There’s a pretty amazing article, the first of two parts, in the PI today about the new breed of gangs that are operating in the Seattle area. In it, Claudia Rowe has done the kind of in-depth reporting that is increasingly rare, the kind that I could never imaging getting the courage to do. She’s combined a bunch of interviews with current and former gang members together with some great insight about what gangs are out there and where they operate.
You’ve really got to read the whole thing.
It gives a lot of background on the environment that many kids find themselves in and how they turn to gangs for support:
Chris Cates’ experience was typical. A skinny kid, awkward and lonely, he moved from home to home with his mother (his father long since gone to live in California) and was beaten up in every new neighborhood they found – the Central District, Lake City, Greenwood. By the time he was 12 and watching other, gang-affiliated buddies stride effortlessly down the street, Cates was desperate to join.
She also talks to a kid named Marquise, a member of our neighborhood’s Deuce 8s that operates around Flo Ware Park at 28th & Jackson:
Marquise is one of those kids. At 15, he has been in and out of detention a half-dozen times for robbery and car theft, as well as serving more than a year at the Echo Glen juvenile lockup in Snoqualmie for a hit and run.
Barely 5 feet tall, with an open face and ready handshake, he likes to write poetry and was irked on a recent afternoon that his counselor hadn’t provided a notebook. In the next breath, he’d announced, “I’m in a gang” – the Central District’s Deuce 8 set – and struggled to describe the rage and confusion he felt after his brother was beaten into a coma last spring and his friend, Allen Joplin, was killed in January.
“When Allen got shot, I felt real sad. But more than sad, I just felt like doing anything to somebody who wasn’t from Deuce 8,” Marquise said, the words tumbling out in a torrent. “I wish I knew who did it, ’cause I would have did something before I got locked up. But that’s one reason I’ve thought about not being in a gang – because I didn’t want to have to do something, ’cause what I was thinking about wasn’t cool.”
Deuce 8, an offshoot of the Chicago-based Gangster Disciples, has been part of the fabric of Marquise’s neighborhood for three generations. Elders who once hosted community barbecues still profess allegiance.
There’s a lot of other great points in there too, including various officials and experts who point out that the gang issues we have in Seattle are pretty tame compared to other big cities. And it’s also clear that we here in the CD are really just on the periphery of the local problem. Just look at the graphic the story has that shows the distribution of gangs across the area.
My overwhelming reaction from the story is one of sadness and guilt. I feel so bad for these kids that have grown up in no-win situations, with parents either absent or complicit due to drugs, early death, or incarceration. And then they become trapped in a violent and criminal lifestyle that only has a few exits, and most of them dead ends.
And I feel very apprehensive, knowing that it’s only a matter of time before some neighborhood kid that’s long on firepower and short on family support and education will end up either dead himself or possibly taking an innocent bystander out during one of the endless cycles of rage and retaliation.