In The Belly Of The Beast



Photo and Text by Chris De Los Santos

At one time in America gangs protected the neighborhood from foolish stunts that rival neighborhoods would try to pull. It slowly would wind up into fist fights as time passed. Then, weapons such as knives, bats, and broken bottles were used. But in the new gangster millennium, confrontations based on drugs, money, sex, and colors are settled with brutal acts of violence. In the end, gang life can leave an individual all alone, heading in no particular direction and even leaving one dead.

Here in New Jersey there is a major gang presence, including the top three gangs: the Latin Kings, the Nine Trey Bloods, and Mexican gangs. The division of state police released a report of a survey on street gang activity in the state. The number of gang members working in the state of New Jersey are nearly at 17,000 and the number of gangs are at 700. Out of those 700 gangs 28 have at least 100 members. Twenty-two street gangs also have reported that 25% of their members are female. There are also 2,300 gang members under the age of 15. Gangs here are responsible for 17% of the homicides in the state. The State Division of Criminal Justice Director Gregory Paw said, “Gangs in the state are much more than selling drugs in the projects. This is a real sophisticated financial machine.”
On November 15, the 2nd annual gang awareness conference was held in the Luciano Center on Cumberland County College’s Campus. Before the meeting began, a slide show was shown on big screen monitors. The screens showed graffiti of gangs in the Cumberland County area. Some of the names were, A-UNIT, D-BLOCK, AMLKQN (All Mighty Latin King Queen Nation), W.M.P.(Walnut Manor Posse in Vineland), Bloods Trey Nine (BMV), LOS PELONES, SUR-13, N.N.D.(Never Near Death), and 30 Deep.
Mr. Ronald J. Casella opened up the meeting saying, “We need to reach out to our youth and give them the right decisions. In popular culture we have movies like The Godfather, Scarface, and good New Jersey gangsters, so to speak, like the Sopranos. What is taking place in Cumberland County is a little different than all of that and yet very much the same. What I mean by that is it may not be the type of gang that you might be thinking about because of pop culture. The fact is the behavior is the same. They are involved because there is money to be made.”
He then finished by saying that, “the law enforcement here in Cumberland County is more cooperative and more responsive than anywhere else in New Jersey.”
Detective Steve O’Neil, originally from the Vineland police department, stepped up to the podium and began to speak. “Ladies and gentlemen we have 45 minutes to go over eight hours of presentation.” Then he asked the first question that seemed to be the most important: “How many teachers are present?” Only a small number of hands were raised. There were 300 seats available. He then followed the question with a fact. “There is a documented seven year old gang member in the county,” O’neil said. The name of the child and the city he resides were with held.
The meeting proceeded with details that the detectives provided about how a child is lured or born into gang activity. There were pictures on the monitors showing babies with Latin King beads, and a young child with a white bandanna wrapped around his face and a shirt that was air brushed with a green Impala and the SUR-13 on it.
The children in these environments see gang members as rock stars. The gang membership gets the attention from girls, they get money, and have street cred. This is what children witness first hand from this environment. A gang member may present the life as fun, without thinking about the consequences. The story is the same: a child joins a gang, as time goes by the family you thought you had eventually becomes the enemy from within. Some gang members do survive and take a turn for the better in life and try to give back to the community. This often happens after years spent in jail or prison, and they are still burdened with a dark past.
The problem seems to be that there isn’t enough help for the victims in the community. Most are illiterate, poor, and just trying to get by. So what is out there for the children so they don’t have to fall into the hype of being gangster and tugged out. One route being taken is a youth group meeting in churches in our county and getting the children to interact with each other. Some other places are the Police Athletic League, youth baseball, football, basketball, and pigtail leagues. If the families of these children can’t afford to get their children involved then all of these programs can’t help because of the money factor.
In July this past summer, 96 gang members from the Trey Nine Blood set were arrested around the state. Including 3 from A.C., 1 from Pleasantville, 1 from Egg Harbor and 2 from Vineland. Also four men believed to be apart of the Blood street gang were arrested in connection with the murder of Leroy Lindsey who was killed on jan.23 this past year in Vineland. Three of the men charged reside in A.C., one of the men from A.C. suspects was a Trey Nine member arrested in July. The fourth suspect is from Millville. If none of this seems to pertain to you are sadly mistaken because once a gang has a presence it spreads like cancer with no chemotherapy to cure it.
“In the past year here in Cumberland County area there have been several gang related homicides. Unfortunately a lot of people do not want to acknowledge that, but you will be seeing the stuff that’s been happening and that has happened in the past,” O’neil said.
a small number of hands were raised. There were 300 seats available. He then followed the question with a fact. “There is a documented seven-year-old gang member in the county,” O’neil said. The name of the child and the city he resides in were with-held.
The meeting proceeded with details that the detectives provided about how a child is lured or born into gang activity. There were pictures on the monitors showing babies with Latin King beads, and a young child with a white bandanna wrapped around his face and a shirt that was air brushed with a green Impala and the SUR-13 on it.
The children in these environments see gang members as rock stars. The gang membership gets the attention from girls, they get money, and have street cred. This is what children witness first hand from this environment. A gang member may present the life as fun, without thinking about the consequences. The story is the same: a child joins a gang, as time goes by the family you thought you had eventually becomes the enemy from within. Some gang members do survive and take a turn for the better in life and try to give back to the community. This often happens after years spent in jail or prison, and they are still burdened with a dark past.
The problem seems to be that there isn’t enough help for the victims in the community. Most are illiterate, poor, and just trying to get by. So what is out there for the children so they don’t have to fall into the hype of being gangsters and tugged out. One route being taken is a youth group meeting in churches in our county and getting the children to interact with each other. Some other places are the Police Athletic League, youth baseball, football, basketball, and pigtail leagues. If the families of these children can’t afford to get their children involved then all of these programs can’t help because of the money factor.
In July this past summer, 96 gang members from the Trey Nine Blood set were arrested around the state. Including 3 from A.C., 1 from Pleasantville, 1 from Egg Harbor and 2 from Vineland. Also four men believed to be apart of the Blood Street Gang were arrested in connection with the murder of Leroy Lindsey who was killed on Jan .23 this past year in Vineland. Three of the men charged reside in A.C., one of the men from A.C. suspects was a Trey Nine member arrested in July. The fourth suspect is from Millville. If none of this seems to pertain to you, you are sadly mistaken because once a gang has a presence it spreads like cancer with no chemotherapy to cure it.

