Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Let's Talk...

Click here to visit a great gang forum. Join up. Talk. It's a new day in America, the world really.


Saturday, January 17, 2009

Former Gang Leader To Be Pardoned- Leifel Jackson Has Done Good With His Life

Ex-drug dealer among 9 up for Beebe pardon

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Gov. Mike Beebe announced Friday his intention to grant pardons to nine Arkansans, including a man who claimed to have founded Little Rock’s “Original Gangster Crips” in the early 1990s and spent nearly 10 years in prison on drug convictions.

Leifel Jackson, 47, known as “O.G.” during his criminal days, said that during his time in prison, he learned to read and began thinking about the damage his drug dealing had caused.

After his release in 2001, Jackson began working with organizations tackling youth violence, activities that authorities cite in support of his pardon.

Beebe spokesman Matt De-Cample said he knew of no law enforcement agencies that opposed the proposed pardon.

“I can tell you generally that any pardon application that we look through, what the person has done with their life since their conviction and jail time is taken into consideration,” De-Cample said.

Pulaski County Prosecuting Attorney Larry Jegley, who normally objects to pardons for convicted felons, didn’t oppose Jackson’s application.

“Given my track record of raising Cain about clemencies in the past, this is one where I think the power can be exercised properly,” Jegley said.

“I’ve been watching Leifel Jackson since he got out of prison ... and I’ve had several conversations with him.”

Jegley said Jackson has given him some insight into what is happening on the streets.

“He’s not a snitch, don’t get me wrong, but he has a perspective that is helpful,” the prosecutor said.

Jegley said any doubts about Jackson’s sincerity were overtaken by the man’s good intentions since his release.

“At first I was a little skeptical, but I’ve been convinced, not because of anything he’s told me, but because he’s shown me that he has turned his life around,” Jegley said. “I wish more of the people who go through the system could say the same thing.”

Attempts to reach Jackson on Friday were unsuccessful.

Jackson was featured in a pair of HBO documentaries on gangs in Little Rock, the second of which concentrated on his efforts to keep children out of gangs. He founded the group Reaching Our Children and Neighborhoods.

The program works with 60 children between the ages of 6 and 18, giving them a place to gather after school and during the summer to study and play.

“We give them an opportunity to just be kids,” Jackson said, in an October interview with Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Inc.’s weekly publication Sync. “To be kids and be around other kids.

“We deal with academics, but we deal with behavior as well,” he told the publication. “A lot of kids are not able to be kids today. They have to grow up so fast. ROCAN plays a part in giving them a chance to be a kid long term. It gives them a safe place to be a kid.”

Maumelle Police Chief Sam Williams, who spent more than 20 years with the Little Rock Police Department, several of them as commander of the department’s Special Investigations Division, had a different perspective on Jackson’s proposed pardon.

“If the authorities that are making those decisions feel like he’s eligible for a pardon, I can’t argue,” Williams said. “Maybe he has turned his life around, but I’m always skeptical.

“I do know this - during the course of his life he did a lot of harm, but he would probably be the first or second person to admit that,” Williams said.

“He dealt a lot of dope,” Williams said. “I can tell you that.”


Thursday, December 25, 2008

Gang Members Discuss Gang Life and Its Ramifications

This clip is from "Ain't No Deny'n" a documentary produced in 1996. The lessons in it are eternal.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

HOHO- WHOOPS- Click Click- Sound of Handcuffs-- HO

Santa photo land two in jail

Orange police say the men were in violation of an active gang injunction when they flashed gang signs in a mall photo with Santa Claus.

The Orange County Register

ORANGE – Two suspected gang members have landed on the naughty list – and in jail – after police say they posed for a picture with Santa Claus while flashing their gang signs.

Uriel Oliva, 18, of Anaheim, and an unidentified juvenile now face up to 18 months behind bars. Prosecutors have charged each of them with three counts of violating a gang injunction by associating with known gang members and giving gang hand signs.

An officer found the Santa photo in a keychain while searching Oliva during a probation check last week. Police determined that Oliva and five or six other people shown in the photo had posed with Santa at the Village Mall in Orange – a designated safety zone under the gang injunction.

Police are still searching for a juvenile shown in the photo, and are trying to identify the others who were there. Sgt. Dan Adams said police would not release the picture with Santa until they had identified everyone in it.

Oliva was being held on $15,000 bail and an immigration hold, according to the Orange County District Attorney’s Office. Adams described him and the other known suspects as documented gang members who had been served with the gang injunction when it went into force in July.

As for Santa?

“I think he was just doing his job,” Adams said. “When people come to take a picture, he takes a picture… Santas are busy guys right now.”

Sunday, December 21, 2008

A Chilling Tale From Chilly Chicago

Saturday, December 20, 2008

U.S. and Mexico Add 1.4 BILLION to Drug War

According to this CNN story Mexico and the U.S. are gearing up to spend over a billion dollars in the "War on Drugs".

I hope that a big portion of this money is used in Prevention, Intervention and Treatment rather than just the suppression and enforcement side.

Until the use problem is addressed, any money spent will be lost in the abyss of what is currently labeled "The War on Drugs".

Rehab clearly works. It might not work on the first try or even the second or third, but there are a lot of rehab programs that are quite successful, and not just the celebrity kind. Rehab, like most therapy, should be an entire family event.

Even with the slow progress of some addicts, it is much cheaper, and better for our country, than locking them up. I strongly urge everyone reading this to read the book, Gates of Injustice by Alan Elsner. It is an amazing journey into the reality of America's prison system where you will learn facts like; there are more people in prison in the U.S. than occupy the cities of Boston, San Francisco and Washington D.C. combined.

The statistics on the numbers of people in prison for drug crimes is overwhelming...and expensive. You can click here to view the "drug clock" and see how much is being spent on the war on drugs.

Here is PBS' timeline of the war on drugs.

Here are some interesting stats from the Bureau of Justice.

It's time to move on. To change the way we've been doing things. Hopefully the new federal administration will strive to make things different, and better.

What are your thoughts about all of this? Comment or email them to me.


Monday, December 15, 2008

A Football Coach, But Oh So Much More---

Take 12 minutes of your day and click here to watch a 60 Minutes piece about USC's football coach Pete Carroll.  

You might just find inspiration in it.  I did.  


Saturday, December 06, 2008

The JEHT Report and Helpful, Hopeful Weblinks

The State of Arkansas' Division of Youth Services is in the midst of a huge shift in the way they do business.

DYS Director Ron Angel is intent on the Division helping local communities try and deal with their children closer to their own homes in order to help keep families together. The goal is to provide services in several regions across the state. When children are held in facilities so far from their homes, many times families are unable to make routine visits to the child, which is critical to their recovery. DYS is moving to fix that.

A push to help communities with prevention and intervention services as well as creating a better residential environment for those who must be kept in a confined setting is underway.

Some time back, the JEHT Foundation entered a relationship with the State of Arkansas. After months of study, they released the Juvenile Justice Reform in Arkansas report written by Pat Arthur and Tim Roche. Its tenets have been embraced by Mr. Angel and Department of Human Services leaders and the paradigm shift has begun.

We all know the importance of P.I.T. (Prevention-Intervention-Treatment) in addition to strong firm and fair law enforcement in effectively dealing with juvenile issues in any community.

There are many intervention and prevention programs around the country that are doing great things. Seek out some of those in your community and offer your support and assistance.

Here are a few links you may be interested in:

Download the Current Trends and Realities of Gangs Report Written in 2006 here.

Visit the Arkansas Coalition for Juvenile Justice here.

Let Our Violence End is a local Arkansas prevention program and more.

ROCAN is a prevention program run by former gang leader Leifel Jackson.

STEP Ministries is an amazing faith based mentoring program in No. Little Rock, Ar.

New Futures for Youth has been around since 1988.

Youth Bridge is located in the Northwest part of Arkansas.

If you desire more information please feel free to email me or leave a comment on this post.

Here are some interesting news stories for you to check out today:

Police say charter school may bring gangs.

Parents told lack of love strengthens gangs.

And, from South Africa: Cops Vs. Gangs, Who's Winning?

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Monday, December 01, 2008


Former Binghamton (NY) City Council President Tony Massar points to graffiti found in his city several years ago.

If you remember, the two men who recently were arrested for allegedly making threats on Barack Obama were also going to kill 88 Black Americans and "behead" 14 others in observance of their skinhead belief system. The 88  stands for  either Heil Hitler since H is the 8th letter of the alphabet; or the 88 "precepts" of the neo-nazis. The 14 refers to the 14 words supposedly written by David Lane which is a mantra of sorts for hate groups.

