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Member of Hispanic gang MS-13 (photo: News 14 Carolina)
WASHINGTON – Four members of a Hispanic gang in Los Angeles are convicted of federal hate crimes for the cold-blooded slaying of a black man in their neighborhood.
In Maryland, state corrections officials have begun a new study of prison gangs, including the growing numbers of Spanish-speaking gang members, amid mounting violence against prison workers.
A war between Hispanic and black prison gangs set off a series of riots across California this year leaving two dead and more than 100 were injured.
Pat Buchanan, WND columnist and author of the new best-selling book, “State of Emergency,” sees them as symptoms of out-of-control immigration into the U.S. mainly from Mexico and Central America.
“The country club Republicans may not recognize what is happening here, but those in America’s cities do,” he said. “Why are we risking the destruction of our country over this? How many unskilled workers do we need here?”
National crime statistics released by the FBI show homicides up 5 percent last year. But the real story, say experts, is what is happening in urban pockets across the country, where murders – increasingly across racial lines – are way up.
In Philadelphia’s 12th Police District shootings have almost doubled over the past year.
In Boston, the homicide rate is soaring.
In Orlando, the homicide count has reached 37, surpassing the city’s previous record.
All of this follows a national trend of decreasing violent crime through 2002.
The biggest increase in violence is in smaller cities where gang and drug problems are relatively new. In 2005, jurisdictions with populations between 50,000 and 250,000 saw homicide increases of about 12.5 percent – far larger than the big cities, says David Kennedy, director of the Center for Crime Prevention and Control at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York.
“Those numbers tell only part of the story,” he said. “Serious crime is concentrated in certain areas within poor black and Hispanic neighborhoods. For people who live in the Trinidad area of Washington, in the Nickerson Gardens housing complex in South Los Angeles and on Magnolia Street in Boston, the citywide statistics have always been meaningless. Their neighborhoods are war zones.”
More people are noticing that much of the violence is at least partly racially motivated and tied directly to the rapid increase in Hispanic population over the last decade – much of it due to illegal immigration.
Last month, L.A. County Sheriff Lee Baca cited tensions between black and Hispanic gangs for his decision to redeploy deputies to the Compton area, where four people were killed in 20 gang shootings during one July weekend.
In one high-profile example of what’s happening on the city streets of Los Angeles, Alejandro “Bird” Martinez and three other Hispanic gang members were joyriding in a stolen van when they came upon a black man parking his car. According to court testimony, they decided to kill him. Three of the four shot Kenneth Kurry Wilson with a .357-caliber revolver, a 9 mm semiautomatic and a 12-gauge shotgun.
Earlier this month, Martinez and three other members of the Avenues, a Hispanic gang, were convicted of federal hate crimes. It is believed to be the first case in which the U.S. Justice Department has prosecuted a minority gang as a hate group, using laws traditionally employed to go after white supremacist groups like skinheads and the Ku Klux Klan.
Recently, a Hispanic teen was murdered by a black assailant who, witnesses said, yelled a gang name as he fled. On June 30, a pair of black gunmen killed three Hispanics, prompting black and Hispanic leaders to call an emergency summit on how to call a halt to the bloodbath in the streets of L.A.
Observers suggest the situation on the streets is complicated by the numbers of gang members returning from prison, where joining a race-based gang is often a matter of survival.
In the case of the Avenues gang, an informant told the FBI members had received an order from the Mexican Mafia prison gang to kill all blacks on sight in their mainly Hispanic neighborhood. Leading up to Wilson’s murder, members of the Avenues terrorized other blacks, shooting a 15-year-old boy on a bike, pistol-whipping a jogger and drawing outlines of human bodies in a black family’s driveway, according to news reports.
Gang feuds were historically intra-racial rather than interracial. But that situation began to change with the heavy influx of Hispanics in some previously predominantly black neighborhoods.
For instance, in the late 1990s, newly arrived Hispanics began moving into the traditionally black communities of Compton and South Los Angeles. An area that was 80 percent black and 20 percent Hispanic is now 60 percent Hispanic, 40 percent black.
The Los Angeles County Commission on Human Relations’ latest human rights report said there were 41 recorded cases of interracial gang-related hate crime in 2004. But commissioners agreed the real number would be much higher if victims were not afraid to go to the police.
“In the overwhelming number of these cases, Latino gang members spontaneously attacked African-American victims who had no gang affiliation,” the commission wrote.
It said conflicts between racially based prison gangs like the Mexican Mafia “can have a significant impact on racialized gang violence in L.A. County and contribute to the levels of hate violence involving gangs.”
Meanwhile, in Maryland, officials are increasingly concerned about the impact of growing numbers of Hispanic gang members in state prisons.
Karen V. Poe, spokeswoman for the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, said the newly arrived Hispanic gangs – like MS-13 – pose a new set of problems in prison.
“They’re not your Bloods and Crips,” Poe said. “We need to look at communicating with them, understanding what they’re saying to one another.”
Inside the prisons, tensions are higher than ever because of turf wars between the competing gangs, said Ronald E. Smith, a former Maryland correctional officer who is now a labor relations specialist with a prison workers’ union.
“Crips, Bloods, the Black Guerrilla Family, MS-13 – all these gangs are in there and they’re all fighting for territory and control of all the drugs that come into the prison, the flow of money – anything they can take to show that they have the authority there,” he told the Associated Press.
Smith said about two dozen inmates from competing gangs were involved in a riot inside the medium-security Maryland Correctional Training Center near Hagerstown July 26. Meanwhile, the rate of assaults on correctional officers in the state’s maximum-security prisons nearly doubled from about 3.4 per 100 inmates in 2004 to 6.6 in 2005, according to a budget analysis by the nonpartisan Department of Legislative Services.