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Gangs can be stopped.

May 1, 2017

The President has lately made the violent gang MS-13 the poster child for reducing crime via immigration control and deportation.

That  of course brings howls of outrage from the left, accusing him of racism and worse.

In fact, CNN even makes a back-handed attempt to justify not targeting MS-13 members for deportation by explaining that it actually began in Los Angeles in the 1980’s, although even CNN has to admit that the original gang members were made up of illegal Salvadorian  immigrants.

With appropriate deference to the President, this isn’t exactly a new fight, or a new solution.

Ten years ago, the Heritage Foundation published a lengthy white paper detailing what role the Federal government might have in controlling gang-related crime.

Titled “Gang Crime: Effective and Constitutional Policies to Stop Violent Gangs[1] and authored by David B. Muhlhausen, Ph.D., and Erica Little, published in 2007, the paper attempts to define what is constitutional and what isn’t, at the Federal level.

The extensively footnoted paper comes up with four recommendations at the Federal level to combat gang-related crime.  The Federal level recommendations are contained in this talking points summary:

The national government should secure the nation’s borders, deport gang members who are illegal immigrants, incarcerate them if they return to the United States illegally, and produce research and coordinate information sharing on law enforcement activities that involve interstate gang-related crime.”

Remember, this study was commissioned more than a decade ago (2004), and the theory was supported at the time by Dianne Feinstein (D-CA)  Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) each of whom introduced legislation seeking to bring gang control more fully under Federal jurisdiction.

In fact as of 2007, there were eight proposals to control gangs pending in Congress.

This isn’t exactly a new fight, and apparently we have long known that illegal immigration has a strong influence on gangs and gang crime.

Understanding the linkage.

But understand this. It isn’t that all the eleven million illegal immigrants are criminals, and no one believes they are.  Law enforcement researchers estimate that somewhere between one and two percent of these people had actual active ties to gangs or cartels at the time they crossed the border.

The other 98 to 99 per cent contribute to gang and criminal activity in a different way. Some arrive already in debt to the gangs and cartels, making them easy marks for crimes like prostitution or drug smuggling.

But that’s still not the reason gangs flourish.  Economics does have a role in gang influence.

Most of the people coming in illegally are unskilled and do not speak English.  Some can’t read and write well even in their native language, much less English.

There aren’t enough unskilled jobs that don’t require any knowledge of English to employ all those people.

When a gang or cartel offers an illegal immigrant  $50 or $100 to do “just one little job” or offers to feed their drug habit to pressure them into doing some sort of  illegal activity, a certain percentage of them will do so.  After all, it isn’t as though they are strangers to lawlessness and crime, and they are certainly not strangers to poverty.

The left’s theory that enforcing deportation of criminal illegal immigrants will somehow result in decent people being afraid to talk to the police ignores the reality of the streets.

The oft-repeated theory that crime happens because cooperating with the cops will get you deported is hogwash. No street cop with more than 90 days on the job is dumb enough to burn his informants or community contacts. Cooperating with or tipping off the cops is a lot more likely to get you killed by the bad guys than deported.

Even if the illegal residents don’t actually join gangs, they know full well that loose lips will get them killed.  It’s the same culture they hoped to escape, and it has followed them.

Certainly, some gang activity is hyper-local and home-grown, although many of these neighborhood gangs eventually either get absorbed into more powerful gangs or the original group’s members are killed off by rivals in turf wars.

Gangs haven’t changed, we have.

What has changed is that any attempt to control gang and criminal activity at any level has become a giant liberal social service project. Couple that with the current push to delegitimize the police, and what you have is a growing fairytale culture that assures us that ignorance is bliss.

Taking into account the vast sums of money available to municipalities and nonprofits, often given with little accountability for positive results, for things like community playgrounds and youth centers, there may be little to no reason to try to solve the gang problem.

If you run out of at-risk people, the money goes away.  It’s that simple.

That’s not to say that all youth services programs are bad.  Of course it’s better for kids to be at the local Boys and Girls Club than on a street corner.

But they have to leave those places eventually and go home.  If home means your ‘uncle” Mako or Jose is waiting with a few baggies of drugs to sell or he’ll beat the crap out of you, then the youth program is pretty much good money after bad.

The heavily left-slanted CNN piece is right about one thing. Not all gangs are Hispanic, and we do have plenty of them that are home-grown.

What we lack is any serious will to do something about it. It’s almost as though liberals consider criminal gangs an endangered species.

We already know that just deporting bad actors doesn’t accomplish anything as regards reducing criminal gang activity. There are hundreds if not thousands of instances of deportees making a speedy U-turn and coming right back into the U.S. and homing in on their protected reserves, otherwise known as sanctuary cities.

Like any other problem, the longer we ignore it, the more it’s going to cost in both blood and treasure to correct it.

As the white paper suggests, efforts to fully federalize gang control has resulted in overbroad definitions of “gang activity.”  However, in the cases where there is interstate collaboration between “chapters” of some gangs, like MS-13, one can make a case for applying the RICO Act standards.

On the other local and intrastate activity, the one thing that would be effective is for communities to have a zero gang tolerance policy that includes supporting proactive policing. Constantly raiding known gang hangouts on grounds like warrant searches and automatically charging criminal acts as felonies from the get-go if they are tied to a gang would help.

However, if every attempt to make life miserable for gangs results in some left-wing loon screaming racism or police brutality, then the gangs have carte blanche to operate undisturbed.

Which brings us to another problem, and that’s the constant liberal mantra that all gangs are just misunderstood children and out-of-work janitors, victimized by the heinous white race.

That’s a direct result of identity politics, yet we keep rewarding the Clintons and Warrens of the world for doing it.

That isn’t reducing criminal gang activity one iota.

A more helpful strategy would be to quit treating gang members under 18 as hothouse flowers. At a certain point they become simply apprentice criminals gaming the system.

Yes, communities need interventionist programs to keep the little kids from becoming little criminals. We all know that no kid is born a gang member, but there is a flip side to that, and  that requires that society instill some sense of consequences.

The time to catch them before they fail is not at 12, 14, or 16. That’s too late, yet it keeps happening because there are no serious consequences until they hit 18.

Anyone over 12 and under 18 who commits crimes that would be felonies if they were over 18 should have their name added to a publicly accessible database.  No more of this just naming the “adults” or blurring out the faces.

If you are old enough at 12 or 14 to sodomize someone, sell drugs, pimp your sister, rob a convenience store or use a weapon, you are old enough to have your face and name on TV.

Repeat violent juvenile offenders should not have their juvenile records sealed, and there should be a sentencing mandate to transfer them to adult prisons after they turn 18 if the sentence will run past their 18h birthday.

Of course those aren’t the only steps.  We could do a lot more to make men who knock up a half dozen or more women every year take financial responsibility for their actions. At least maybe then a condom would be a cheaper solution than the alternative.

But above all, we need to stop drinking the Kool-Aid that the left keeps shoving down our throats, before we drown in it.

[1] This paper, in its entirety, can be found at:

From → op-ed

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