Of course, AB stands for Aryan Brotherhood, a hate group mostly found in prisons. For more information, visit or

The bottom photo is a picture of suspect Daniel Cowart's car taken when he was arrested by authorities after the Obama plot came to light.

Gangs In the Military

Saturday, November 29, 2008

From My YouTube Page

The below comment came from my YouTube site
You can click on the title of this blog or on the link in the blogroll to get to a group of videos I've posted. The commenter refers to Silver City which is a housing development off of Pike Avenue in North Little Rock.

They frequently use the number 701 and SCC in their graffiti since that is the street address of Silver City.

The top photo was taken at Eastgate which is another housing development several blocks to the east of Silver City and it clearly shows an alliance between the SCC and Eastgate areas since there is no disrespect or "x"ng out occurring.  Graffiti still must be removed in a timely fashion after it is recorded and read. 
The bottom photo was taken in Silver City a few years ago when the "701" first started appearing in local tags and on school work of students in the school district.  It was several months before there was graffiti showing an affiliation with the Folk Nation.

"i remember riding back to lr on a greyhound and some guy started commentin on the bangin on little rock shit like it was a joke, it was way more gritty in the 90s than now and you cant even tell by that hbo shit, most of it wasnt even shot near little rock, rose city maybe, but i dare that motherfucker to walk through silver city courts on a sunday and show some disrepect, same shit that happened then would happen today, alot of motherfuckers in big cities never ever seen a swarm like silver city"


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Washington DC to Fight Gangs in a Novel Way

The nation's capital has long been plagued with crime and some of that crime is caused by gangs. Of course this is happening all across the U.S. and even beyond our borders. The Washington Post has a story on what the proposal to deal with gangs consists of. Click on the excerpt below to read the full article.

"With a judge's approval, the government would be allowed to set up neighborhood "safety zones" deemed off-limits as meeting places for those identified as members of the designated gangs. Other restrictions could include a curfew, a prohibition on defacing property with graffiti and a ban on using private property without the written consent of the owner. Gang members who violate the court-imposed prohibitions could be fined up to $1,000 or be jailed for 30 days to one year. People not originally identified as gang members could later be added to the injunction; the boundaries of the safety zone may also be altered with court approval to adjust for gang movement."

Please let me know what you think about this approach by leaving comments. If you know of any good intervention or prevention programs and reentry initiatives for youth from around the country, please leave me a comment about those too. Or you can email me at Steve


Thursday, November 27, 2008

Student in Georgia Suspended for alleged Gang Drawing--

Click here to read the story from Georgia.

What are your thoughts? Leave them in the comments section. Do you think the school and police handled it properly?

Do you think schools in your community deal honestly with gang issues?

(Note:  the photo was taken in a small public park in North Little Rock but is representative of the same type of drawing referred to in this story.)

Thursday, November 20, 2008

More Shots Fired on a College Campus in Arkansas

Only a few weeks after a drive-by killing on an Arkansas college campus, there has been another shooting.

This one occurred in Arkadelphia some 70 minutes from Little Rock. Click here to read the local ABC affiliate's report.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

A Sad Day In My Life

If you are a pet lover, I just lost a most wonderful friend in my life.  You can click here to visit my personal blog to read more about Candy.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Study Links Violence and Gangs

Crime study finds link between violence and gangs


6:06 a.m. November 10, 2008

SAN FRANCISCO – A study on crime in San Francisco says a high percentage of the city's homicides can be blamed on gangs and career criminals.

In evaluating the 98 homicides in San Francisco in 2007, researchers with the Berkeley Center for Criminal Justice determined that nearly half the killings can be linked to gangs.

According to the study, 46 of those homicides last year were gang-related.

Researchers also found that nearly three-fourths of the 38 suspects arrested in the killings had criminal records, with the average suspect having 12 previous arrests.

Last year's 98 homicides were the most in San Francisco in 12 years.

Police officials say they've been cracking down on drugs and gangs in five neighborhoods where the violence has been concentrated.


Information from: San Francisco Chronicle,

Find this article at:

Pennsylvania Kids Prefer GANGS to Drugs

Survey: Less substance abuse, more gangs

HARRISBURG, Pa., Nov. 7 (UPI) --

Fewer Pennsylvania students in grades six to 12 admit abusing drugs and alcohol but more are involved in gangs, a U.S. survey indicates.

The 2007 Pennsylvania Youth Survey by the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency is voluntary and anonymous, and asks students questions about their behaviors and attitudes on drug, alcohol and tobacco use, gang involvement and related issues. More than 16,000 students from schools across Pennsylvania were randomly selected to participate.

The survey finds youth binge drinking is down. In 2001, 20.9 percent of 10th graders surveyed admitted binge drinking, compared to 16.8 percent of students in 2007, while 28.6 percent of 12th graders admit using marijuana, down from 40.5 percent in 2001.

However, in 2007, 7.1 percent of 10th graders said they belonged to a gang, compared to 4.6 percent in 2001.

Fewer youth said they are threatened or attacked on school property. In 2007, 20.7 percent of students said they had been threatened with physical harm at school, compared to 24.7 percent in 2003.

The report is at

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Imagine the Numbers

In the previous blog, you learned of the drive-by shooting at an Arkansas college that killed 2, injured 1 and has now put 4 young African-American men behind bars.  

What horrible decisions some of these young men made.  What sort of hatred drove them to this?

The true facts of the case will come out sooner than later as will justice eventually prevail. But shooting into a group of people on a very busy college campus can not be excused regardless of the motives.   

It's hard to imagine the number of people whose lives changed in the short time it took the shooter (s) to shower at least eight shots of flesh cutting mini-missiles into the air,  targeting who knows what.  

But I know this, bullets have no names on them and it is lucky more people weren't killed or injured.   When you pick up a gun in anger you have no idea where the bullet may end up.  Watch the attached PSA and think about the young people in your lives the next time you pick up or are around someone who is playing with a gun.

A quick horrible decision to pull a trigger causes us to think of the mothers who will no longer be able to hug their children.  Think of the fathers who will never be able to toss a ball around with their son.  Think of the brothers and sisters who will never be the same.  And also remember each young man's extended family and how an entire community will be changed.

What is happening to us?  If you are the praying sort, send a few extra up for all of those who have been touched by these tragedies.  Our part of the world is not feeling well now.  We will get better.  The road is long...

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Two Killed in Drive-By Shooting at U.C.A. in Conway

Ryan Henderson, 18, and Chavares Block, 19, were both shot and killed in a drive-by shooting at the University of Central Arkansas in Conway, Arkansas.  You can click here for a short update or go to for all the news about this horrible event.

While no official word has come from authorities linking it to gangs, the rumor has circulated among many UCA students that it is.  Time will tell.  It is certainly a "gang" like incident.


This is from the UCA's website:

In an effort to provide the most comprehensive, reliable and up-to-date information about the shooting incident that occurred during the evening of Sunday, Oct. 26, 2008, on the campus of the University of Central Arkansas, UCA will release as much information as possible on its homepage at

UPDATE (Oct. 27, 10:30 p.m.): The UCA Police Department this evening is transferring the four suspects in Sunday's shooting incident to the Faulkner County Detention Center, where they will be detained pending charges.

The Faulkner County Prosecutor is expected to file charges against the suspects by 1 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 28.

The suspects are:

Kawin Brockton of Conway, Black male, DOB 9-20-89
Kelsey Perry of Morrilton, Black male, DOB 4-14-89
Mario Toney of Little Rock, Black male, DOB 3-24-88
Brandon Wade of Lake Village, Black male, DOB 8-19-88

Perry is the fourth and final suspect to turn himself in to the UCA Police Department.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

I tell people all the time that to beat gangs we have to compete with gangs for our children. Here's an article from Brownsville, Texas.   

What are your thoughts about this?  Do you have any ideas or suggestions about dealing with the prevention and intervention of youth violence and gangs?  Do you work in a program practicing intervention or prevention?  I'd like to hear from you.  

Leave a comment in the comments section or send me an e-mail to  

Regards,  Steve

Family key to deter gangs

October 25, 2008 - 8:53PM

Thoughts of loud music, flashy cars, baggy clothes and gang violence bring shivers of fear into the heart of Petra Martinez.

