Off the Top of My Head

Thoughts About Stories I Hear or Read About

Gang Violence: “You Got to Keep the Respect…” August 11, 2007

Here’s another story from the August 10, 2007 edition of my local paper, The Daily Herald, a Provo, Utah-based newspaper. This story actually happened in Ogden, Utah.

Two young women were shot and killed and 2 others were injured at a post-wedding party. The suspect is a 19 year old gang member.

He says disrespectful words often trigger gang violence. “That’s how innocent people get hurt all the time,” Riqo Mariano Perea told the newspaper. “It’s a matter of respect when you’re in a gang. You got to keep the respect.” Apparently, he is justified in doing whatever it takes to keep that respect – no personal responsibility, he had to do it, that’s the way it works.

Perea said guns were fired because someone from a rival gang shouted an insulting, disrespectful expletive. The insult ended with, “Big time Norte.” “Saying ‘big time’ is like saying you’re the hardest,” Perea told the newspaper. “None of that stuff that night would have happened if [that] dude hadn’t said nothing.”

Off the top of my head, I thought, “What’s the problem, why is that an insult? Don’t these gang members want to be seen as ‘hard’, tough, or whatever?” If not, they sure are doing everything wrong!

Perea also said he was born into his gang because his mother was once a member, although his father is a member of the rival gang involved that night. Again, no responsibility for his decisions – it’s not his fault.

In November, Perea was charged with attempted homicide, when he was accused of shooting into a car with 5 people, wounding one of them.

I have always wondered why a criminal gets a lesser charge for attempted murder,  attempted rape, or attempted anything. He gets off easier because he got lucky and wasn’t able to succeed at his plan? Something sounds unjust about that to me. He attempted, and would have succeeded, except for circumstances beyond his control. The victim was able to fight back, run, duck, or whatever. Maybe the shooter isn’t a good enough marksman or someone else interrupts them in the act.

I don’t think a criminal should get credit unless they stopped themselves short of finishing their crime. The charges should be exactly the same as if they had succeeded.

This story highlights why I believe that… He got off easy before. It’s only August, November was only 9 months ago. I don’t know the details of that story – if he’s been tried, served his time, or what. But for some reason, 9 months later, he’s out again and this time he apparently succeeded in killing someone. Give him more practice and, like most people, his aim has improved.

These two women could still be alive if he had been in jail from the first attempt. But he was rewarded for his failure in that case. Is that the message society wants to send? If you’re a failure, don’t worry, you’ll get another chance, just hang in there. That’s a good message for everyday failures and shortcomings, but not in cases of violent behavior.

This guy, as in most similar cases, seems to accept no personal responsibility. If you’re in a gang and someone says the wrong thing, intentional or not, you get to start shooting.

Some facts about gangs:

  • There are more than 24,500 different youth gangs around the country, counting more than 772,500 teens and young adults as members.
  • Youth gangs are responsible for much of the serious violence in the United States and pose one of the greatest threats to the safety and security of average Americans.
  • Teen gang members are much more likely to commit serious and violent crimes than other teens.
  • A survey in Denver found that while only 14% of teens were gang members, they were responsible for committing 89% of the serious violent crimes.
  • Violence between gangs is common, and gang members are at least 60 times more likely to be killed than the rest of the population.

You can help slow the spread of gang violence by learning what a gang is, what the signs of gang involvement and gang activity are. If you are concerned that your teenager, your friend, or someone else may be involved with a gang, take this quick assessment to learn more about the warning signs and help you determine if your child may truly be getting into gang activity…


2 Responses to “Gang Violence: “You Got to Keep the Respect…””

  1. Gail Says:

    Could a formalized mentoring program in high schools, colleges and universities reduce gang violence by a quarter, a third, a half, or more? Any significant reduction would be accompanied by a corresponding reduction of costs to taxpayers. That would be a true win-win situation.

    In the two years I taught 18-25 year old high school dropouts at the Adult Education School at our local VoTech, I found a great deal of talent that has been or is about to be lost forever. I do believe that crime, gangs, and violence can be drastically reduced if kids can be reached before they make the irrevocable decision to join a gang.

    I feel so strongly about wasted youth that I have written three books, which I believe that if implemented in every school would drastically reduce the need and/or desire to join a gang. I cannot emphasize how devastating it is to see talented kids who have broken the law awaiting trial, knowing that they will be worse when they come out or kids just getting out of jail who have so much to offer the world but who will have a very difficult time getting a job because of their records.

    We have to stop the fire before it has been ignited, before innocent bystanders are hurt, before wayward kids destroy not only their own lives but the lives of others. I believe with my whole heart that it can be done. I’ve seen the “at risk” kids and young adults respond beautifully to validation, direction, and communication skills. Experiencing the changes I’ve seen in this population motivated me to put into writing what worked, why it worked, and how it works. A large percentage of these kids can be saved, but we have to begin before the gangs reach them. We have to ground them in the belief that they can be productive members of society.

    The books which are coming out this month include The Validating Mentor, which provides kids with validation and respect; Profit From Your Passion, which provides kids with direction; and You Cannot NOT Communicate, which provides kids with communication and human relations skills. Each of the last two books could be a semester course while the first one, The Validating Mentor, would be for seniors mentoring 9th, 10th, and 11th graders.

    I strongly believe in providing validation, direction, and communication skills training. We all want to be validated, and most of us are fortunate enough to get that. We also need direction according to our individual interests and talents, and to make it all happen, we need to know how to communicate effectively, know how others perceive us, and know how we can create the image we desire by mastering communication skills.

  2. Aizzi Drumms Says:

    Hi there,
    “trickertricks” on Youtube provides some answers.
    Check out Escalating Violence pt1, 2 and 3.


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