucasian and did not attend the so-called “bad schools” that some avoid like the plague because they believe lower income neighborhoods are the exclusive breeding grounds for gangs. One shooter went to Veritas School and the other to Shasta School.

The two wannabe incidents in particular underscore the reason why Manteca’s gang problem is too serious to let racism cloud the issue.

Gangs, unfortunately, are not going away. They will, though, keep expanding if the community as a whole continues to allow young people to be caught up in the lure of belonging to something that is toxic not just for Manteca but for the young people themselves.

There is little doubt that having 30 more police officers would help keep somewhat of a lid on much of the gang violence in Manteca. But even with that kind of force, it still will be a growing problem unless we get to the roots of the problem.

Bricker noted that as much as people would want the police to take short cuts in terms of dealing with the legal rights of suspected or documented gang members, police simply cannot do that. Following rules, the police chief pointed out, is what makes the police different than the gang members they deal with who have no respect for property of others or regard for the lives of others.

Manteca Police can’t do it alone. They need help to open the eyes of all parents to understand that any child is at risk of getting caught up in gangs. Parents need to look for the signs of their child starting to fall under the spell of gangs and take steps to stop the attraction.

They also need the community to continue to provide alternatives for kids such as after-school programs, the Boys & Girls Club, Scouting, Give Every Child a Chance and such as well as expand on them.

It is much cheaper to help such organizations with your time and money as it is to keep paying ever escalating state bills for incarceration and welfare.

The world shouldn’t be seen in hues of blue and red or white and brown or whatever colors you can contrast when describing affiliations or skin tone.

Instead it needs to be color blind.

And once we are all color blind when it comes to gangs, we will understand just how intrusive they are in the lives of our youth whether their great-grandparents heralded from England, Mexico, or China.
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