The 46 -year-old woman, who lives near Military Highway on the west side of Brownsville, is nervous that her young boys will grow into that lifestyle.

"When I was young I used to live in Houston," Martinez said. "And there it was very ugly, you would see them with their gang signs (graffiti and colors) and their cars. It was scary because they always had guns and would give drugs to the kids in the street."

Martinez now and has two teenage sons whom she meticulously watches over to keep away from bad company. That is why rough-looking men and flashy cars put her on the defensive.

According to Police Sergeant Jimmy Manrrique, Brownsville is not like other cities across the United States that have major gang problems and are forced to devote resources into gang units and task forces.

Therefore, Brownsville's primary prevention comes from good parenting. According to Jim Wright, managing director of Programs for the National Crime Prevention Council, parents are the first line of defense in the fight against gangs. A close relationship with children from a young age can prevent a life of crime.

"We encourage parents to talk as much as possible with their adolescent," Wright said. "To know who their friends are, what they like to do, and where they go."

When there are changes in these factors, there are usually causes for concern, he said.

"We encourage parents to teach their children positive ways of dealing with conflict rather than fighting it out or screaming," Wright said. "We also encourage them to talk to their kids about what friendship is all about, that friends don't endanger other friends, they help each other."


Although Brownsville does not have criminal activity that can be attributed to street gangs, police know of several members of prison gangs in the area, according to Brownsville police.

By definition, street gangs are groups of typically young individuals who gather for a purpose, much like any other club, Wright said. What makes them different is that they engage in criminal behavior.

"Many of the gangs are involved in drugs," Wright said. "So the violence revolves around that, they commit turf wars, retaliate a bad deal and there's always a sense of bravado that goes in with being in gangs that makes them more prone to violence."

There is a clear distinction between street gangs and prison gangs, Manrrique said.

"These people are involved in drug trafficking so they try to keep low, (and) we do see them pop out when they have conflicts amongst themselves," Manrrique said

Cameron County Sheriff Omar Lucio said that prison gangs are criminal enterprises that recruit and train inside jail facilities.

"These individuals are involved with the Mexican drug cartels in the transportation and distribution of drugs," Lucio said. "They are very dangerous because they make a pact in order to join the gang. That pact is for life, inside and outside. When and individual tries to leave the gang, they are likely to get hurt."

Cameron County and the nearby area have members of various prison gangs, mainly the Vallucos, the Tri City Bombers, Mexican Mafia and the Texas Syndicate, said Lucio, who also provided a description of each gang:

-Vallucos operate in both Cameron and Hidalgo Counties. They are identifiable by their tattoos which feature the letter V, palm trees or the number 22 since V is the 22nd letter of the alphabet.

-Tri-City Bombers are predominantly active in the Pharr-San Juan-Alamo area. They derive their name from the three cities in Hidalgo County. Their tattoos usually have a round bomb with a fuse.

-The Mexican Mafia began in California in the 1950's by Mexican immigrants and has slowly moved into the area. They congregate near the Santa Maria area by F.M. 281. They have tattoos with the letter M.

-The Texas Syndicate, which also began in California features tattoos with the letter S and T. They also feature longhorns and other Texas symbols.

According to the sheriff, close to 40 percent of the inmates with gang affiliations that are being housed in the Cameron County jail system are members of the Vallucos. The jail also held 30 members of the Texas Syndicate and 9 members of the Mexican Mafia, he said.

When gangs clash in Brownsville, there is violence but the gangs don't cause a significant increase in the city's overall crime, Manrrique said.

"Three of the murders that we've had in recent years have been associated to prison gangs," he said. "On average, we've had about five murders a year for the past five years, so they are not a big factor here."

On Sept. 29, Daniel Alonso Garza 34, an inmate and believed by police to have been a member of the Texas Syndicate, was stabbed at least 12 times by three other inmates also presumed members of the same gang at the old Cameron County Jail, police said. This incident did not result in a fatality.

On Jan. 14, 2007, Steven Rodriguez, 29, was repeatedly stabbed and the back area and killed. His body was later found in a canal ditch on the 1200 block of Milpa Verde Street in the Southmost Area. Javier Chavez, 28 years old at the time, was charged with the murder. According to Sgt. Manrrique, Chavez had ties with the Mexican Mafia.

On Nov. 23, 2006, then 45-year-old Jose Torrez was gunned down in a drive-by shooting outside an abandoned home on the 3400 block of Gardenia Street. Torrez was hit 11 times. Jerry Perez, Enrique Bazaldu, Juan Carlos Aguilar and Victor Barrera - all known members of the Texas Syndicate - were charged with the crime.

On May 16, 2006, Jose Miguel Vasquez stabbed Port Isabel fisherman George Garza 33 times at Oliveira Park on El Paso Road. Vasquez was convicted in September and sentenced to life in prison. According to police, the murder was part of an initiation into the Texas Syndicate.

Lucio and Wright agree that individuals who are involved in school activities and sports are less likely to be influenced by gang members

"They (teenagers) are usually looking for a sense of belonging," Lucio said. "They may come from broken homes or may not have a positive role model, so they join these gangs to be part of something."

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Shattered Lives in Colorado- From the CS Gazette

Gangster gets 70-year term in athlete’s death

October 24, 2008 - 3:02PM

"This is a story of two people. One was headed for fame, and you were clearly headed for infamy. Unfortunately, your two paths crossed."

Fourth Judicial District Judge David Prince said these words to teenager Tyrief Reynolds as he sentenced him to 70 years in prison Friday for gunning down former Wasson High School star running back Diontea Jackson-Forrest, 19, last year.

The 18-year-old gang member and murderer apologized to Jackson-Forrest's family, which packed Prince's courtroom.

Reynolds previously pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and attempted murder in the July 9, 2007, drive-by shooting near Printers Parkway and Airport Road.

Reynolds drove by in a car and fired repeatedly into the car Jackson-Forrest was riding in with his girlfriend Eileen Yakish. Shot in the neck, Jackson-Forrest died in Yakish's arms.

Both men were raised by their grandmothers.

Reynolds, whose parents died when he was a child, joined the Crips street gang and built a criminal record from his days as a youth, including almost killing a man in a mall parking lot, court records show.

Jackson-Forrest, who wore jersey number 22 for the Thunderbirds' football team, helped them get to the playoffs in his senior year and was going to college at Western State in Gunnison. He wanted to be as famous as Emmitt Smith, former Dallas Cowboys running back who wore the same number and has been described as humble and caring to all.

"He took his life," said Jackson-Forrest's grandmother, Mary Forrest. "I want to know why he wanted him dead. Kids don't do that. Why did his grandmother let him do the things he did. ... At 16 and 17 (years old) these kids know right from wrong."

Reynolds, who tried to kill himself in the El Paso County jail, said Jackson-Forrest was just in the wrong place at the wrong time.

"I wish I could start over," Reynolds said. "Sometimes I wish I was in Diontea's place. ... I will do all I can while in (prison) to make amends for what I've done and try to make it better. I don't know what was going through my head at the time."

Many of Jackson-Forrest's family members and friends talked about what an inspiration he was to them and the pain they feel daily over his murder.

His uncle, James Jackson, said his nephew and Jackson-Forrest's twin younger sisters were taking the family higher because they were going to college.

"We were dancing and laughing and joyous," Jackson said. "We were moving to a different level. Then Tyrief showed up with his marauding crew and all the struggles and sacrifices we made to put that plan in place was dashed away."

The victim's father said he gave his son to his mother to raise because he didn't want him leading the gang life in California.

"I made the right decision to send him to my mother," said Jamison Jackson. "I didn't want him to be like me. I wanted him to be someone better than me."

Reynolds' grandmother chose not to speak. But Reynolds' attorney, Allen Gasper, spoke on her behalf.

"She expresses a deep sorrow to the victim's family. Her heart is broken - broken for their family and broken for hers," Gasper said.

Prince said he thought Reynolds' apology was sincere.

"An old philosophy goes the beating wings of a butterfly can cause a hurricane on the other side of the world," Prince said. "The way Diontea led his life proves that old saying. We're here because Diontea is no longer on this earth. While he's not, the promise of his life is unfulfilled. The promise of the lives he would have touched in the future is extinguished."

Monday, October 20, 2008

A Story About Leifel Jackson

Remember Leifel Jackson?  He was a CRIP gang leader who was featured in both of the HBO America Undercover Gang Wars documentaries.  (There is a link in the blog roll to a location you can purchase the DVD.)

