Culture & Community

Gangs in Our Community – Together We Can Make A Difference By Anthony C. Mitchell

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It is very discouraging to find that our County and City leaders feel that trying to turn the tide of violence is so difficult when in fact it is not as complicated as they may think. If they just utilize their resources such as the men and women that are on the front-line. Patrol officers, School Resource Officers, Gang Unit Officers, Youth Detectives, Domestic Violence Officers, School Security Officers are already in and work for the community. They are allies and can be used as a liaisons. Unfortunately, these individuals are underutilized and their information and ideas are seldom, considered even though, they engage with “Gangs”, each and every day.

I am a  retired Detective in one of the many Cities in Westchester County, N.Y. My credentials include, a bachelors Degree in Criminal Justice, an Associate degree in Liberal Arts, member of the East Coast Gang Investigators Association (E.C.G.I.A.) since 2004, and a member of the New York Gang Investigators Association (N.Y.G.I.A.) since its inception, and I am considered to be a gang specialist. I’m a member of Brighthope Lodge #62 and Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Inc., Omicron Iota Chapter.

I have followed gangs in Mount Vernon since 2002 and I have been a resident of Mount Vernon for over 30 years. Therefore, not only do I have a little knowledge of the gangs of Mount Vernon, I have actually taken gang members off the streets, housed them and put them to work, until they were able to be on their own. Therefore as you can see, I also have a vested interest in seeing that gang violence stops, so much so that my actions speak louder than my words.

If we go by the California definition of “gang related incident”, Gangs can account for approximately 40% of crime and at least 60% of violent crimes and these numbers are low, the actual numbers are probably higher. “Gangs” are involved in, Murder, attempted murder, assaults, shootings, robbery, drugs and selling drugs, guns and selling guns, prostitution, burglaries, property damage, auto theft, grand larceny, etc…

To begin to curtail the constant danger of gang violence must always begin at home; there is no doubt about that. Accountability at home is paramount in establishing positive foundation for young people, but there are also outside influences that can assist in curtailing gang violence.

We must first understand that there is no one entity that can do it by itself; therefore several organizations must form an alliance; City Government, School Board, Community Businesses, Religious Leaders, Community leaders, Blacks In Law Enforcement of America and City Public Safety. In forming this alliance, these entities must understand why individuals engage in “Gang” membership and activity. To find that out, you must establish some type of communication.

We must also establish a better working relationship with outside agencies, such as the District Attorney’s office, the Attorney General’s office and our Federal agencies; A.T.F., D.E.A., I.C.E. and the F.B.I., so that we can, better prosecute serious offenders. The ultimate goals are to eliminate the criminal element, but we must do it together.

I have found, in my research, which was achieved by speaking with non-gang members and gang members, and asking the question, “Why do they indulge in such activity”? The answer from several gang members, old and young and those on the verge of joining gangs have remained constant. The lack of educational opportunities and success, lack of job opportunities, the lack of recreational outlets and the lack of people concerned enough to invest time into these misguided individuals.

When attempting to address the issues involving gangs, you have to put people in positions, which have a vested interest in seeing that this City and its people succeed. My question to our leaders is, how many City organizations, Religious organizations, Community organizations, Business organizations, School Board leaders, have members and or leaders, who have a vested interest in seeing that this City and its people succeeds? How many leaders are putting the proper people in the right positions so that the City and its people succeed? How can we, the National Black Police Association assist?

Law enforcement alone cannot and will not curtail gang violence. We, as a community must unite and simply address the fact that we have neglected a segment of our community that is now responding to that neglect in a criminal fashion.

When it comes to our community one cannot continue to attempt to put squares pegs into circles, it just doesn’t work. We need to try to reach our community in new ways. We can learn from the history of other communities and change our direction so not to go down the same path. No one is going to work harder for their community than those that live in that community. The people with vested interest are a must in certain positions and those who just come to our community to collect a pay check don’t care and should be removed. Once you start to care for the community from the inside the rest will fall into place. Those with an interest can then come together to make decisions that positively affect the people of the community. The youth can be better educated, giving them better opportunities for their future thus removing the want or need to seek out Gang connections. The community’s economy should grow and unemployment should fall, again helping to remove that need for Gang activity. I am not speaking of something that is impossible or unattainable, just something that has never been considered or tried. WHY?

As Law Enforcement Professionals we dedicate our time on the job and sacrifice our free time and our families with continuous volunteer service in our communities. The Westchester Chapter of the National Black Police Association already donates toys and turkeys to the less fortunate for Christmas and Thanksgiving, as well as donating clothing to the Salvation Army. We give presentations on, what to do when stopped by the police, how you know your Child is in a Gang, Are You a Victim of Domestic Violence and others. Mostly recently we held, a Movie Night on Juneteenth (June 19, 2009), “Crips and Bloods: Made in America” that informed the community of the socio-economic and educational problems that led to the gang problems in Los Angeles. We invited community leaders, politicians, law enforcement leaders and religious leaders but only ONE politician, ONE community leader responded.

Blacks In Law Enforcement of America  is a nationwide organization of  Black Law Enforcement Professionals, dedicated to the promotion of justice, fairness, and effectiveness in law enforcement. It is our duty as peace officers and members of Blacks in Law enforcement of America to continue the fight for freedom, justice, and equality for all citizens. We will be advocates of law enforcement professionals by establishing continuous training and support. As black law enforcement professionals, we pledge our time, honor, and talent for the uplifting of our communities. We are truly the leaders of the community, in and out of our blue uniform.

Anthony C. Mitchell
Blacks In Law Enforcement of America

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