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Beware of the Phony Peace : What to make of Mexican Mafia’s message to cool street violence?

The so-called Mexican Mafia (really little more than a notorious prison gang) has reportedly ordered Latino street gangs to stop drive-by shootings or face the deadly wrath of its members--mostly older convicts. But if these criminals really want to help Latino gangbangers, and anyone who lives within shooting distance, they would be better advised to warn them about the negative consequences of a life of crime.

The Mexican Mafia’s appeal to nationalistic pride is clear. As Times staff writers Robert J. Lopez and Jesse Katz reported, one street gang member who attended a meeting at Elysian Park said: “It was, like this for la raza , the Mexican people. . . . If you have to take care of business, they were saying, at least do it with respect, do it with honor and dignity.” But there’s a pathetic fallacy here: Murder can never be committed with respect, honor or dignity.

The law enforcement specialists who keep track of street and prison gangs have good cause to question this latest highly publicized gang “truce.” What are the real motives of La EME, as it is commonly known on the streets? Are the veteranos simply trying to extend their negative influence for another generation? Are they trying to corner the market in illegal drugs, which some street gangs have delved into?

La EME has reportedly delivered its “no drive-by shootings” message to street gangs in Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino and San Diego counties. Drive-bys are down by 15% in the heavily Latino areas of L.A. County patrolled by the Sheriff’s Department, but authorities do not credit the Mexican Mafia for this. Drive-by shootings have not dropped in Orange County; figures for the other counties are not available.

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Gang members, whether Latino, black, Asian or white, typically aim at rivals when they pull the trigger. But their bullets all too often hit the innocent, including children. Sure, a truce among Latino gangs--like the peace accord signed in Watts between the predominantly black Bloods and Crips--would be welcome. But we must be careful that a phony peace isn’t pursued at the prompting of hard-core criminals who have other, illegal agendas.


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