Leifel has been featured in SYNC Weekly  here in Central Arkansas.

Photo from SYNC Weekly.

Taggers Turn Violent. From the Bakersfield CA daily

Taggers turning violent and becoming more like gangs, police say

 | Saturday, Oct 4 2008 12:00 PM

Last Updated: Monday, Oct 6 2008 7:31 AM

They scribble on street signs, walls and mailboxes in an attempt to gain neighborhood fame. But some taggers, who are usually considered nothing more than a nuisance, are now turning into gangsters.


The city gets about 20 to 30 calls a day to cleanup graffiti. Last year it was at about 65 calls a day, said Sean Cacal, city supervisor for the anti-graffiti program. The county graffiti program has also seen a drop in graffiti, said Rick Ward, who oversees the graffiti program in the county.

The drop, they say, is credit to the collaboration among law enforcement, probation department, the district attorney's office, schools and community's focus on stopping graffiti. 

The city allocated about $1.7 million this year to fight graffiti. The county spends about $100,000 annually on paint and material alone. 

Ten years ago, Bakersfield Police Department had no officers dedicated specifically to graffiti. There's been as many as four at one point, in 2006, but now there are two in place. 

The Kern County Sheriff's Department has one deputy who investigates graffiti cases, but he does that part time. 

When graffiti cleanup crews go out, they take digital photos of the tags and submit them to the officers. Officers then catalog them in a computer database categorizing them by nicknames and crew names. The departments are awaiting new surveillance equipment and a better database and mapping systems. 

In the meantime, officials say, it’s important for residents to report graffiti to the graffiti hotline, 32-ERASE. 

“If you don't buy a lottery ticket, you'll never win,” said graffiti police officer Mitch Galland said. “If you don't call us, we'll never catch them. That kid you see tagging could open up a whole crew for us.”


When Moses Ramiro Villegas, 18, was found shot to death Wednesday morning at the base of a Highway 178 pedestrian crossing, the Bakersfield Police graffiti unit, called GHOST, was called out.

Villegas was laying dead on top of graffiti. A partial footprint of blue paint could be seen next to his body.

Officials feared the escalating violence among taggers peaked, and the homicide was tagging related. It would have been the first of its kind in the city, officials said.

Fortunately, officials said, graffiti didn't appear to play a role.

Instead occurring more often these days are assaults among rival taggers. Using bats and chains, they are sometimes almost paralyzing each other, said graffiti police officer Jose Galvan.

“It's gotten serious,” he said.

Officials estimate there are about 30 or more multiple-member tagging crews in Bakersfield. Of those, about half a dozen are considered violent.

Law enforcement refused to identify any of the tagging crews for fear they would gain recognition. 


The type of tagging has changed in the last few years, said graffiti police officer Mitch Galland. About 10 years ago, a majority of graffiti came from the “piecers.” They painted murals as a form of expression, and were seen as nonviolent.

A smaller percentage were taggers with no gang affiliation.

Only a few were “tag-bangers,” gang members marking gang territory with tags, or taggers affiliating themselves with gangs.

They all do what they do for the same reason — recognition.

“Most of the guys are driven by that,” Galland said. “They need to be famous.”

Now, the “piecer” population is dwindling. More prevalent now are tagging crews, but they are turning to violence.

Earlier this year, two rival tagging crews began fist fighting at South High School when one grabbed a bat and hit a rival in the head. The victim was sent to the hospital and was nearly paralyzed, officers said. The victim refused to give police information, however.

The full scope of the violence is difficult to measure because tag-bangers prefer to keep it “in house” and don’t go to police, Galvan said. 


The tag-bangers are not considered traditional gang members. They have no territory, and they don't kill each other, at least not yet,” said police Sgt. Steve London.

One tagging-related incident almost turned deadly in July 2003. John Gardenshire, a Bakersfield resident, tried to stop Hector Melgoza from tagging on a sign. Melgoza shot Gardenshire, nearly killing him. He was later sentenced to 28 years in prison.

For now, assaults on rival crews are helping the district attorney's office add a gang enhancement, something new as of this year.

Craig Smith, a prosecutor in the juvenile department within the district attorney's office, said the gang enhancement in addition to vandalism could mean the difference between community service with probation compared to serving time in juvenile hall or jail.

Between July 2006 and 2007, the district attorney's office prosecuted 119 juvenile gang members. From July 2007 to 2008, that number more than doubled to 278. One reason for the increase is because of the attention brought against graffiti.

“Juveniles recognize they are being targeted,” Smith said. “This may not stop all of them, but it may stop some of them.”

Police arrested 19-year-old Noel Reyes Alegria, who goes by Trill, on Thursday. Police identified him as being a part of MOB tagging crew. He is set to be arraigned for two felonies Oct. 17 — vandalism and participating in a street gang. Vandalism, which is attached with graffiti crimes, above $400 is considered a felony.

Jorge Morales, 19, was also caught tagging when he was 17. He served some time in Lerdo Jail for it.

He said he thinks it's unfair that taggers could go to jail because officers consider them as gang members, he said.

“I don't really like it,” Morales said. “Going to jail for writing on the wall?”

Morales said he no longer tags because “it's not worth it.”

That's what officers are hoping other taggers say, London said.

“We won't give up, and eventually they will.”

Sunday, September 14, 2008

A Terrible Homicide in Little Rock and Trial Set for Suspects

Update:  Kevin Banks of Little Rock was convicted for murder in this case.  Two other defendants await trial...more developing.

Brothers set for trial in 6-year-old’s death

Prosecutors expected to cite role of drugs

Sunday, September 14, 2008

 — Nine months after 6-year-old Kamya Weathersby died in her bed in a hail of gunfire, prosecutors are expected to reveal why she was killed.

The three Little Rock brothers accused of killing her are scheduled to stand trial on capital-murder charges this week.

The defendants are Kevin Lawrence Banks, 18; Ricky Dale Smith, 20; and Marqus Tyrell Smith, 21.

Police and prosecutors, spooked by the slaying of a witness, have played their cards close to the vest, revealing only as much evidence in court as the preliminary hearings require.

But what authorities have revealed signals they believe that disputes and feuds in Little Rock’s illegal drug trade played a role.

The trial, which is scheduled to open Wednesday, goes back to the night of Dec. 29, 2007, when Kamya was watching TV in bed with her 3-year-old sister, Jasirae Vick. Gunmen, wielding a rifle and a pistol, opened fire on their home.

The girls’ mother, Lashandria Washington, her boyfriend, 29-year-old Antoine Demetrius “Turtle” Jones, and their 2-month-old daughter, Aria, were asleep in a back bedroom.

When the gunfire broke out, police say, the adults heard the girls scream for help. The gunmen shot Kamya, barely two weeks past her sixth birthday, seven times, once in the head. One bullet grazed Jasirae’s leg.

Investigators collected 132 spent rounds from inside the home and 41 shell casings outside, court filings show. The gunfire almost destroyed the Martin Luther King Boulevard home, a detective has testified, describing the scene as a “war zone.”

Only last week, however, did prosecutors offer a motive for the gunfire. Even then, they qualified it as a partial motive.

In a hearing Thursday, Chief Deputy Prosecuting Attorney John Johnson told Pulaski County Circuit Judge Chris Piazza that the assault on Kamya’s homewas provoked after Antoine Jones accused Banks of killing Jones’ friend, 25-year-old Brent Pettus. Pettus had been killed nine days earlier.

Jones was the target of the assault on the house, Johnson said.

Piazza will preside over the brothers’ trial.

Johnson also told the judge that the three brothers and Jones shared “business” interests but didn’t elaborate. Jones has told reporters that he and Banks were friends.

Washington, Kamya’s mother, has said the shootings stemmed from a “misunderstanding.”

On Dec. 20, Pettus was found shot to death inside a still-running 1976 Oldsmobile Cutlass in the 3200 block of Center Street, a couple of blocks from Jones’ mother’s home, court records show. Pettus lived about three blocks from Banks and his co-defendant brothers, Ricky Dale Smith, and Marqus Tyrell Smith.

Arrested on suspicion of Pettus’ slaying three days after Kamya was killed, Banks alone is charged with first-degree murder in Pettus’ death, with his trial scheduled for November. According to an arrest affidavit, Banks told a witness he killed Pettus when Pettus tried to “short” him of marijuana in a drug deal.

Three weeks after his arrest, Banks was charged with capital murder in Kamya’s killing. But a month later, after someone killed a witness in the Pettus case, authorities started sealing arrest warrants to protect the identity of other witnesses in both slayings.

