When I asked “Ringo” DeLeon, President of the Texas Gang Investigators Association, why he worked in a gang unit, the 26 year veteran and Sergeant from Corpus Christi P.D. never hesitated with his reply: “I hate bullies.” Short, to the point, yet prolific when given thought.
Say the word “Bully” and generally the first image that comes to mind is of a punk kid at school harassing a quiet, mild mannered kid. Bullies come in all shapes, sizes and sexes. They can be a boy or girl, young or old, man or woman, an individual or a group, from any race, and be rich or poor. Last year several incidents occurred with upper-middle-class high school girls bullying female classmates to the point that they committed suicide. They bullied because it made them feel good. Kids who enjoy bullying others are screwed up. Adults that enjoy bullying others are screwed up. That is the quick Psych 101 course synopsis.
Bullying ranges from schoolyard intimidation to spousal abuse to drug cartels’ murderous acts. Yes, drug cartels are bullies, dangerous bullies, but bullies nonetheless.
So, how does this relate to gangs? Simple. Gangs are just another level of bullies that get off on violence toward others in order to achieve their goals—and they feed off of the fears of everyone they come in contact with. Power and Control: the key essence of gangs.
Do you have gang problems in your neighborhood, community, or city? The answer is ‘yes’, only you may not be aware of the full extent of their presence. If you answered ‘no’ then you either live atop a mountain in a monastery or you keep your head buried in the sand to avoid accepting reality. Some towns and cities have gang presence more than other regions, but the problem is out there and it’s all too real.
There were 850 attendees at the Texas Gang Investigators Association (TGIA) conference held the week of June 23rd in San Antonio, Texas. The men and women came from local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies. Their ranks varied as much as the sizes of their departments. While some attendees were from formal, dedicated gang units, others were from patrol divisions whereby you have to be the “Jack-of-All-Trades and Master of None.”
TGIA provides them with 31 continuing education hours for their state license, up to date training, and the latest intel on the evolution of gangs and cartels. The criminal world of gangs is a constantly changing environment that requires continual modification of law enforcement tactics.
TGIA honored me for the third year in a row by inviting me back to sign and sell my books, and be with my former brotherhood. It was an honor I definitely do not take lightly.
Throughout my two days at the conference I met old friends, made new friends, and happily learned I had loyal readers of my novels anxiously awaiting more. Erik Larson, the author of Lone Star Daybreak and an attendee of the conference, was present and we had a great talk about the world in general. But with each conversation held, I casually asked a question to get a general consensus: “What do you think is the main problem coming from gangs?” The basis of every answer was always related to drugs—drug cartels, drug money, drug deals, drug transport, and drug violence.
Small gangs primarily finance their growth through drug sales and consolidating territorial controls through mutually benefitting agreements with other gangs. As they grow, their operations expand into human trafficking, prostitution, robberies, fraud, home invasions, burglary, auto theft, murder and assassination contracts, alien
smuggling, extortion, and more. They recruit teenage girls through the Internet then force them into prostitution, using them locally, or trading and selling them off to other gangs across the country. Runaways are excellent targets, grabbed off the streets of major cities and most are never seen again.
How can law enforcement compete against the high flow of drug money? Cocaine alone is a $30 billion a year business. Most agencies can barely fund their principal divisions of patrol and detectives, much less specialized units such as gangs. Citizens don’t realize that the majority of law enforcement agencies in America consist of 30-50 personnel at the most, if they are fortunate to have that many. And the temptation of making more money in a few hours than you will make in a year has been the downfall of many a man and woman.
Ever heard of “narcotecture?” Cartel drug kings have so much money that like the super rich oil Arabs who make everything from gold, including their commodes, the Cartel kings have special made mausoleums constructed with imported Italian Marble, gold fixtures, and air-conditioning. Air-conditioning! For a mausoleum! These incredibly ornate tombs started the term “narcotecture.”
America is the largest consumer of drugs. Coke (not to be mistaken with the drinking kind) is a social drug used at every level of our society – government officials, businessmen, the entertainment industry, clergy, and on down to street level punks. Gangs can easily make $30-40k per day selling coke. Profit is turned so fast that it’s ridiculous.
