Friday, March 10, 2006

Machetes And Other Matters

(All emphases by Always On Watch)

In the last ten years, problems with gang activity have become serious, particularly in Northern Virginia. A short time back, American Crusader posted a blog article about the relationship between the gang MS-13 and inadequate border control:
"...MS-13 appears to be in control of much of the Mexican border. To sustain themselves financially, they smuggle people, drugs and guns across borders. They collect money from illegals. Where MS-13 goes, violence goes. They stop at nothing.

"Recently there have been numerous news reports of connections between al-Queda and MS-13. Intelligence officials in Washington DC have warned law enforcement agencies that al-Qaeda terrorists have been spotted with members of the MS-13 gang in El Salvador.

"Adnan G. El Shukrijumah, a key al Qaeda cell leader for whom the U.S. government has offered a $5 million reward, was spotted in July in Honduras meeting with leaders of El Salvador's notorious Mara Salvatrucha gang...."
As reported in the March 2, 2006 Washington Post article "Assembly Weighing an Array of Measures on Gangs," the Virginia legislature may take some decisive action:
"RICHMOND -- The General Assembly is considering legislation that proponents say would help authorities to crack down on gang activity in Northern Virginia.

"Most of the bills making their way through the legislature would increase punishments for convicted gang members and grant police more power to manage gang activities and curb the weapons many members use.

"A bill from Del. Vivian A. Watts (D-Fairfax) would generally make brandishing a machete a misdemeanor, though in some cases the act would be a felony."
Brandishing a machete isn't already a crime? Yes, in times past, farmers here occasionally used machetes to take down overgrowth of brush although my father preferred a scythe. But brandishing a machete in a parking lot should always have been a crime, I think.

Continuing now with the aforementioned Washington Post article for the explanation as to why machetes have recently raised some concerns:
"That bill was introduced in response to several high-profile crimes. In May 2004, a member of the South Side Locos lost four fingers when he was attacked with a machete by rival gang members in Fairfax County. Eight months later, a 25-year-old man lost three fingers when he was assaulted by machete-wielding MS-13 gang members outside a Merrifield movie theater.

"'The machete is a symbol of a lot of these gangs,' Watts said. The bill 'is a way of trying to arrest [gang members] before they actually commit a crime with the machete.'...

"In the last decade, gangs such as MS-13, a Latino group also known as Mara Salvatrucha, have penetrated Northern Virginia's suburbs and rural areas and have been blamed for many homicides, rapes and beatings. Police have found a gang presence in every high school, and some members are as young as 8....

"...In 2004, the state enacted nearly a dozen laws related to gangs.

"That effort mirrors work done by the state's congressional delegation. Rep. Frank R. Wolf (R-Va.) has helped secure nearly $15 million in federal money over several years for fighting gangs in the region....

"Meanwhile, a bill sponsored by freshman Del. David W. Marsden (D-Fairfax) would require probation officers to check the immigration status of convicted gang members....

"Although many anti-gang bills have passed overwhelmingly, lawmakers and activists have raised concerns. Some researchers and observers doubt that state policies can reduce gang violence...."
In his book Leadership, Rudy Giuliani explains the broken-windows theory, which basically posits that enforcing laws to control the little crimes also leads to reducing big crime. Maybe the members of the Virginia Assembly should have a look at Mr. Giuliani's book. As long as gang activity here was limited to petty crimes, our state legislature was not too worried. That attitude has now changed. But the recognition is coming very late.

Gang activity today is no longer restricted to the inner city, nor does it resemble the gang wars of West Side Story. In fact, over ten years ago gang activity in my neighborhood made the local news when, at the local high school here, a student who tried to leave the gang he had joined was shot dead at the school's entrance. My neighbor's son, the primary witness against the murderer, had to go into hiding for his own protection, and for months our entire neighborhood was provided with round-the-clock police patrols. The police cannot be everywhere, of course, and I had to dig out a small-caliber bullet from from the body of my car; I also had to patch a bullet hole in my front window.