Thomas Steven Okafur, 21, was a witness in Pettus’ case. Okafur was found shot to death Feb. 29 in a city park near Arch Street and Interstate 30. Police believe someone killed Okafur elsewhere then dumped him in the park as a warning to other witnesses. Police haven’t arrested anyone in his death, and prosecutors haven’t revealed what Okafur knew.

In May, police arrested the Smith brothers, half-brothers to Banks, and charged them with capital murder in Kamya’s death. Authorities haven’t disclosed what evidence led them to the pair. The brothers also face four counts of committing a terroristic act, which represents the shots fired at the rest of the family.

Prosecutors are seeking a life sentence for the brothers, whose trial may not start on Wednesday. Their attorney, Lea Ellen Fowler, may seek a separate trial for Ricky Smith, a move prosecutors said they will oppose. A hearing Monday will determine whether the defense is ready for trial.

The two key players in the case, prosecutors say, are Kevin Banks, one of the defendants, and Antoine Jones, who was asleep in the house when Kamya died and who is expected to testify against Banks.

Both defendant and witness have a history of run-ins with the law.


Court files show Banks was arrested in August 2006, about six weeks before his 17th birthday, after he and an accomplice tried to break into a home on South Center Street, about four blocks north of the place where Pettus later was killed.

According to an arrest report, a neighbor confronted Banks and Wayne Earl Jones Jr., then 18, during the burglary attempt at 2823 S. Center St. Banks and Wayne Jones, both carrying pistols, threatened the neighbor and another person at a home across the street, according to court files.

Police charged Banks with attempted residential burglary, aggravated assault and a misdemeanor gun charge.

Court files show Banks was placed into the custody of the Department of Youth Services in October 2006 and subsequently was incarcerated in the state’s Southeast Arkansas Regional Juvenile Program in Dermott in January 2007.

A February 2007 report from a caseworker shows that Banks “decided to display physical violence on his peers for no reason at all,” and a juvenile pressed charges against Banks, saying he caused bodily harm.

The worker also noted that Banks was “displaying a lot of negative behavior on his own.” A report later that month described Banks as a “very playful” youth who “takes things for a joke.” Banks told the worker that his most important goal was to earn his high school diploma, and he promised practice self-control and thinking before he acted, according to the report.

In March 2007, Banks was transferred to the Dermott juvenile correctional facility after being charged with inciting a riot and first-degree assault. An April 2007 report shows he waived his right to a trial and pleaded guilty to a charge that is not described.

About two weeks after his transfer, according to a June 2007 report, Banks was placed in administrative segregation for putting a broom in another resident’s face, which Banks blamed on boredom and described as “horseplay.” The report indicated this was hislast disciplinary problem while in custody.

The report said Banks would remain in custody until October 2007 but noted the discharge date could change depending on his behavior. The report shows Banks earned his high school diploma and raised his test scores by two grades.

It’s not clear when Banks was released from juvenile custody. Initially charged as an adult, his case was transferred to juvenile court in June 2007 by Circuit Court Judge Willard Proctor Jr.

In March 2007, Wayne Jones, a neighbor of Banks’ on Arch Street, pleaded guilty to all charges - first-degree criminal mischief, attempted residential burglary, two counts of aggravated assault and a misdemeanor weapons count - and was sentenced to five years probation with a $1,000 fine.


Antoine Jones, not related to Wayne Jones, drew a 10-year federal prison sentence when he was 18 for his role in the robbery of a Hope pharmacy in March 1996 with three other men: Charles Matthew Newsome, Willie Stephens III and Antoine L. Perkins. Jones was released in May 2005 to serve three years on supervised release and had to obtain court permission to move to Little Rock.

Barely a year out of prison, police arrested Jones in June 2006 on a first-degree murder warrant in the Halloween 2005 slaying of Earl “Lil Earl” Williams Jr. of Little Rock.

The 30-year-old Williams was found dead in the 200 block of East 27th Street in the Little Rock housing projects. Someone had shot him five times, including once in the face. He had a fully loaded revolver tucked in his coveralls. According to an arrest affidavit, detectives heard that someone named “Turtle” had killed. A man named Cornelius Chambers had been with him, documents show. Investigators determined Antoine Jones was the man known as Turtle. Both Chambers and Jones said they saw Williams the night he was killed but denied any role in his death.

Detectives moved to arrest Jones eight months later after 26-year-old Christopher Lashawn “Lil Chris” Perkins of Little Rock told them he witnessed the slaying.

Perkins claimed he was in a car with the men when Jones pulled a pistol and shot Williams during an argument about the April 2005 murder of Julian Christopher “Piru” Branch, according to the affidavit.

Perkins knew details about Williams’ slaying that only someone present during the killing wouldknow, according to the affidavit. But prosecutors declined to formally charge Jones in the slaying. They were concerned about building a murder case almost solely on the testimony of Perkins, who has a 12-year criminal history of violence and theft.

Jones’ next scrape with the law was on March 1, 2007, when he was arrested during a raid by Little Rock police and agents of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

The raid took place just a couple of houses down from the Martin Luther King Drive home he would later share with Kamya and her mother. The target of the raid was 26-year-old Randall Devone Armstrong, court records show, suspected of drug-dealing after confidential informants reported twice purchasing crack cocaine from Armstrong at the home.

The raid netted three grams of cocaine, a 9mm pistol and a .45-caliber handgun. Armstrong is scheduled to stand trial on charges resulting from the raid Monday.

Jones wasn’t formally charged, but federal prosecutors tried to send him back to prison, arguing that the arrest violated the terms of his supervised release, which was set to expire May 1, 2007. At a hearing, Jones denied criminalwrongdoing in the arrest but acknowledged failing a drug test. The federal judge, James Moody, declined to send him to prison but ordered him to seek drug treatment, court records show.

The arrest would return to haunt Jones in May, when he was arrested on federal weapons charges during a warrants sweep that also nabbed Ricky Smith on a similar charge.

Jones is prohibited from having bullets and guns because heis a convicted felon. According to a federal affidavit, federal agents believe the .45 caliber pistol seized during the March 2007 raid belongs to Jones.

Jones also is accused of illegally possessing ammunition on two occasions: the night Kamya was killed and during a May shooting attempt in North Little Rock that targeted him, Kamya’s mother and their infant daughter. Jones is scheduled to stand trial on those charges in January.

Arkansas, Pages 21, 23 on 09/14/2008

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Leifel Jackson Promo

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Read My Account of Pending Heart Surgery

If you are interested, visit my personal blog where I will be posting updates on my pending heart surgery.  

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Special From the NLR Dogtown Wire

(Steve Nawojczyk helped set up and ran the city's Mayor's Office on Youth Services from its inception in 2000. He recently left this directorship to take a job as the Program Administrator for Community Services at the Arkansas Department of Human Services. We asked Nawojczyk to share his long connection and experiences with the annual Arkansas Boys State. The following is his account.)

During the first week of June for the last 16 years I have loaded up in my car and traveled the 30 miles to Conway for my yearly rejuvenation.

Back when the gang violence was at epidemic proportions, I was serving as the Pulaski County coroner and had developed a national reputation as being one who was knowledgeable in the dynamics of gangs.

For some reason, the people who put on the American Legion Boys State each year thought my message would be a good one for the thousand or so high school juniors from around the state to hear.

My first year, I was a nervous wreck. I knew that high school boys are always some of the hardest to reach. I labored over the content of my talk and finally settled on just being myself.

I would simply tell them of my “conversion” from being a person who felt the answer to the gang problem was more jails, tougher laws and meaner cops to a person who understood that in order to effectively deal with the problem communities must balance suppression and enforcement with prevention, intervention and treatment programs.

I told them stories of young mothers who I had to sit with and counsel them over the loss of a child. I told of how families struggled to get through the life-changing events caused by a child who made a poor decision.

I encouraged the Boys Staters to engage in some sort of public service as a career. If they weren’t destined for that, I told them to stay involved in their community. I challenged them to become “agents of change” for their generation.
After my first speech to them those long years ago, I got a five minute standing ovation that brought me to tears. It seemed to go on forever. The fires of my hope for the next generation were stoked. And, it gets stoked each year.

The 2008 Boys State attendees fill the hall in Conway. (Steve Nawojczyk)
I always learn more from the young men at Boys State than I teach them. I don’t teach really, I just reflect on my nearly 25 years of studying death. After all, what you do when you study death is done to benefit the living.

