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Citizens must report gang activity
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Let us take a hypothetical situation involving a home in a residential neighborhood that has been "shot up" one or more times in what appears to be a gang-related conflict or some other form of planned retaliation. The occupants of that home claim they have no idea about who might be responsible, they have no theory about why their home was targeted, and they seem to have developed a bad case of amnesia about what they might have done in the past that could have prompted the shooting attacks.

These shooting events imperil all people, pets and property in the neighborhood, especially now that assault-type rifles are being used by criminal gangs. Bullets fired from rifles can travel long distances and pass entirely through a house or other structures. These bullets can penetrate vehicles as well. The point is that while the gunfire may be intended for a particular home, there is always the possibility that unintended houses and people might be struck as well.

After one of these drive-by shooting events, they are oftentimes immediately followed by retaliatory violence in other areas of our community. Of course, the homes of uninvolved, innocent families living near the targeted home are once again placed in grave danger. This vicious circle of retaliatory violence does not only affect those targeted, but all of us. These drive-by shootings are sometimes retribution for some violent act, but more often than not, they are done for a relatively trivial matter - like a gang member "disrespected" a member of a rival gang, it may be the result of a drug-dealing territory conflict, or any number of other reasons.

The so-called "victim" in this hypothetical situation claims total innocence and has no idea about why anyone might be trying to kill him. He offers absolutely no assistance to the police in identifying the suspects and may even provide false leads. But more often than not, the victim in these cases says very little - maybe an occasional grunt or the nodding of the head - leaving the impression that they are intentionally refusing to communicate. The police are left with little to go on, making the investigation much more difficult and time consuming than need be.

Gangs have a code of conduct dictating that disputes and grievances are settled between the warring factions, without law enforcement intervention. To them it is a matter of honor and to involve law enforcement is a sign of weakness and a violation of their "code." It is also probable that criminal gang members find it awkward to interact with the police as victims, when they have likely been involved in any number of crimes themselves. Insofar as gang members are concerned, their lack of cooperation, even when they are the victims, is essentially the result of an ingrained cultural phenomenon. Outsiders, such as the police, are unlikely to make any inroads in solving this problem.

The dynamic of gang victims not cooperating with the police is not new. It has been going on for many decades, but what is new, is that the problem has been growing right along with the increased number of gangs and gang members in our region. Moreover, the non-cooperation edict becomes a de facto standard even for uninvolved, innocent persons living in the area. The neighbors simply become too afraid to assist with investigations for fear of the intimidation and attacks that may follow.

This non-cooperation by the persons assaulted or witnesses who can assist an investigation is the first destructive step towards neighborhoods falling under the control of local gangs - and this is all made possible through intimidation and threats Over the long term, neighborhoods, one-by-one, fall under the control of gangs and it all starts with one home and one incident where lawful justice is not carried out.

There is a way to stop this alarming dynamic. It involves citizens rising above any threats of intimidation early on when gang-related crimes start happening. Yes, there is some risk, but the police will do everything possible to protect witnesses and victims who are willing to share their knowledge of crimes with the police. There are also strict laws with serious penalties for persons convicted of victim or witness intimidation.

If you know someone who was involved in a crime, witnessed the incident yourself, or have any knowledge about the persons involved in criminal activity, helping solve the case is as simple as sending a text message. Many of us send dozens of text messages daily, and all you need to do is text a tip to 274637, include "tip 704" at the beginning of your message and then the information you would like to share with the police. This information will go to the Stanislaus Area Crime Stoppers, who will forward the information to the appropriate law enforcement agency for follow up. All crime tips are completely anonymous and by submitting helpful information that leads to the solving of a case can even result in a cash reward. But the even greater reward is knowing that you have done your part to take your community back from the criminals.