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Denial & flight give both gangs, drugs upper hand

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POSTED September 10, 2009 2:11 a.m.
Just how did we let drugs get such a destructive hold on our communities?

Credit denial and running away – the two surefire ways to let the cancer spread.

This summer a visitor from North Dakota told of how their community was free of crime except for some meth users but police there had that under control.

It was a similar line used about two decades ago by Manteca when it came to gangs and drugs and not too long ago by Ripon when it came to gangs. It was also a line that prevailed 40 years ago when I was growing up in Lincoln, Placer County.

So did drugs and gangs take root in the three communities because of growth? Guess again.

Manteca leaders for years contended all the city had were “wannabe” gangsters. Civic leaders denied it because they didn’t want Manteca to have a bad image. Residents denied the existence of gangs as well because it couldn’t happen in their town. Gangs were things that you’d find elsewhere in big cities. Gangs were able to lay down roots in the void created by the “see no evil, speak no evil” syndrome.

There is a danger today in thinking we don’t all have a critical part to play in the weakening of the influence of the gang lifestyle over younger people. Trying to change someone who is already heavily involved in the gang lifestyle is next to impossible. The odds improve with those who are in the wannabe mode. But the real chance to win the war is in the hearts and minds of young people yet to fall under their spell.

That is why everything we do from being involved in various wholesome outlets for youth as volunteer coaches, tutors, and such is critical. It is also why we should not tolerate gang graffiti or cut any gang member slack.

Wouldn’t it be easy, though, just to move to North Dakota where they seem to be confident they will – and always will remain – an Eden free of crime?

Back in 1975 when property values in the San Fernando Valley in Los Angeles shot home prices up to $30,000, a number of people sold and moved their families north to Placer County where they bought country property and took jobs with Aerojet, civilian jobs at Sacramento’s McClellan and Mather air force bases, or with the state government.

The line you heard over and over again was how they wanted to move their kids away from Los Angeles with its drug problems. Many settled in the Lincoln foothills and gave a sigh of relief when their kids started wearing cowboy boots and jeans.

They weren’t disturbed at all when their kids started drinking alcohol at illegal parties in orchards and barns. After all, they weren’t doing drugs. Unfortunately, that is what came next.

The acquaintance from North Dakota may think he has nothing to worry about because “the police have it all under control” when it comes to meth is no different than how much of Manteca was in the early 1990s when it came to gangs. Fantasies are nice, but the reality is fairly blunt. You can’t expect a community to hold the line against crime and the proliferation of destructive behavior if you abdicate all responsibility to the police.

Meth – according to many federal reports - is gaining a stronger and stronger foothold on the Midwest. Give it time and you’ll see crime of all sorts go up but especially property crimes. It takes money to support a habit.

Evil triumphs when good people allow it to do so.

And the best way to let the evil of gangs and drugs prevail is when we deny they are a problem or simply pack up our bags and move.
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