I look forward to many more years of my trek to UCA and the feeling of hope in my heart that is always greater on the trip home than it was the trip up.

Next week, a trip to the delta country would bring me before a completely different set of young men.

The following Tuesday, I was headed the other direction from North Little Rock. This time I was making my 9th trip to the Tucker Maximum Unit of the Arkansas Department of Corrections to speak to the 9th class of the U.N.I-TY program. UNITY was started by an inmate serving life without parole, a prison psychologist and a Correctional Officer Captain. The acronym stands for You and I Teaching Youth. It is a program that is mostly attended by lifers and former gang members. They meet for about 15 weeks and work on many problems inmates deal with on a daily basis.

It is a lot different looking into the eyes of these broken but hopeful souls than it is into the eyes of the Boys Staters. One can’t help but wonder if their circumstances had been different when the inmates were younger if their lives would have taken a different turn.

When I converse with the men at the prison, I am also someone instilled with a little hope because they are so willing to share their lives, which in turn helps me to do my job.
Both audiences make me realize we are all in this together. Somehow, whether you are a ward of the state or a future leader of our state or country, there is a common bond. The need to connect. The need for nurturing caring adults in the lives of children. To turn a worn out phrase, it truly does, it seems, take an entire village to raise a child.

Now I’ll wait until it is time to either go to Boys State or prison again. In the meantime, I’ll continue to share the messages shared with me.

(Editor’s note: The American Legion Department of Arkansas inducted Steve Nawojczyk to the Arkansas Boys State Hall of Fame on June 6 for his contribution to the Boys State and the youth of Arkansas.)


Thursday, June 12, 2008


Report: Lock up fewer youths

By Andy Boyle

Thursday, June 12, 2008

LITTLE ROCK — Arkansas’ juvenile justice system needs to rely more on community-based programs rather than confinement, according to a report that will come out later this month.

More than 90 percent of youths committed in Arkansas are nonviolent offenders, and keeping them locked up increases their risk of future delinquency, the report found.

The report, not yet complete, was commissioned in January by the Justice Equality Human Dignity and Tolerance Foundation of New York in collaboration with the Arkansas Division of Youth Services. It essentially supports previous studies by the Disability Rights Center in Little Rock, a nonprofit federally funded group that advocates for the disabled.

“I think what [the report] says is we’re at a very important time for juvenile justice in Arkansas,” said Dana McClain, senior staff attorney for the Disability Rights Center, which released its findings more than a year ago. “And if we fail to take the opportunity we have here, our children are going to suffer because of it.”

A juvenile justice task force will use the report to identify problems in the system, said Julie Munsell, a spokesman for the Arkansas Department of Human Services, the agency that manages the Youth Services Division. An assessment unit is visiting the state’s eight detention facilities and looking to divert some of the young offenders to less restrictive environments, she said, noting one of the report’s recommendations.

Saying incarceration should be used as a last resort, the report recommends developing a five-year plan for changing the system.

Moving youths to community-based facilities can’t start soon enough, but it won’t be easy, said Paul Kelly, a senior analyst with Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families, a nonprofit group.

“We do not have the capacity currently in the state to handle all of these kids,” he said of community-based programs that would provide, among other services, substance abuse treatment and family therapy.

Refocusing the juvenile justice system also would save taxpayers money that could be reinvested in developing a “comprehensive array of community interventions proven to help youth stay out of trouble,” according to the report.

Each youth kept at a detention center costs the state $150 per day. The state pays $120 to $480 per day to keep a young offender at a specialty facility, such as the Arkansas State Hospital.

In fiscal year 2007, 621 youngpeople were committed to the Youth Services Division, and 403 of them were confined in specialty facilities, costing the state more than $23 million. The division’s budget for this fiscal year is $61.9 million.

Some of the offenders have committed such crimes as murder and rape.

“We recognize and acknowledge that some youth and some crimes will require some period of confinement,” said Bart Lubow, director of programs for high-risk youth at the Baltimorebased Annie E. Casey Foundation, which releases its 2008 Kids Count Databook today.

The problem of locking up young people who commit nonviolent crimes is partly cultural, Kelly said. People like a revenge system of justice, he said.

Pat Arthur, one of the authors of the report to come out later this month, said the task force is bringing together agencies that deal with similar matters, so one of the biggest difficulties will be finding a consensus. But she said the leaders of the state are making the right decision by trying to change a problematic system.

“I’m very hopeful for Arkansas youth and their families because there’s some real good leadership in the state right now,” she said.

Information for this article was provided by Carolyne Park of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

Front Section, Pages 9 on 06/12/2008

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Gang Related?

Arkansas Online

Judge rules to allow gang-related claims

Saturday, June 7, 2008

BENTONVILLE - A judge ruled Friday that jurors will be allowed to hear evidence at a capital-murder trial next month that alleges the 2006 slaying of a motorist in Lowell was a gang initiation.

Benton County Judge Tom Keith also ruled that defendants Manuel Enrique Camacho and Serafin Sandoval-Vega will stand trial together July 8, despite objections from defense attorneys.

“I wrestled with this decision, but I’m denying the motion to sever the cases,” Keith said. “Keep in mind we can separate the cases in the middle of the trial, or even at the end if necessary. But I’m confident that neither defendant will be unfairly prejudiced by the other.”

Sandoval-Vega, 20, Camacho, 27, and Roxana Hernandez, 22, are charged in the May 6, 2006, shooting death of Daniel Ray Francis of Little Flock. The 32-year-old father of four was shot while riding in a friend’s car onU.S. 71B, prosecutors said.

Sandoval-Vega, who prosecutors say pulled the trigger, is charged with capital murder, while Camacho, the driver, and Hernandez, the front-seat passenger, are charged with being accomplices to capital murder.

Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty against Sandoval-Vega and Camacho. Hernandez, if convicted, faces up to life in prison. Her trial date is pending.

Next month’s trial for Camacho and Sandoval-Vega is expected to take up to six weeks. Jury selection could take a week, given the possibility the jury could have to decide on the death penalty for two people.

After Friday’s hearing, attorneys for Camacho and Sandoval-Vega talked to the defendants’ families who remained in the courtroom.

“We’re in crunch time now,” said Joel Huggins, a Springdale attorney for Sandoval-Vega. “We’ll be calling all of you into the office for interviews in the next week or two, and we’re optimistic there’ll be a fair trial.”

Fayetteville attorney Kent McLemore spoke through an interpreter to Camacho’s family, who declined to talk to a reporter.

“They’re scared to death,” McLemore said of the family. “[Camacho] is a husband, a father and a son, and his family loves and cares about him.

“They’re very worried what might happen,” he said.

Prosecutors said Francis was shot while riding with Tracy Stith, a co-worker at J.B. Hunt Transport Services Inc.

Stith told police that he and Francis had been in a roadway dispute with the three defendants and that both cars took turns cutting in front of the other and slamming on the brakes. After about 15 minutes, Sandoval-Vega stuck a gun out of the back-seat window of Camacho’s Honda Civic and fired, prosecutors said.

Sandoval-Vega, Camacho and Hernandez were arrested that night at a Bentonville convenience store parking lot where they had a pistol and a box of ammunition in the car, police said.

Al Valdez, a retired California gang investigator and an expert witness for prosecutors, testified at an April hearing that the killing was a gang initiation.

Valdez said Camacho seized an opportunity in a dispute with strangers to let Sandoval-Vega commit a crime to get into a gang.

Valdez, a regular guest on the History Channel TV series Gangland, said he made his determination in the case based on gang tattoos on Camacho’s body, on Camacho’s deep involvement with gang crime while he lived in California, and on statements that he and others made after their arrests in Benton County.

But an expert witness for the defense, Brian Contreras, who runs the nonprofit youth program Second Chance in Salinas, Calif., testified that the shooting lacks the characteristics of a true gang shooting. He said most gang crime is “gang-on-gang” and that most gang members won’t target an innocent person for an initiation.

Tim Buckley, an attorney for Camacho, said Friday that it’s been hard coordinating witness schedules and finding Spanishspeaking experts who are qualified to work on death-penalty murder cases.

“We’d had to work with the Mexican consulate to get some witnesses here,” Buckley told Keith at the hearing. “It’s been a complicated process, but we’re getting there.”

Keith denied a request by Buckley for a 60-day continuance to fine-tune the case and accommodate an expert psychiatrist in North Carolina.