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  • One Book One College

    By Jen Resnick Since 2004 there has been a One Book One College program here at CCC. The Students and staff are requested to read a book, which is chosen for that academic year. The book brings students, staff and even community members closer together by discussion. The CCC staff members are responsible for choosing the book. Professor Catherine Kewish chose this year’s one-book one-college novel. She chose Snow Falling On Cedars, by David Guterson. “The number one reason that this book was picked, [was] because it lent itself to so many different classes and different academic areas. It could easily be discussed, paper assignments, research papers and things like that and it also lent itself to multi-culturism diversity, which really are key words in the classes today,” stated professor Kewish. Snow Falling On Cedars had great reviews and is known as a “must read” novel. This gripping and impeccably written masterpiece is based on Japanese tradition. There will be a day of Japanese tradition held here at CCC in the Conference Center Banquet Room on Wednesday, March 21, 2007. Professor Kewish is very excited about this upcoming event. “This book gave us the opportunity to work with Japanese culture and we will have a whole afternoon of Japanese culture, tradition, Japanese dancers, maybe the Japanese drummers if they could get here, [and] things like Japanese calligraphy, origami, flower arranging, a Japanese tea ceremony. It’s going to be gorgeous!” said Kewish. This event is opened to the community. CCC has offered a once in a lifetime opportunity to meet the author of this riveting novel. David Guterson, will be here on campus on Wednesday, April 4, 2007. Guterson will be at The Fine and Performing Arts Center in the theatre at 7pm. In the past the other “must read” books included, The Color Of Water and My Sister’s Keeper. You can find any of these books here at CCC’s library, CCC’s bookstore, and online.

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