Many suburbanites are now adjusting to the new reality by avoiding certain convenience stores after nightfall, but these steps for personal protection do not address the problem. In the meantime, gang activity moves closer and closer to the more affluent neighborhoods. Furthermore, Fairfax County Public Schools acknowledges gang presence in every high school, and in several middle and elementary schools as well. Specific incidents are not publicized, but the neighborhood grapevine keeps parents and citizens informed.

For the most part, gangs are not constantly roaming the subdivision streets--yet. But random attacks such the aforementioned machete attack at a local movie theater do occur and probably with more frequency than many people are aware of, largely because many incidents go unreported to the general public. For example, last year, while walking home from the grocery store less than two blocks from home, an elderly couple near where we live was set upon and severely beaten by members of MS-13. The incident went unreported except by the local grapevine, in part because the couple feared reprisals. And, of course, news of gang activity in a particular neighborhood depreciates the value of the nearby McMansions. Residents in the D.C. suburbs see little depreciating effect on the soaring real-estate assessments, however:
"When Linda T. Nevitte opened her 2006 property assessment notice a few days ago, she knew enough about the Northern Virginia real estate market to expect a higher assessment on her 22-year-old colonial in Sterling.

"But nothing could have prepared her for what she saw -- that her 2,800-square-foot home, valued at $431,300 in January 2005, was worth $603,200. That's a 40 percent increase from one year to the next, and it is likely to lead to a whopping new tax bill for Nevitte this spring.

"'The whole neighborhood got a 40 percent increase," Nevitte said. 'We have a neighborhood e-mail system, and it's on fire. I'm expecting them to storm the courthouse with pitchforks and knives.'

"Thousands of property owners across the region know how Nevitte feels. It's sticker shock season -- the time of year when property assessments jolt homeowners with the good news (more equity) and bad (higher tax bills) of rising property values....

"...Laurie F. Neff, 34, owns a home in the Sumner Lake neighborhood of Manassas. Her 3,500 square-foot home's value rose from $535,500 to $749,600 -- a 40 percent increase. Neff said she believes that the assessment is wrong because her house has been on the market for two months -- for $689,000. All Neff said she could think when she read her notice was: 'Are they on crack?'

"Assessments rose briskly in the inner suburbs, too -- 20.6 percent in Fairfax County, 19.5 percent in Alexandria, to name two...."
Today's problems with gangs go far beyond territorial feuds or "kids just having fun." What was not being said when the Virginia Senate recently turned aside a bill which would have nullified businesses' ban on guns in locked cars in their parking lots: many law-abiding Virginians want to carry firearms in parking lots precisely because of gang activity, which creeps closer and closer to impacting our daily lives, no matter the economic status of the area. I predict an upsurge in Virginia's provision for "license-to-carry-concealed," relatively easy to obtain in the Old Dominion. After all, a .38 beats a machete every time.

Update from a March 11, 2006 Washington Post article, "28-Year Term for Fairfax Gang Attack: MS-13 Member Unrepentant for 2005 Ambush With Machete":
"A 19-year-old Latino gang member, convicted of chopping off another man's fingers with a machete outside a Fairfax County movie theater last year, was sentenced yesterday to 28 years in prison...."

28 Comments:

At 3/10/2006 10:02 AM, Blogger Always On Watch said...

Today and through the weekend we're having temps in the 70's. It's a Mustang-convertible weekend! Top down, of course. Yeehah!!!

 
At 3/10/2006 11:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I liked Mr. Beamish's idea of annexing Mexico. That would instantly solve the border problem.

As for value of homes soaring, we're in that range. We paid $102k for our home down in Stuarts Draft VA in 1998 and it's now worth over $240k, go figure.

As for temps, same here, AOW. If I have time, I may head on up for the Humpback Rock hike this weekend and spend the entire day out there, but I have a house to tend to (we're fixing it up).

 
At 3/10/2006 11:39 AM, Blogger Always On Watch said...

Anonymous,
The same in Stuart's Draft with assessments? It's crazy!

