Wednesday, August 01, 2007
On Bloods and Crips (in Dumaguete)
I channel surfed one late Saturday night and came upon Fil Product’s airing of one of the City Council’s sessions. Out of curiosity and for lack of more interesting shows in the other channels, I decided to stay on and quickly got hooked when the Bloods and the Crips were discussed.
I first came by the names Bloods and Crips when my friend SPO1 Jobie Lacandula mentioned that these local gangs are fast gaining ground among Dumaguete’s youth. Little did I realize how grave their threat was, until I listened to one enraged father speaking out against the Bloods and Crips before the City Council. His 15-year old son’s skull was fractured after gang members attacked him at Mart One in broad daylight.
To better understand these gangs, I looked into their origins and learned that the Crips are a primarily, but not exclusively, African-American gang founded in Los Angeles, California in 1969. It thrived in the culture of ghetto violence and through the years, it has grown into one of the largest and most powerful gangs in the United States with membership that exceeds well over 30,000.
The Crips are known to be involved in murders, robberies, and drug dealing, among many other criminal pursuits. The gang is notorious for its members’ flamboyant use of the color blue in their clothing. They are known to have an intense and bitter rivalry with the Bloods.
The Bloods, on the other hand, started as an alliance formed by several smaller gangs being targeted by the Crips. These embattled groups got together to form a united, thus stronger, organization to combat Crip intimidation and encroachment in their turfs. In contrast to the Crips’ use of the color blue, the then newly formed Bloods took on the wearing of an opposite color, red.
The local Bloods and Crips are copycats with no affiliation or recognition from the US originals. According to Police Chief Supt. Dionardo Carlos, they are merely emulating the activities of their so-called idols, from identifying their gang affiliations through their use of either red or blue bandannas, to engaging in open warfare against each other, often attacking members of rival gangs who’d cross their path.
According to P/Supt. Carlos, Bloods gang members come from families in the upper echelon of society. They recruit male and female students from private high schools like Silliman University HS, Foundation University HS and St. Paul University HS. Members are easily identifiable through their use of black shirts with red bandannas often worn as headscarf, or slung across the shoulders, or tucked in the back pocket of oversized hip-hop pants.
The Crips recruit from public high schools like NOHS and Dumaguete City High School. They also wear black shirts and hip-hop pants and favor the use of blue bandannas.
P/Supt. Carlos mentioned sons of political leaders as members of the Bloods gang. I have also heard from other sources of children (not gang members) of prominent public personalities, businessmen and professionals having been recruited, or ganged upon and subjected to threats and intimidation by members of either Bloods or Crips.
As parents, this growing notoriety of the gangs and their penchant for violence against rival gang members and non-members alike should become our primary concern. This should be more so if we have teenaged boys and girls who might become drawn into the promised brotherhood and offer of protection and support from other members, not to mention the element of being “cool” or “in” – at a time in our children’s lives when, more often that not, outward appearances and affiliations are of paramount importance.
P/Supt. Carlos informed the Council that these groups are primarily hip-hop groups who merely wanted to come together to dance and play rap music together (that is, if they are not fighting rival gangs).
I say that we should not allow this statement to lull us into any sense of false security. History shows us that the Crips in the US was started by 15-year old Raymond Washington with the initial intent of continuing the revolutionary ideology of the 1960s and to act as community leaders and protectors of their local neighborhoods. But the revolutionary rhetoric did not endure. Because of immaturity and lack of political leadership, the budding Crips gang was never able to develop an efficient political agenda for social change within the community.
Instead, it took very little time before their group started engaging in criminal activities, from mugging elderly Japanese women to hardcore drug dealing, murder, robbery and the like.
It goes without saying that we do not want Bloods and Crips activities here in our city to escalate to that point, or for the groups to become more violent in their skirmishes as it had in Cebu and Baguio, for instance.
I learned from my research in this subject that in Cebu, a law graduate who planned to enter the seminary after taking the bar, was caught in the crossfire between these rival gangs, and was shot dead in Mango Avenue Square. What was so poignant in this story was the mention of his rosary that was found among his law books, as they lay scattered next to his body.
Such waste of a life that held so much promise. And for what? For a battle rooted on blind and senseless hatred? Where the combatants themselves are clueless as to what that hatred was for?
I also read of news reports of bloody gang clashes in Baguio, resulting in the death of several young men in their late teens. The same scenario played over and over again: 20 to 30 to 40 attackers armed with knives, lead pipes, bats, beer bottles and bare fists.
The victims of these vicious attacks often had multiple skull fractures. One had 30 stab wounds in his body. They were gang members felled by rival gangs.
Do we want this same lawlessness happening in our City? We have already been held hostage by hardened, gun-wielding holdupers and snatchers plaguing our every move. Are we going to be held hostage once again, this time by mere children who barely got their mamas’ milk out of their lips?
