Drive-by Patches

gadw.jpgAs street-gang expert Gabe Morales told us this summer, Seattle "is kind of at where L.A., Chicago, and Newark were 20 years ago. We're just now catching up in assessing gangs locally, and we've got a long ways to go with prevention and intervention. There are no easy answers, to be sure." That's what some are looking for of course, to explain the 11 shootings last weekend - three murders, eight attempted, at least five likely gang-releated. One even took place at Vito's, one of the city's oldest watering holes where the worst offenders used to be drunk sportswriters between paychecks.

Not that it allays any fears, but the explosion of shootings is a contiuum of the historical feud between gangs from the South End and the Central District of Seattle, with a retaliatory blip. One of the weekend shootings took place at Southcenter mall, putting hundreds at risk in a public setting, as opposed to a relatively easily dismissed drive-by in the Rainier Valley. The headlines grew in type after they almost hit Cinnabon.

Southcenter was a gang-shooting scene in March as well, and this should be making a larger audience mad. As Morales tells the P-I today, "Denial just doesn't happen with police agencies. It happens with communities, chambers of commerce..." At times, police also underplay the significance of the event, "just so people calm down. I call it the saturation of violence. Then everybody, police included, feel a little bit safer, and people go back to doing their business."

He adds:

These kids don't see that there are better things in life. That's what they see as the best career for them, is a criminal career, life in prison, become a prison gang member. They like that status, you know, what you get from that -- you get respect. In fact, you can't even get any respect until you've done jail time. It's like the Boy Scouts, and you just got another patch.

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