By Dr. John Warren
Its one of the best-kept secrets of the city of San Diego. Armand King and a host of young people like those involved with Paving Greater Futures believe the public should know why there has been only one gang-related homicide in 2017. According to King and his Public Records Request, from the San Diego Police Department, the numbers for what so many call the “gang” culture in San Diego has changed and is changing. Before the 182.5 gang “sweep” of the District Attorney’s Office about three years ago, King, and Jay Bowser and others were offering job training in the Culinary Arts, as well educational classes and activities. Former “gang members” themselves, they were hands-on in dispute resolutions, in a number of cases that could have had deadly results. According to King, the young people on the streets today are not the same nor as violent as their predecessors, but they are just as capable.
One documented “gang-related homicide” is important when one considers how in the past, the police have been quick to call most murders gang related even when they were domestic disputes.
When we look at cities like Chicago with more than 700 murders during the same time period; Baltimore, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C., they had significant homicide numbers in the hundreds and many were identified “gang related”. San Diego numbers provide a distinct contrast to those. Black Men United and many who work with the young people of San Diego agree that the work of King and others like him have made a difference. We still look forward to the day when there are no homicides.
Many agree that the whole process of calling activity “gang-related” has been wrong. It has been proven that police have called individuals “gang” members just because they lived in the same neighborhood or spoke to each other at the bus stop or at church or shopped at the same store at the same time. A recent look at the individuals documented as gang members found some as young as one year old.
While the Public Records Request that King made states that the number of “gang members fluctuates every day based on those newly documented and those who are purged from the system”.African Americans, according to a report to the Commission on Gang Prevention and Intervention, are stilled listed as 43 percent of all gang members in San Diego, Hispanics at 40 percent, Asians at 8 percent, Islanders at 1.6 percent and Whites at 1.4 percent. But as of October 2017, the number of African Americans cited as gang members had decreased to 17 percent.
There is a serious question by many like, Aaron Harvey and a number of others who were caught up in the 182.5 District Attorney sweep, as to how data is being manipulated just based on social media association. Many spent months in jail because they refused plea deals that some accepted admitting to crimes they did not commit just to get out of jail. Harvey and a number of others who fought the charges were finally cleared when a Judge ruled on 995 motions that the charges were illegal. Harvey and several others have become social activist helping others clear their names and fighting the system’s perceived assault on Black and other ethnic males in our communities.
We are told there are 76 gang sets in San Diego, yet we learned from the hearings on the Aaron Harvey and others 995 motions that just because people lived in the same neighborhoods that they grew up in they were documented as gang members based on social media postings. This raises a First Amendment Constitutional issue that has not been adjudicated yet.
King, BMU, and others feel its time to rethink the Gang Suppression Unit of the San Diego Police Department and put those dollars to a better use toward no “gang-related homicides this year.