“There will always be those moments of [adjusting] trial strategy up to the last minute,” Keith said. “We’ll adjust as we go along.”

Arkansas, Pages 14 on 06/07/2008

Sunday, March 23, 2008

NW Arkansas Police to Share Gang Information- The Arkansas Democrat*Gazette

Police want to share information on gangs

NW Arkansas officers see need for database

Sunday, March 23, 2008

— When Rogers or Springdale police try to solve a gang crime, they have database access to information on hundreds of local gang members or their associates.

Smaller police departments in Northwest Arkansas, however, don’t have similar databases that show photos, tattoos and addresses linked to gangs such as Sureno, MS-13, Nortenos and Brown Pride.

The closest thing to a regional gang clearinghouse is the Arkansas Crime Information Center. While the information center shows felony convictions across the country, it listsonly 21 gang members in Arkansas. In Rogers, police have more than 200 in their gang database.

“If my city gets hit with graffiti by someone called ‘Snoop Dog,’ I can’t call up ACIC and say, ‘Is there a Snoop Dog in your system?’” Centerton Police Chief Lance Johnson said.

“With ACIC, you need a name, a date of birth or a driver’s license number, something to start with,” he said. “A lot of times we don’t have that kind of information at the front end.”

In Centerton, a fast-growing bedroom community west of Bentonville, the Latin Kings gang painted graffiti in January;no one has been arrested for it. Johnson wants a plan to create a Northwest Arkansas gang-intelligence network.

Such a database would let law enforcement officers add intelligence information as they get it. They could then check whether a suspect - who may be known only by a nickname, a tattoo or who he runs with - is on the radar of another department.

“If another department arrests a gang member and it turns out he lives in Centerton, I might not ever know until one of us picks up the phone and calls the other,” Johnson said.


Twelve agencies in Northwest Arkansas meeting under the federal Project Safe Neighborhoods’ Anti-Gang Initiative talked about starting a gang-intelligence database last year, but logistics and cost concerns put the plan on hold.

Bob Balfe, U.S. attorney in Fort Smith, said for a regional database to work, every agency would need to use the same criteria for entering information and someone would have to maintain the system.

“On top of that, there’s a huge funding issue with equipment and manpower,” Balfe said. “As stretched as many of the departments are just trying to get officers on the streets, it’s just not a top priority right now.”

Although there’s no central database, the agencies from Washington, Benton and Sebastian counties meet every seven weeks or so and share gang intelligence and leads on cases.

“Gang members don’t respect county lines, and that’s especially relevant in Northwest Arkansas where it’s not one large metropolitan area, but in fact a region with more than one county,” Balfe said.

“Everyone involved here knows how important it is that we all continue to communicate and collaborate on this issue,” he said.

In considering a regional database, the agencies looked at CalGang, the California Department of Justice’s gang database.

Wes McBride, executive director of the California Gang Investigators Association, helped design CalGang, an automated information-sharing system.

“It’s an electronic gang file built on a network that allows sharing between departments,” McBride said. “It may sound sophisticated but a gang file is a gang file. If you know your suspect drives a red Chevy, you enter that in, and you get a list of gang members who drive red Chevys.”

McBride, who is retired from the Los Angeles County sheriff’s office, said police can work to control and reduce gangs by banding together to train.

“Gang members in today’s world are very mobile, moving from one town to the next,” Mc-Bride said. “To stay on top of it, police need to form a task force and start training their officers to recognize gangs.

“Put on statewide training and roll it across the state.”

The Justice Department dedicated $10 million to Project Safe Neighborhoods in 2006, with an additional $30 million to fund the Anti-Gang Initiative.

The U.S. attorney’s office in the Western District of Arkansas has been given $694,000 for Project Safe Neighborhoods.

P roject Safe Neighborhoods pays for police agencies in Northwest Arkansas to get gang resistance and education training.

Agencies in Washington, Sebastian and Benton counties, where officials at the U.S. attorney’s office in Fort Smith say gang activity is most prevalent, have had the training during the past year.

Some are also providing gang intervention and prevention in English and in Spanish in schools.


From March to July last year, some Springdale police officers worked on a part-time crime suppression team that identified, photographed and documented gang members in the city.

The officers also ran saturation patrols that focused primarily on curbing graffiti and property crime.

Sgt. Shane Pegram, who supervised the team, said officers identified about 150 people with ties to several major gangs.

To identify gang members, the team used a combination of criteria, including self-admitted membership, association with known gang members, frequenting known gang areas, “throwing” hand signs and having gang tattoos, Pegram said.

“The overall goal of the team was to identify crime trends in the city, and unfortunately, a lot of what we found had gang overtones,” said Pegram.

“About every gang there is in the country right now, we’ve had contact with in Springdale,” he said. “And other cities in Northwest Arkansas are seeing the same thing, too.”

A full-time crime suppression team starts next month, he said.

While Springdale isn’t using its data as an investigative tool, the Rogers Police Department uses gang data it has been compiling since 2005.

Cpl. Craig Renfrow, a gang investigator for Rogers, helped build a database of more than 200 entries of active and inactive gang members and their associates living in the city.

About 40 percent of those in the database fall under the category of Sureno or Mexican Mafia gangs, Renfrow said. The second-largest category - about 14 percent - consists of prison gangs and hate groups.

“We’ve got a solid knowledge now of what’s going on in the city, but the next step is to do something collectively as a region,” Renfrow said.

He said the Rogers, Springdale and Fayetteville police departments have met independently of the federal group to share gang data.

The Benton County sheriff’s office is another agency that uses its own system to track gang members.

Jail commander Capt. Hunter Petray said about 90 gang members have been identified using the system, but that doesn’t necessarily mean those gangs are operating in the county. Many gang members are already doing prison time or were extradited from some other part of the country, Petray said.

Petray said the county forwards its gang information to the FBI but isn’t actively sharing the data with other agencies in Northwest Arkansas.

“There’s nothing set as far as regional sharing, but we’re always willing to share our gang file with any other law-enforcement agency that wants to see it or benefit from it,” Petray said.

Kelly Cradduck, a candidate for Benton County sheriff, is one of the people spearheading the effort to implement a regional gang database in Northwest Arkansas.

While campaigning, Cradduck, who teaches gang awareness to police and at area schools, is on leave from the Rogers Police Department, where he is a sergeant supervising the gang unit.

“We need a database where all the agencies can enter into it and take information from it,” Cradduck said. “That’s one of the biggest roadblocks right now.

“Even if everyone is collecting the data, it’s not compatible,” he said. “Not everyone is sharing information. When all you do is shove gang members two miles out of your city, you’re not fixing anything.”A united front These 12 Northwest Arkansas agencies form the initiative:

Bentonville Police Department

Benton County probation office

Benton County prosecuting attorney’s office

Benton County sheriff’s office

Fayetteville Police Department

Fort Smith Police Department

Rogers Police Department

Sebastian County prosecuting attorney’s office

Sebastian County sheriff’s office

Springdale Police Department

Washington County prosecuting attorney’s office

Washington County sheriff’s office

Arkansas, Pages 17, 23 on 03/23/2008

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Another Wasted Life-When Will It End?

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Nevets’ new challenge

By Mike Masterson

Sunday, March 9, 2008

LITTLE ROCK — It was Aug. 2, 1974, when the first editorial praising the tenacity and resolve of a young reserve deputy named Steve Nawojczyk (Na-voy-check) appeared in the Hot Springs Sentinel-Record.

As the newspaper’s editor, I had authored the piece, titled “They Would Gag the Truth.” Steve had refused to cave to political pressure after charging the chairman of the local Democratic Central Committee, W.C. “Bill” Mears, with driving while intoxicated and refusing to take an alcohol breath test.

At that point, B.W. Thomas, a municipal court stand-in judge, already had quietly dismissed the charges.

According to Steve, Mears had asked him that night on the highway if he knew who Mears was. Steve said he’d responded that Mears’ career was irrelevant to his condition behind the wheel. Afterward, Steve, whose day job was directing the city’s ambulance service, was badgered to drop the case, but he refused.

From the 1974 editorial: “Yesterday in Municipal Court a public official had a DWI charge against him dismissed by substitute judge BW. Thomas. . . . [R]eserve Deputy Sheriff Steve Nawojczyk never had to opportunity to explain his case. . . . We, like Mr. Nawojczyk and others in Garland County who still believe in honesty, integrity and those ethical principles in life that each person has to live with, will not refrain from printing the truth. . . . We have to ask the people of Hot Springs . . . Do we want a town where a man [who] is doing an honest job is harassed and threatened?”

