I hate bullies…

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.

Who says I need an education?

Who says I need an education?

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.

Novels by Glenn Starkey

Novels by Glenn Starkey

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.

Forced Prostitution and Human Trafficking

Forced Prostitution and Human Trafficking

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?

2014 TGIA Conference Coin

2014 TGIA Conference Coin

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.

Gang Member

Gang Member

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

Stop Gang Violence

Stop Gang Violence

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.

*   *   *   *

 

 

 

 

Texas Gang Investigators Association

Texas Gang Investigators Association

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. Patrick_Glenn_Paul

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.

Regards,

Glenn Starkey

 

 

 

 

You never know what you will see at a gang conference...

You never know what you will see at a gang conference…

“Amazon Moon” — “Notable PAGE TURNER Book!”

 AMAZON MOON is be honored as “Notable Book in the category of Page-Turners” in the Half Price Books sponsored 2013 Shelf Unbound Writing Competition for Best Independently Published Book.

The top five books and “notable books by category,” as determined by the editors of Shelf Unbound, will receive editorial coverage in the December/January 2014 issue of Shelf Unbound.

Way To Go !!! Shelf Unbound Book Review Magazine, a 2013 Maggie Award finalist for Best Digital-Only Publication is also a recipient of the Alliance of Independent Authors’ Honoring Excellence Award, and reaches more than 125,000 avid readers in the U.S. and in 59 other countries around the globe.

Amazon Moon is Starkey’s fourth published novel and generating worthy acclaim for its story!

Here’s the October/November issue but be sure to check out the December issue: http://issuu.com/shelfunbound/docs/shelf_unbound_october_november_2013

T.G.I.A. — Working the Streets….

 There are times when reality hits home, gives you a wake-up call, and leaves you with the realization the dirty side of life still exists even though you may have forgotten or chose to ignore it. Some people don’t have the luxury to forget. They work it every day, seemingly living it because they must. It’s their job. Such are the men and women of the T.G.I.A., Texas Gang Investigators Association.

After reading my novels, Mr. Paul Zamarripa, T.G.I.A. South Region Director, Position 1, contacted and invited me to attend their conference in San Antonio, Texas. That was quite an honor for me. Considering my former experience as a law enforcement officer, he believed it would be a good opportunity to present something different to the attendees; have me sign my books, talk with everyone, and allow them to see there can be life outside of their daily jobs which are mentally grueling.

Of course I accepted! What author wouldn’t? So for two full days I signed books, met old friends, people engaged in gang investigations and enforcement, and made new friends – one of which was Mr. Zamarripa.

Were the 750 conference attendees all cops? No.  They ranged from federal agencies of all levels, constables, state, county and municipal law enforcement, and parole/probation officers to school counselors and court administration. Yes, I probably missed someone in that list of attendees. But as you can see, it takes such a spectrum of people, working hand in hand, to address today’s growing problems with gangs.

There was a time long, long ago when you said the word “gangs” and only images of leather-vested motorcycle riders and teenagers in neighborhoods with aerosol paint cans came to mind.  The majority of the public never came in contact with them.  Fast forward ahead and now everyone across our nation and in foreign countries is infected with a mounting crime rate rising from street thug gangs to violent drug cartel involvement. Big cities to small country towns, the types of crimes related to them seems endless: theft, burglary, drugs, rape, prostitution, kidnapping, assault, murder, and so on. And there are no barriers when it comes to age and social economic status as well. Children to adults are recruited, and the poor from slums and barrios to the college educated crowd living in well-to-do neighborhoods are brought into the fold.

What lies at the base of the gang problem? Money, economics; the list of reasons continues but those two are the meat and potatoes of the issue. And solving gang problems that have such far reaching tentacles into the criminal underworld often feels as if you are at the beach trying to hold back the waves of the ocean. 

When drug cartels have enough money to recruit whole units of deserters from Mexican Army special forces units to do their violent bidding, they certainly have no qualms in hiring stateside ‘wannabe-gangstas’ or organized gangs to run dope and make hits on selected targets. Doing so keeps the cartel’s hands clean.

This is where the men and women of the T.G.I.A. come into play. They don’t just work ‘9 to 5’ and walk away at the end of the day. They live it ‘24-7’ and shift between the cruelties of the gang world and their home life, constantly struggling to maintain their sanity and a positive outlook on society.  Their phones ring day and night and they are often called away for investigations while enjoying a little time with family. That’s one reason divorce rates are high in police work. While I was at the conference I listened to probation officers getting calls about parole violators, and investigators talking to patrol officers about certain ‘tats’ on a suspect.

  Conferences are important for several reasons – networking, sharing intel, learning from one another – earning educational hours required by the State of Texas as part of their continuing education to retain their licenses – but to me, most of all, it gives them some down time to clear their heads, especially when you are not working undercover and feel you need to always dress the part of being a gang member. Like patrol officers and detectives working the streets, it’s easy to get wrapped up in the ‘us versus them’ syndrome whereby it’s the police against everyone outside of law enforcement because all you see is the crap side of life and wonder if anyone good is left other than another cop.

