Tuesday, May 28

58 Gangs, 705 Members in Jax

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Jacksonville has a crime problem. Most cities do. We also have some gangs in town. 58, apparently. With 705 gang members. I am not sure if this was discovered using census data or what. Maybe a Survey Monkey survey. But what do the numbers mean?

With around 1,000,000 people and only 705 in gangs, we outnumber the gang members 1400 to 1. By we, I mean those of us not supposed to be committing crimes and murdering one another. In fact, we outnumber gang members by so much that we would easily be able to squash gangs with our sheer numbers. Even if it's just JSO doing the heavy lifting, with 2,000 policemen and almost 1,000 corrections officers, gang bangers would not stand a chance. But I assume that even though we know 705 of them exist, we must not know who they are. Or we do and just can't arrest people for being in a gang...I guess that's not technically illegal. I'd never thought about that, but gangs are not illegal, and it would be going down a slippery slope of free speech suppression if we left it entirely up to politicians what constitutes an illegal gang (assuming we wanted to make gangs illegal). I'm sure we could figure out something, however, if we really wanted to do that.

Another interesting fact about Jacksonville gangs is that the average size, based on the numbers the news reported, is 12. I have to believe there are some large gangs, like the ones in movies, with maybe 50 guys. Then there'd have to be some with like four guys who hang out in a one-car garage. It makes me wonder what the criteria is for actually calling your group a gang. I sat at my lunch table with about 12 guys back in high school, and it was a pretty rough school, so we looked out for one another. I wonder if that means I was a gang member. We used to take our tray tokens (plastic coins) and shoot them off at high speeds using textbooks, so we were pretty hardcore.

I assume you need at least five guys (or gals) to be a gang. That's a good number if you have to vote on your next illicit adventure. And you probably have to do more than play video games together. Illegal stuff, like claiming turf and selling drugs. But in Jacksonville, there's so much turf to go around that there's only one gang for every 15 square miles. Just divide it up nicely and stop shooting at one another, guys (and gals).

So 58 gangs still sounds like a lot, and I bet it is for certain reasons. Like naming your gang. I realize that a gang needs to have a good name to strike fear in those who might oppose it. But that's not always easy. Back in Milwaukee, I knew some guys in the 9-1 Posse. It was because they lived on 91st Street, near Hampton. And some other posse (2-7, perhaps) was super-cool, so they kind of wanted to mimic the coolness. Maybe they also had 8 or 10 members and enjoyed math. But 91st Street runs pretty much the length of Milwaukee, so some guys living down on 91st and Howard on the South Side would have to come up with something else. Frustrating, right? Here in Jacksonville, I'm sure some gang members way back in the day already claimed the Jets and the Sharks names for their gangs, so it's probably thin pickings, especially with our lack of tough-sounding street names.(Beach Boyz, Racetrack Roadies, Moncreeps, etc.) Maybe there's a local gang database accessible to all 58 gangs in order to make sure there's no overlap in the names of sets being claimed, as that could be embarrassing.

In the end, I think local law-enforcement and political leaders really want every non-domestic shooting to be gang-related. It reassures local residents that as long as you don't have a crazy husband or belong to a gang, then you probably won't get shot. Of course, there is some truth to that. It also makes me wonder how often gang members are involved in domestic crime, since I've never seen the two combined in a story. Have you? Again, a bit besides the point. The point is that we have less than .1% of our population in gangs here in Jacksonville. That's about the same number of people who are Baha'i. Or the same number who identify as Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander. Even if I believe in world peace and sometimes wear a Hawaiian shirt, I'm not in either of those gangs. So if you're not in an actual gang, please don't do all kinds of illegal stuff and shoot at people.