A kilo of coke in Columbia is $2,000. By the time it gets to users in the States, it’s been cut so many times that there is easily a $100,000 profit. Combine drug money with the cash flow from other gang operations (prostitution, fraud, drug transport, and so forth), and the average citizen cannot begin to comprehend the extent of money that gangs have at their disposal.
“Everyone has a price” is the belief of gangs and cartels. Judges have been bought. Lawyers are retained by gangs. Federal agents and law enforcement at state and local levels have been caught selling out to gangs. If people in these prominent positions can be bought, then how can we expect a jobless person with a family, struggling to support them, to turn away from a high dollar offer for only a few hours work?
Unfortunately, there are still people in denial about how serious the gang problem across America is and how relationships between gangs and cartels are so heavily intertwined. America’s war on drugs is only viewed as successful by government officials with little grasps on reality or are trying to keep their jobs. The Secretary of Homeland Security testified before Congress that our borders were completely safe. Talk to the dedicated men and women in law enforcement who daily risk their lives and you’ll learn that fighting the drug war, stemming the flow of drugs, is similar to going to the beach and trying to hold back the waves of the ocean. You hold back part of one wave while the remainder simply flows around you.
All along the US border, ranchers live in daily fear of gang organized drug caravans coming across their land. South Texas Sheriffs have testified to the overwhelming problems their departments face with the increasing violence against families living along the border.
The gang problem only continues to grow. A majority of gangs outside of prison are controlled by gangs within our prisons. Gangs such as MS-13, who pride themselves on merciless revenge and cruel retributions, send enforcers to their upstart gangs throughout the states to teach them how to properly be members. Other words, how to be more vicious.
The times have definitely changed. The codes that criminals such as the old Mafia families lived by are long gone. Now gangs are comprised of younger, more restless thugs who view violence as the ultimate action. The drug cartels murdered 35,000 people in Juarez, Mexico in the last four years. Innocent people were killed and have disappeared. Decapitation became a cartel gang trademark. Stateside gangs wanting to be like the “big-boys,” have followed suit even to the point of making ‘snuff videos’ of their murders.
Do the research yourself if you still believe there isn’t a problem. In Houston, you can go to Stop Houston Gangs.org and view some of the gangs we have. It’s nothing to be proud of, but it’s reality.
Gangs are bullies. They serve no purpose in life except to further destroy our society like a cancer spreading through one’s body. They make whole communities live in fear. They steal, rob, and murder innocent people. They cost taxpayers billions of dollars yearly. And they respect nothing but further violence.
What can be done about gangs? First, understand there is a problem. Support your local law enforcement by reporting suspicious activities in your neighborhoods. Talk to your neighbors and watch out for each other.
Keep your children away from gangs as best possible by talking to your kids, letting them know they are loved and encourage their education in schools. Go to
their schools and talk to administrators about school bullies. The school boards generally flat deny that any problem exists, but when you are persistent, they will act—even if it means you must go to the media about the school board. When your kids think being “gangsta” is cool, let them know what losers “gangstas” really are. And most of all, pay attention to what your kids do on the Internet. Be a parent before being their ‘buddy.’ Don’t let your child commit suicide before you learn a problem existed.
Like “Ringo” DeLeon, I hate bullies too.
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Before I close, I wish to express my gratitude to the men and women of the Texas Gang Investigators Association for the dangerous work they daily perform on behalf of the citizens of our great state, as well as for our magnificent country. Teachers and law enforcement related personnel do not receive adequate payment for the critically important work they do, especially when compared to the frivolous mega-salaries of sports figures today.
Organizing an educational, informative conference such as the Board of T.G.I.A. does each year, is to be commended. The overall planning involved is astounding and the Board’s efforts are displayed in the quality of their conference.
Thank you, Mr. Ringo DeLeon, President of T.G.I.A., Mr. Patrick Natividad, 2nd Vice President of T.G.I.A., and Mr. Paul Zamarripa, Director, Pos.1, South Region, of T.G.I.A., for your friendship, hospitality, and my further education into the world of gangs.
And special thanks go to Mrs. Janelle Zamarippa and Mrs. Natividad for our discussions and the work I observed you tirelessly perform each day for the benefit of T.G.I.A.