The stories these people can tell you about gang violence and activities and working the streets would make most authors’ crime novels look like kindergarten books.

Take the time to browse various websites of your local law enforcement such as Stop Houston Gangs and related associations such as the T.G.I.A. Read about the crimes gangs commit and how they operate. See for yourself how big the problems truly are. After all, the end product of their criminal acts affects your tax dollars!

What can you do to help? First, start by telling your children they are loved – and talk to them. Have conversations with them about problems they see and may be confronted with in school or in the neighborhood. Don’t wait until your children are teenagers. Start talking to them when they are much younger.

Gangs are a subject which could be studied for semesters in a classroom setting and you still wouldn’t learn all there is to know. So my hat’s off to the members of the TGIA, as well as all law enforcement related personnel, for their commitment to keeping our streets clean.

And my thanks to Mr. Paul Zamarippa for the invitation which allowed me to learn about this association.

Glenn

Memorial Day: Remembering Those Who Served

  I doubt if wars will ever end during my lifetime or even that of my grandson’s. They have existed in some form for hundreds of reasons since the first cave man led his tribe against a neighboring tribe.  I doubt too if there has ever been a single year since recorded history when a war was not being fought in some location about the world.

As a writer, I read quite a bit of history during the research periods for my novels. Often I come upon the stories of little known wars now lost to time in faraway places where the reasons for battle were ridiculous. But, there are an equal number of stories where freedom against oppression was the courageous driving force and no alternative existed except to fight. Between the ridiculous and courageous reasons for the wars lie the surviving veterans, the wounded, the dead, and those family members and loved ones left to mourn.

Active duty men and women in our armed forces fulfill the need to protect us around the clock and serve wherever the need sends them, regardless of the hardships they and their families must endure. The veteran, wounded or not, looks back upon his or her military service with mixed emotions of pride at having served, remorse at the loss of friends and comrades, and must live with the memories and harsh realities of what they participated in and witnessed. As for the dead, they now rest in silence with GOD, hoping their ultimate sacrifice was not in vain.

Memorial Day has gone through many changes since its first creation as Decorations Day. Now it encompasses all military personnel, past and present, rather than only those that died. From the simple act of placing flowers upon a grave to parades in some communities, we honor our armed forces and remember in our own ways.

Until you have lost your freedom, you will never fully understand the value of it. Until you look upon the stars and stripes furling above you in the breeze, and realize the true value of your nation, you will never fully understand the sacrifices made for it.

Admiral Chester Nimitz made two famous statements. After the fierce fighting on Iwo Jima, he said, “Among the Americans serving on Iwo island, uncommon valor was a common virtue.”

And speaking of those who died in the war in the Pacific, which may be stated for all wars, he said, “They fought together as brothers in arms; they died together and now they sleep side by side…To them, we have a solemn obligation — the obligation to ensure that their sacrifice will help make this a better and safer world in which to live.”

Wherever you are on Memorial Day or any other day, take a moment to pay tribute to all that have given of themselves from every race, creed and color, so you may now have the freedom to do as you wish.  There is no glory in war, only pain and suffering. Even its victory in the end is bittersweet.

Glenn Starkey

USMC, 1969-1974, Vietnam veteran

 

In Flanders Fields
John McCrae, 1915.

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

 

Independent Bookstores Still Exist!

 

  As you know, I didn’t have much luck with getting my three books on the shelves of my local library but I’m fortunate to have them in a bookstore! Check out the photos. Talk about a great feeling…. There they are on the top shelf for the world to see—and of course, to buy.

 

Back to the Books is located in beautiful Manitou Springs, Colorado in the shadows of Pikes Peak! It’s owned and operated by Jon Renaud, an independent author himself. Back to the Books is the only bookstore opened for the sole purpose of bringing the works of independent authors from around the world together in one place. Back to the Books has assembled an incredible collection of unique books for the residents and visitors of Manitou Springs and the surrounding communities to enjoy. He also has an online bookstore as well.

 

Thank you, Jon Renaud, for having the courage to open an independent bookstore dedicated solely to indie authors. If you are on vacation in Manitou Springs, stop by and browse through Back to the Books.  Tell Jon you heard about his store on my site! And while there, pick up a copy of Solomon’s Men, Year of the Ram, or The Cobra and Scarab. The books are signed too.

 

Reference to my blog article “Another Gut Punch to Indie Authors” about how I tried to donate books to my local library and discovered they didn’t want self-published books; I received so many good emails and comments from readers and authors that I was asked by Sandra Valente of SSBookFanatics to guest blog.

 

You may want to read “My Library Won the Battle, But Lost the War….” on Sandra’s site. It is an interesting follow-up to “Gut Punch.”   And be sure to leave a comment for Sandra. She’s every author’s best friend. She’s a beautiful person who is a reader and reviewer. From the volume of books I understand she buys, she could probably open her own bookstore.