Where I'm living was around $15,000 in the late 1940s, but pushing half a mil now; assessed value has quadrupled since 1990. And the house is in worse shape today because we figure a developer will buy this and demolish the house. With one BR and no central AC, the family homestead is no longer marketable. A shame, really, as the structure is solidly built.

Hope you get some time to hike this weekend. We'll probably get another cold snap as Easter is late this year. So, enjoy now!

There might be some cruise-ins this weekend. Usually those cruise-ins don't resume until EDT, but this weekend might be an exception, though.

PS: Shoot me an email, if you have time. Thanks for stopping by!

 
At 3/10/2006 11:46 AM, Blogger Papa Ray said...

Every time I read an article about how dangerous a city is or a part of a city, I can't help but feel that anyone that lives there deserves it.

Why? Because as a citizen you make your city as you want it or you leave it.

If you don't want crime and gangs, get the people in office that will make it so.

If you can't (after giving it your best efforts over a reasonalbe amount of time), leave and go somewhere else, where there are people in office (or that you can vote into office) that will give you and your family a safe place to live.

You can carry a gun, grenades, flamethrower or you can "hire" someone to keep you safe.

The way you hire them is through your vote, but most of all, your continued particpation in local government.

Poor government in the United States is the fault of the people. This is a Republic, not a democracy.

Papa Ray
West Texas
USA

 
At 3/10/2006 12:51 PM, Blogger Always On Watch said...

Papa Ray,
It's been a while. Thanks for stopping by.

If you don't want crime and gangs, get the people in office that will make it so.

Our reps for too long have ignored the problem with gangs. In addition, some of the problem is tied in with enforcement of immigration laws.

If you can't (after giving it your best efforts over a reasonalbe amount of time), leave and go somewhere else, where there are people in office (or that you can vote into office) that will give you and your family a safe place to live.

My husband and I have been working on that. Problem is, I have a 90-year-old aunt here, and uprooting her might tip her over the line into cognitive disorder. Right now, she is fully functional, except for driving a car. She voluntarily surrendered her license last month.

In addition, I've lived in Fairfax County all my life, as did my father before me, so my Virginia roots go very deep. Moving will be emotionally wrenching.

The way you hire them is through your vote, but most of all, your continued particpation in local government.

Agreed. I've never missed a day at the ballot box. But the choices! County reps do not want to do what it takes for fear of losing in the next election. Cracking down on illegal immigrants is particularly problematic here. Shortly, an election in Herndon is coming up. If the Mayor there is voted out, such a disenfranchisement will be a message to control immigration. However, the recently elected governor is an open-borders type, and he won't statewide. That was a surprise to a lot of us.

This is a Republic, not a democracy.

Absolutely! But I find a real moral bankruptcy in the candidates who run for office. It is disheartening.

 
At 3/10/2006 1:21 PM, Blogger American Crusader said...

Wasn't the DC sniper (John Mohammed) picked up by the local police in the Portland area and then released before his killing spree?
Recently I've heard initiatives that would allow local police to enforce immigration laws. This sounds like a good idea except that most police departments are overworked to begin with.
It's ridiculous that the existing laws we have aren't enforced. Combine that with a porous border and who knows who is in this country illegally. Once they are in America, gang members move across state lines setting up networks for drug smuggling, prostitution and violence.
Papa Ray..although I understand what you're saying, but it isn't always the easy. Gang violence and slow police response have left many areas virtually unprotected. Reporting crime often leads to gang retaliation and the police are vastly outnumbered and often outgunned. Oftentimes older Americans are forced to stay indoors to avoid crime and yet they are often the victims of break-ins.
Sometimes it seems that the police are satisfied by containing crime inside certain areas, but for the people who live in these areas, they are out of luck.

 
At 3/10/2006 1:26 PM, Blogger American Crusader said...

Housing priced below 300K??
We just bought our first house and the prices started where we live around 500K.
It's ridiculous trying to live near New York City in Westchester County. That's why I am no longer teaching school. Best job I can no longer afford to do.

 
At 3/10/2006 2:25 PM, Blogger Always On Watch said...

