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Gangland in Garden Grove

The murder Saturday of two people--including a 4-year-old boy--and the wounding of six others in a gang-related, drive-by shooting in Garden Grove should shock the community into long-term and long-lasting action.

Gangs are not new to Orange County. What is new is their growing numbers and increasing violence and the reckless use of drive-by shootings that make innocent bystanders and entire neighborhoods vulnerable to violence.

In the weekend shooting, police said, members of one Santa Ana street gang, retaliating against a rival street gang for a shooting several weeks ago, opened fire with automatic assault weapons on a family leaving in several cars for a movie.

Miguel Lorenzo Navarro, 17, and Frank Fernandez Jr., 4, were killed. Police said Navarro was a rival gang member and the target of the attack. But young Fernandez was no gang member. Neither were his 2-year-old brother, his mother or his aunt, who were among the wounded.

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In some neighborhoods residents live in constant fear of strange autos and stray bullets and of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Bullets have been fired into homes so often that families prop mattresses against their doors and sleep on floors in back rooms away from the street as gangs slash at one another. Many residents want to leave, but few, if any, can afford to.

Police usually intensify anti-gang patrols after a deadly episode, trying to remove as many gang members from the street as possible, but that is only a stopgap measure. The shootings in Garden Grove are an urgent reminder that the community and parents must be committed to a long-range approach to divert young people away from gang life before they become hardened members. Jobs, athletic programs and community centers can help. So can police and school programs that deglamorize gang life and the County Probation Department’s pilot program that helps parents and teachers recognize early signs of gang membership and shows parents how to regain control.

But the most forceful influence can come from the gang members themselves. Navarro’s mother overheard him shortly before his death telling his 5-year-old brother to stay away from gangs. “It’s bad business. No good,” he said. That’s straight talk from someone who lost his teen years and then his life to gang warfare.


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