Memorial for a young man in the 1980sI believe Police Director Carl Riley when he says a small, isolated group of people is responsible for the rash of homicides the city has seen since May.
And there are people who know what might happen next in the pattern of killings. But most likely their code forbids talking about it with others, especially law enforcement. The concept of silence dates back many decades and has been called "omerta." Those who break it today are called snitches and are targeted for retribution. Still, a lot of street people can tell you the players, if not the next act, because they keep the same late hours when gang members may be active.
There are ways that gangs make their presence known. We have all seen the signs on walls, which the authorities try to cover as soon as possible. One such wall sign on East Front Street was painted over just before the July 4th parade took place. The Special Improvement District helps merchants by erasing or covering up graffiti that appears in the district.
Hand signs and tattoos can be indications of gang affiliation.The Office of the Attorney General has an online guide to signs of gang affiliation.
While gang members might not speak to authorities, certainly community members who become aware of gang activity can call an anonymous tip line or confide in a police officer about their concerns. Once a young person is in a gang or part of a criminal enterprise, whether by joining voluntarily or by being forced to join, they may be lost to society. Prevention and intervention can save lives. I remember one July 4th parade here that included a float with photos of more than a dozen young people killed by others of their own generation.
The larger community may never know what causes violence to flare up and take lives. It might be lack of legitimate opportunities for young people or maybe just being captured by the false glamour of criminal activity. The "live fast, die young" motto dates back to the 1949 film, "Knock on Any Door." More recently, Star Trek gave a better choice: "Live long and prosper." Let us hope all young people will believe more in the latter.