Crusader,
Sometimes it seems that the police are satisfied by containing crime inside certain areas, but for the people who live in these areas, they are out of luck.

Gang activity is appearing even in the most affluent neighborhoods. After all, some of those nice neighborhoods are not very far from some of the less desirable ones. And gang members in schools can hop off the schoolbus at any stop.

Recently I've heard initiatives that would allow local police to enforce immigration laws.

But even when these illegal-immigrant criminals are picked up by the local police, ICE and INS are very slow to respond. Case after case of that in Fairfax County very recently, in the Annandale area.

Wasn't the DC sniper (John Mohammed) picked up by the local police in the Portland area and then released before his killing spree?

I think that he was an American citizen. But his cohort, Malvo, wasn't. He slipped the immigration checks, I believe. And both snipers may well have hidden out at a Muslim compound in central Virginia. The name of that particular group is Jamaat ul-Fuqra. See Gates of Vienna's left sidebar for the reports on JF.

 
At 3/10/2006 3:39 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

AC,

Check out our area in Virginia. Nice state to live in, except for the governor we have. Cheap housing, but our taxes are going to increase as well, and with Mr. Tax and spend Kaine, it'll get worse through time!

 
At 3/10/2006 3:47 PM, Blogger beakerkin said...

Farmer John if you read this drop
in and let us know how you are doing.

 
At 3/10/2006 4:21 PM, Blogger Iran Watch said...

INS lets sniper suspect John Lee Malvo, an illegal alien from Jamaica to wander free in America for 10 months.

 
At 3/10/2006 5:35 PM, Blogger American Crusader said...

Lee Malvo is an illegal alien from Jamaica who jumped ship in Miami in June 2001. He was apprehended by the Border Patrol in Bellingham, Wash., in December 2001, but was then let go by the INS district in Seattle in clear violation of federal law and contrary to what the arresting Border Patrol officers intended, according to my law enforcement sources. According to INS records I obtained, Malvo was arrested by Border Patrol agents in Bellingham, Wash., on Dec. 19, 2001. Local police called the Border Patrol during an incident involving "some sort of custody dispute" between Malvo's mother, Uma Sceon James, and stepfather, John Mohammed (the ex-Army soldier with black radical Muslim ties now at the center of the sniper investigation). James admitted that six months earlier, "she and her son were passengers on a cargo ship that was filled with 'illegal asians (sic).' They were all off loaded in the Miami, FL area where she immediately located work at the Red Lobster in Ft. Myers, FL.

Either way...if existing laws had been enforced, this would have been a non-story because it never would have happened.

 
At 3/10/2006 5:51 PM, Blogger American Crusader said...

Jamaat ul-Fuqra is active in the Catskill Mountains as well. In fact, the group was founded in New York.

"Gang activity is appearing even in the most affluent neighborhoods. After all, some of those nice neighborhoods are not very far from some of the less desirable ones. And gang members in schools can hop off the schoolbus at any stop."

I'm sorry, but if you think police use the same resources to control crime in affluent neighborhoods as they do in inner-city neighborhoods, you're wrong.

 
At 3/10/2006 7:30 PM, Blogger Always On Watch said...

Crusader,
Here's how I see the trend....As long as the gangs were limited to inner-city neighborhoods, law enforcement wasn't too worried about the activity moving into the affluent neighborhoods. Of course, such is just my perception.

Neighborhoods in certain areas of Fairfax County are in transition. What used to be quite nice apartment buildings are now low-rent areas. In those areas, we find a large population of immigrants (some legal, some not) and a good bit of gang activity. I've watched one particular area a few miles from me change rather drastically over the last five years or so, and now we have reached the point that we don't venture there after dark. Yet, within blocks are the affluent homes. A checkboard neighborhood, to say the least. It goes without saying that the police keep a closer watch on the affluent portion of that neighborhood. A few businesses have moved out of that particular shopping center because customers did not feel safe going from the businesses' doors to their cars. In fact, that shopping center lost its grocery store, which used to be "my" store.

