What five letter word do a killing spree in Long Island, the rape of a 14-year-old girl in a public school, and a suicide of an NFL player all have in common? If you guessed G-A-N-G-S you answered correctly.
Last week, the life and fast times of Aaron Hernandez was a sports story that grabbed the national spotlight. Hernandez’s life is the classic rags to riches back to rags yarn and is a great cautionary tale. Growing up in Bristol, Connecticut, Hernandez had a checkered youth that included hanging out with gang members. Due to his extraordinary athletic talent, he got a break and seemed to be making the most of it, starring on the gridiron with both University of Florida and New England Patriots football teams. Even in his salad days, however, when he was making millions, whispers abounded that he was still hanging out with the old gang (literally). Then he was arrested for two separate homicide raps, beating one but not the other. In prison, Hernandez sported fresh gang tattoos and then last week he committed suicide in prison. All this in just 27 years.
Out on Long Island, law enforcement seems one step behind the infamous MS-13 gang who recently killed another four teens and are suspected of killing scores of people in Suffolk County, New York alone. In Rockville, Maryland, despite the media’s best attempt not to report it, outrage spread across the country when two immigrant teens, of which at least one is in the country illegally, allegedly raped and solemnized a 14-year old girl in a public school restroom. Over shadowed in this horrific story is that the prosecution is in possession of photographs showing both suspects flashing gang symbols.
As violent crime ticks up in America, gang violence is a large part why, according to James Howell of the National Gang Center. “We don’t see a drop in the key gang magnitude indicators. In the past five years, we’ve seen an 8 percent increase in number of gangs, an 11 percent increase in members and a 23 percent increase in gang-related homicides.”
Why is gang membership currently skyrocketing?
Culturally two of the biggest contributors are the collapse of the traditional family where 70% of gang members come from single parent households and an immigration system that until recently gave little or no care if immigrants came to the country illegally and stayed, and often released them back on the streets even after being caught committing crimes.
According to the Independent Journal Review, Montgomery County, the county in which Rockville, Maryland, is located, “has seen an unprecedented level of gang-related violence in the last 8 months — with illegal immigrant youth being responsible for 85 percent of street robberies.” In 2015 the FBI published the National Gang Report and stated that gangs in the Southwestern border region are comprised of up to 80% illegal aliens, with the report concluding, “in many cases, gang members who commit criminal activity in the region are not U.S. citizens nor lawful permanent residents.”
It is hard to be optimist that this trend will end anytime soon given the logic most politicos apply to gangs. Take, for instance, Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland who says his top priority is reducing crime in his city and acknowledges that gang violence is out of control in Memphis. “We are going to put more focus in the police department on the gangs and the gang units, because they are really driving a lot of the homicides.”
While acknowledging the problem with gangs, he plans do the exact opposite of what would help the problem. Strickland has been an outspoken critic of President’s Trump’s efforts to curb illegal immigration, saying the Memphis Police Department is “not in the business of enforcing” federal immigration policy and that Memphis is a “welcoming city.” So welcoming it is entrenching gang membership and getting city residents killed. Oh, by the way, 60.4% of children in Memphis live in households led by single parents. Whatever anti-gang measures Memphis comes up with, it will still be an uphill climb, as the core issues aren’t being addressed.
In the end, Aaron Hernandez and other gang members are ultimately responsible for crimes they committed, but it would be nice if we addressed the big picture so as to lessen the enticement to young people on the bubble between right and wrong to make the wrong choice.