 

So, if you are in Manitou Springs, be sure to stop in, take a break, and browse the wonderful selection of indie books at Back to the Books.  And don’t forget to read the follow up to “Gut Punch.”

 

Good luck to all in your writing projects!

 

Glenn

Another Gut-Punch to Indie Authors

But does my library love me?

   Excuse me while I stand on my soap-box for a moment. Sometimes I just need to vent…and this is one of those times.

I’ve always been a strong supporter of education and literacy. Whether you are a child or an adult, the importance of good education and the ability to read is critical. Individuals and society as a whole benefits from it, and the future course of a nation depends upon the decisions of well-informed, well-read citizens.

The drop-out rate from high schools across our country remains high. When I learned of a local program to counsel students returning to complete their educations, I volunteered to be a mentor. I also volunteer as a “Reading Buddy” at an elementary school to assist children that have home-life problems associated with their reading skills. And being a writer, literacy is one issue I rank at the top of my concerns.

I’ve always been a strong supporter of public libraries. The Internet may have decreased their usage and forced many branches to close or reduce staff, but I believe a good public library system establishes a knowledge center for communities to build upon. From youth I’ve always considered a library to be a valuable resource for everyone.  

As a writer, especially being an “Indie-Author,” I already have a sufficient number of obstacles to overcome without adding my local library system to the fray. Aside from the writing, editing, publishing, and marketing headaches of moving my novels from computer to reader, (and of course, battling the constant stigma of being unpublished by big houses), I’ve taken my share of hits. Recently, my own local library gave me a gut-punch that left me frustrated.

In December of 2011, still relishing the author’s joy that accompanies the release of a new novel, I took a copy of each of my three novels (brand new, mint condition, and autographed) to the Brazoria County Library System branch library in my small town of Alvin, Texas. The librarian was gone but the assistants accepted my donations and stated they would be processed into the system for citizens to read. I left with a great sense of having made a contribution to my community. One day, I thought, someone may come, read my books for free and enjoy themselves.

In March of 2012 I happened to be in the library for a meeting. While there I checked their computer system for my works and couldn’t locate them.  I asked the assistants where my donated books might be and they in turn passed the search information on to the head librarian. Fast forward now to today, the end of April, two full months after not receiving a word from the librarian, I received a polite “gut-punch” letter attached to an email:

(even more aggravating is receiving a letter with your name misspelled after giving them your business card)

Dear Mr. Glen Starkey;

 I apologize for not contacting you sooner concerning the three books you donated to the Alvin Library… I deeply regret to say that it looks like your donation has been misplaced.  It may be your books were mixed in with other donated items and given to the Library League for its book sale…

 …All donations are received with the understanding the items become the property of the library, and that acceptance is not a guarantee the items will be placed into the collection.  The items must follow the same evaluation criteria for library purchased items. This would include reviews from recognized review sources and the item would also need to have an acceptable binding that would take the stress of being circulated…

 …The cataloging of donated items takes time and special handling, especially if it would require what is termed “original cataloging.”   Since your books appear to be self- published, there is not an available cataloging record in the correct format from a vendor for downloading into the library’s catalog. This special handling comes at a price and that is why there is a $10 per item charge to cover the cost. Hundreds of items are ordered, received, and processed each month which takes priority over specialty cataloging…

 …want you to know how much your interest in the library is appreciated.  The library system wishes you good success in your writing career.

They lost my books or they dumped them into the pile of unwanted, discarded library books to sell. Not only that, the librarian goes on to state they were unacceptable because they are self-published, probably did not have acceptable binding, and did not have “…reviews from recognized review sources.”  THEN, she has the audacity to say the library requires a $10 per item fee to process them because they are self-published. But she ends it all with a kiss: “The library system wishes you good success in your writing career.”

   Give me a break! Barnes & Noble won’t stock their shelves with Indie-Author books—and my own local library will only stock their shelves with my books if I pay them $10 per book. How did I reply? As calmly as I could.

Thank you for the information.

I have always been an advocate for literacy, volunteering as I do with our school district as a “Reading Buddy” to assist elementary children, promoting reading and education at every turn for adults as well as children. 

It is truly disappointing to read your letter and find that because my novels are “self-published,” they are considered below your standards. Although they are distributed by Ingram and doing well internationally on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Sony, and a list of other booksellers, it is unfortunate my own local library cast them out, loses them, or sells them as books no longer needed.

Yes, it’s ridiculous I cannot donate my novels to my own community library, and my stomach is still sore from yet another “Indie” gut-punch, but it won’t slow my writings or my advocacy of education and literacy.

Maybe equality is the lesson to be learned here. While I want my Indie-published books to be reviewed and treated equal with ‘big house’ books in public libraries, and to receive equal treatment in book stores, we should work toward equal education and literacy for all, regardless of a person’s station in life. But, maybe that’s all in a perfect world scenario.

Thank you. I shall now return my soap-box home to its closet.

Glenn