Now we have quite mobile gang members. And even in the Fairfax County Public Schools system, counted among our nation's best school systems, members of gangs are present in substantial numbers. This past year, some gang members got off the schoolbus just outside my house, and a bit of a fracas ensued. In just a few minutes, a police cruiser came by, and they dispersed--at a run. Now, I didn't call the police, but I suspect that one of my neighbors did as the police don't often just "happen by" here. While I don't live in a McMansion, I am surrounded by such houses since the development boom of the last few years.

I also have a bit of an advantage because I own a police interceptor, which I purchased at County auction. The vehicle serves as a bit of a deterrent, I think. And during the period of the D.C. snipers, I had some interesting encounters while driving that vehicle. Long story, and quite amusing in retrospect.

Don't get me wrong. Where I live is not out of control. But as I mentioned in my commentary in this blog article, within just a few blocks, going out after dark can be risky. Such was not the case even as little as three years ago.

Of course course, a kid from an affluent family can get caught up in gang activity. Teenagers very much want to be cool and to belong to a group of peers. Being in a gang confers a certain amount of prestige. And the matter of drug use also causes some unusual kids to get involved with gangs.

You provided some interesting details about Malvo. Of course, he is now serving life in prison at taxpayers' expense.

 
At 3/10/2006 9:56 PM, Blogger American Crusader said...

AOW...first paragraph, we are in complete agreement. Pretty much business as usual for most cities and police departments.

Second Paragraph..this is where I think the neighborhood has to take responsibility. Even in neighborhoods in transition, if there is an active neighborhood involvement in the community and a relationship with the police, crime and gang activity can be held in check...but this takes constant vigilance. I also think the schools need to be involved.

I know around the country gang populations are exploding and not just in inner cities and the surrounding area but the police are outnumbered and need civilian assistance. My point earlier was that if existing immigration laws were enforced and local police were allowed to enforce these laws, gangs such as MS-13 wouldn't be able to mobilize around the country with impunity. I still think Tom Tancredo is the only one ready to tackle the border/illegal immigrant situation head on.

 
At 3/10/2006 10:39 PM, Blogger Always On Watch said...

Crusader,
Where I live, a neighborhood which dates back to the early 1900s, is a bit unique in that we are not a true subdivision. Therefore, we have no neighborhood association, though we do have a very active grapevine. And until last fall, one of our neighbors here was a retired police officer, so we stayed quite safe; he was home most of the day and "took care of things." All the rest of us work during the day--with some schedule exceptions on my part.

IMO, the parents of the minor-age gang members are part of the problem. They are either absent, at work, don't speak English, etc. Many of these parents let their kids run.

More than the minors, however, is the fact that many gang members are young adults, between the ages of 19-25.

I hate to say this....The schools here are more interested in preserving their status than in addressing the issues. In fact, we now have a shortage of schoolbus drivers, in large part because of the lack of disciplinary backup from the County.

One of the touchy spots in my neighborhood is the Latino market. The previous convenience mart moved out precisely because of what was going on in the back parking lot--and now that activity has moved to the front parking lot. I don't often see police presence there, but then again, I stay away after dark now. But my favorite video store is right next door, and I no longer park in an unlighted area at the video store after darkfall.

You mentioned "constant vigilance," and I think that my neighborhood is pretty good on that score. Nevertheless, incidents sometimes occur at the ends of the side streets (My house fronts on a busy artery, so I don't have much trouble).

the police are outnumbered and need civilian assistance. My point earlier was that if existing immigration laws were enforced and local police were allowed to enforce these laws, gangs such as MS-13 wouldn't be able to mobilize around the country with impunity. I still think Tom Tancredo is the only one ready to tackle the border/illegal immigrant situation head on.

Agreed on all those points.

The neighborhood-in-transition which I previously mentioned is in a sorry state. People "hole up" after dark. This only exacerbates the problem.

 
At 3/10/2006 10:41 PM, Blogger Always On Watch said...

Iran Watch,
INS lets sniper suspect John Lee Malvo, an illegal alien from Jamaica to wander free in America for 10 months.