We can’t just say that they just fight each other anyway! Because they don’t! Even innocent non-gang members have fallen victims to their aggression. A single look or a meeting of eyes considered to be offensive by one party could bring down a whole pack of gang brothers hungry to prove their superiority on one hapless teener.
Innocent bystanders have fallen victims already, caught in the crossfire as these gangs battled each other. We, too, can become victims. And yes, our children as well.
In other cities, Crips and Bloods members included out-of-school youths and hoodlums. I would like to ask P/Supt. Carlos if such is also the case here in Dumaguete. If so, it is frightening to think how short their leap will have to be, from mere rapping and doing the hip-hop, and obviously smoking and drinking, to drugs and drug-dealing, armed robbery and murder, and only God knows what else!
My heart goes out to the father whose son was attacked at Mart One. I could empathize with his seething anger. Any parent would be furious at seeing his child suffer from near-fatal injuries in the hands of gang members for apparently no reason at all.
I could understand his utter frustration at the seeming inaction of the Police. To a parent whose heart longs for concrete action and solutions to a problem that has come to his doorstep, the soft approach being undertaken by our Police in addressing this problem, consisting of dialogues, mediation, intervention and clash prevention, may seem lame, inadequate and halfhearted.
But I also fully understand that the Police’s hands are tied behind their backs. P/Supt. Carlos was correct in pointing out that unless these gangs are actually committing a crime, there is little that the Police could do. The most would be to disperse these groups once they are spotted converging in one area.
Besides, with the promulgation of RA 9344, the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act, which spares individuals 15 years and younger from criminal liability, young offenders falling within that age bracket could not be held accountable for their criminal actions even when caught red-handed. And according to P/Supt. Carlos, most members fall within this age group.
So what now? With the Police practically helpless to curb these gangs’ increasing numbers and with the gang members themselves becoming increasingly bolder by the minute, where does this leave us? Turn to vigilante justice as what the father of that victim said he would do?
Those of us whose lives have not been touched by the ferocity these young men are capable of can very easily take the high moral ground and express shock and indignation over his audacity to even contemplate such an unthinkable option.
It’s basic human nature to take the emotional backseat as we watch human dramas unfold. Very seldom could we fully empathize with the range of emotions displayed before us. More often than not, it is only when those closest to our hearts are affected by the same forces that we’d bother to get out of our comfortable seats to join in the fray.
But if we look deep into the psyche of this father, we’d understand the rage and extent of the frustration that drove him into saying what he said. I believe that he said he would turn to vigilantes only to make us all understand how angry and how frustrated he was over what he perceived to be Police inaction.
His talk of resorting to vigilante justice merely existed in the realm of contemplation. There is no crime in that. What is criminal is when what has been contemplated is translated into concrete action. Now, that’s another story.
According to him, vigilante justice had been effective before and they could still work now. He mentioned notorious Dumaguete gangs in the past that spontaneously disbanded after members got terminated one after another.
What, if indeed, there are similarly victimized people out there who would go beyond that contemplation stage? I heard one person declare that he’d be willing to contribute to a vigilante fund.
Would parents, who’ve previously been in denial regarding their children’s involvement with the gangs, be compelled to act decisively and keep them home under lock and key, if gang members would start suffering the same fate as their predecessors?
Heaven forbid if ordinary citizens would decide to take matters into their own hands! But we do not have to come to that. I believe that the parents are the key to this dilemma.
P/Supt. Carlos hit the nail squarely in the head when he said that this matter would not have gotten to this point had the parents had been more involved and vigilant of their children’s activities.
I completely agree. But vigilant of what? Bad barkadas? Fine. But if we conduct a survey right now, I wonder how many among us are adequately aware of this threat? Maybe, SUHS parents are, because I understand that the PTA is actively addressing this problem. But how about the rest of us?
A private group whose name I cannot recall right now has taken the commendable step of conducting information drives among high school students, warning them against joining these gangs.
But our local leadership should also undertake steps to extensively inform the very same people who are the first lines of defense in this war: the parents. To our leaders: what have YOU done so far to inform us about this danger to our children?
Let me do your job for you here: Parents, take note. If your sons and daughters would begin sporting black shirts and those oversized hip-hop pants, accompanied by red or blue bandannas … warning bells should start ringing in your heads already. That could spell only one thing … B-A-D.
They are in grave danger. Hardly from the irate parents I’ve been writing about, but from members of rival gangs who’d gladly attack for no reason other than that they belong to a different group.
Let me quote an American mother who lost her son to gang violence in 2003. He was 18 years old and he was a gang member. She said, "Every parent should pay attention to signs that I ignored as a parent and paid the ultimate price of losing a child."