Even when the local police pick up an illegal for some offense such as a traffic violation, INS and CIE don't come upon request. The illegals are then released and disappear. Happens all the time here.

And God help you if you get into an accident with one. The police won't help, and every attorney tells you "It's not worth your time to go to court. The illegal immigrant will skip town, and you'll get nothing."

 
At 3/11/2006 1:44 AM, Blogger MissingLink said...

As long as the gangs were limited to inner-city neighborhoods, law enforcement wasn't too worried about the activity moving into the affluent neighborhoods..

It always starts that way doesn't it.
In OZ cops ignored so called "ethnic crime" because it was limited to their own communities. But that was just the beginning.

 
At 3/11/2006 7:46 AM, Blogger Always On Watch said...

From "28-Year Term for Fairfax Gang Attack
MS-13 Member Unrepentant for 2005 Ambush With Machete"
on Saturday, March 11, 2006:

A 19-year-old Latino gang member, convicted of chopping off another man's fingers with a machete outside a Fairfax County movie theater last year, was sentenced yesterday to 28 years in prison....

 
At 3/11/2006 2:22 PM, Blogger MonicaR said...

One of my neighbors uses a machete to cut his grass. He's a nice guy - but no gang is going to mess with him as they will probably end up with a couple of bullets in them.

We need to remain armed. We need to get our kids out of public education.

It's war. We are at war.

 
At 3/12/2006 1:46 PM, Blogger WomanHonorThyself said...

AC says "It's ridiculous that the existing laws we have aren't enforced. Combine that with a porous border and who knows who is in this country illegally. Once they are in America, gang members move across state lines setting up networks for drug smuggling, prostitution and violence."
and he's dead right..if the miniscule laws we have arent even enforced..wheres the hope?

 
At 3/13/2006 7:31 PM, Blogger The Truth Hurts said...

You guys have it right on the money. I stopped a van full of illegals on the Interstate down here in Tennessee one night last summer. The border patrol has a local office here. They wouldn't even come out to have a look. They told me to let them go. Since no one except the driver was in violation of any laws, he's the only one I could do anything about. Our precious court let him out on $100 bond.

 
At 3/13/2006 9:54 PM, Blogger Always On Watch said...

Truth Hurts,
The border patrol has a local office here. They wouldn't even come out to have a look.

Very demoralizing for you, I'm sure.

Did the one you cited appear in court?

 
At 3/15/2006 6:28 PM, Blogger Toni said...

Unless people start to hammer on their Senators hard and soon, the bill passed by the House of Rep Immigration Reform bill will be eviscerated by the Senate. The HR bill does provide for local PD to apprehend illegals and to punish employers for hiring illegals and to significantly go after border protection with 700 miles of a double fence type design. BUT, the Senate? 75% of Senators want a Guest Worker program and then "might" look at the border issues. If you think there's a flow now with illegals coming across the border, just wait until a unmanageable Guest Worker Program is approved by President Bush. Mayhem is what comes to my mind. Gangs and drugs!

 
At 3/15/2006 7:56 PM, Blogger The Truth Hurts said...

"Did the one you cited appear in court?"


*snort* 3 guesses...

 
At 3/15/2006 8:01 PM, Blogger Always On Watch said...

Toni,
Thanks for stopping by.

Most Americans whom I know are appalled by what's happening in our nation with illegal immigration. Why aren't our elected representatives paying heed to their constituents? Of course, many of our elected representatives live in prestigious communities which are, so far, immune to the problems from which suburbia is now suffering. The problem with hordes of illegals is no longer limited to states along our southern border.

The idea of a Guest Worker Program is so filled with holes which can be exploited that the very consideration of such a program is ludicrous--and dangerous as well, both culturally and fiscally.

 
At 3/15/2006 8:02 PM, Blogger Always On Watch said...

Truth Hurts,
As I thought!

 
At 7/05/2006 9:19 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have a blog which deals specifically with MS-13, and features news and analysis. If you get a chance, check it out.
http://www.msthirteen.com

 

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