More tenacious editorializing finally moved this case back onto the docket. The charges eventually were “undismissed” and he was convicted after Steve finally took the stand.

I later came to call Steve the Alphabet Man for what I believe are obvious reasons. Later, he was elected Garland County coroner and we pledged to watch each other’s back during my seven years there.

As friends, I soon became Ekim and he became Nevets. We got some twisted kick from spelling our names backward. He later would become Pulaski County coroner and a private investigator, and then executive director of the state Crime Lab under Bill Clinton. Not once did I see him sacrifice his principles to political pressure.

Steve earned national attention when he was featured as an expert on youth gangs in Little Rock for an HBO special. The subject of gangs would become his life’s calling, as further evidenced by the national recognition he shared while serving with the North Little Rock Office of Youth Services.

I relive this history today only because Nevets is beginning a new phase of his career. He’s becoming an administrator in the Arkansas Division of Youth Services for a pilot program called the Serious/ Violent Offender Reintegration Initiative. He is perfectly suited for this program in Pulaski County as it begins tracking serious juvenile offenders when they enter the system.

Steve says his goal is to shape a successful exit plan for each offender, adding: “We will work with the kid, their families and the communities where they will return to, hopefully, come up with a successful plan so they won’t re-offend.” He says it will be his responsibility to help DYS Director Ron Angel make sure that the program is effective and beneficial to the state. Most important, Steve will be charged with salvaging the young lives he will be mentoring.

“Hopefully, the program will be taken statewide,” he said.

He also will be developing a community outreach program to help communities effectively deal with juvenile crime and violence.

“This new administration and Deputy Director Steven Jones are intent on changing things at DYS,” he told me. “Mentoring will be a critical element to success. We can’t help anyone who doesn’t want to help themselves.

“I’ll never forget asking a gang leader why it was so hard for him to leave the gang. He responded that he had become addicted to the life, the adrenaline rush and the power.

“No doubt it will be a big job,” Steve added. “Part of the challenge will be that some communities will be wary of a youth returning.” Steve believes that if he prepares properly, many kids with problems will realize they need the help. These troubled young men and women couldn’t have a more devoted role model, mentor and champion than Nevets the Alphabet Man, who as a young man himself stood resolute for what was true and right in the face of powerful and negative influences.


Staff columnist Mike Masterson is the former editor of three Arkansas daily newspapers.

Editorial, Pages 97 on 03/09/2008

Copyright © 2008, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Inc.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Bobby Banks' Crew Seems Not To Have Been Affected by his Incarceration

From the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

Slain man was witness in killing

Prosecutors listed him in case against drug kingpin’s cousin

Friday, March 7, 2008

— The man who was found shot to death last week in Interstate Park in Little Rock was a witness in one of two pending murder cases against Kevin Banks, cousin of incarcerated drug kingpin Bobby Banks, court records show.

In a Feb. 7 filing in Pulaski County Circuit Court, prosecutors listed Thomas Steven Okafor, 21, as a witness against Kevin Banks in the Dec. 20 killing of Brent Pettus.

Okafor was found in the park near Arch Street and Interstate 30 about 7 a.m., Feb. 29, police said.

He lived with his great-uncle in a small blue house at 309 W. 33rd St., just around the corner from the 3200 block of Center Street, where Pettus, 25, was found dead of gunshot wounds in a car with its engine running.

Lt. Terry Hastings, a spokesman for the Little Rock Police Department, declined to say whether police believe Okafor’s killing is related to the Pettus case or what information Okafor had provided.

“We are looking into his murder at this time, and we have no suspects at the moment,” Hastings said.

Pulaski County Chief Deputy Prosecuting Attorney John Johnson declined to comment on the Pettus or Okafor cases.

According to an arrest affidavit, a man identified only as “Witness 2” told police that the shooting followed a botched drug deal.

The witness said that just before the shooting, he was in his car with Kevin Banks, 18, a block from where the shooting happened.

Banks left to buy marijuana from Pettus, the witness said. The witness said he then heard at least three gunshots in the area where Banks had gone.

The witness told police that he had started to drive off when he heard Banks call his name. Banks, armed with a shiny revolver and looking upset, then got into the car, the witness said.

The witness said Banks later told him that Pettus had tried to “short” his marijuana, the affidavit says.

Banks told the witness, “I got into it with the nigger, and I had to shoot him,” the affidavit says.

Okafor’s great-aunt, Carolyn Williams, said Thursday that Okafor, who sometimes went by his middle name, worked at the Wal-Mart on 700 S. Bowman Road.

“He had just gotten a job,” Williams said. “He was trying to find an apartment and buy a car.”

The night before Okafor was found dead, someone saw him standing in front of the house on 33rd Street with a man who was wearing red pants, a red shirt and a red bandana, Williams said.

Okafor had been renting a car, Williams said. On the day the body was found, at about 1 p.m., the family was notified that police had found the car, Williams said.

Hastings said he didn’t have any information on the car.

Kevin Banks has been in the Pulaski County jail, where he is being held without bond, since his Jan. 2 arrest in Pettus’ killing.

He faces a first-degree murder charge in Pettus’ death. He is also charged with capital murder in the Dec. 29 shooting of 6-year-old Kamya Weathersby at the girl’s house at 2715 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Drive and with first-degree battery in the Dec. 5 shooting of three men in the 2600 block of the same street.

Bobby Banks, leader of the 23rd Street Crips in Little Rock for several years, was sentenced in July 2006 to 55 years in prison after being convicted of leading a large cocaine-trafficking operation. He is being held in the United States Penitentiary Big Sandy in Inez, Ky.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

About Leifel Jackson's Program ROCAN

Click here for a KTHV story about former Little Rock gang leader Leifel Jackson and what he is doing now at R.O.C.A.N.  

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

NLR Youth Services Named Best Practices

Congratulations To NLR Dept. of Youth Services 2/27/2008

North Little Rock Mayor Pat Hays has announced that the Office of Youth Services under the leadership of Youth Services Director Braye Cloud and former director Steve Nawojczyk has just received the distinction of being named as one of the Best Practices on At-Risk Youth and High School Dropout Prevention by the U.S. Conference of Mayors Research/Education Foundation.

The Office of Youth Services is featured in the January 2008 publication of Best Practices as one of the 74 best programs in only 28 states relating to U.S. city’s approaches to multiple youth related programs, including successful efforts to proactively prevent gang development and combat gang violence in our city.

The work of the Youth Services Office provides support to the Office of the Mayor, City Council, and other city department on a continuum of issues relating to the city’s youth. Two years ago, Mayor Hays appointed the Youth Services Advisory Council (YSAC), a group formed under the auspices of the Youth Services Office to foster collaboration and participation among city departments, school district, youth service agencies and social service partners to better address the needs of our city’s youth.

Monday, February 18, 2008

From the Los Angeles Times

Minister takes on L.A. gangs

Jeff Carr is chosen by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa to bring fresh eyes to tackling violence in the city.

By Daniela Perdomo
Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

February 18, 2008

If Los Angeles leaders take the advice of Controller Laura Chick, a minister from Idaho who has studied philosophy would soon be responsible for reforming a dysfunctional bureaucracy that spends millions of dollars on unproven anti-gang programs.

Jeff Carr was chosen by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa last year to bring a fresh eye to gang problems in a city seen nationally as a launching pad for bands of violent youth.

But the new director of gang reduction and youth development programs does not control more than a dozen city departments that award contracts for anti-gang services.

Chick, who last week assailed the city for taking such a decentralized approach, said that placing all programs under one entity in the mayor's office would make it easier to judge their effectiveness.

Carr, who supported Chick's conclusions, developed youth programs for the Bresee Foundation, a nonprofit organization in Los Angeles, for 17 years. He holds a degree in religion and philosophy from Northwest Nazarene University.

Last week, Carr, 44, talked about what he has seen and done on the job thus far. His comments were edited and condensed:

What have been the surprises of this job?

I didn't really realize just how big the city of Los Angeles is and how very unique it is. Every community is different.

People live probably in two extremes. . . . The vast majority are anesthetized to the violence. They have no clue it happens. I mean, a week ago Friday you all had a brief little [news] story about the recent spate of violence in South L.A., in Watts.

But on the day we had a press conference with the mayor and the chief [of police], we talked about the fact that there had been 10 shootings, four homicides and 17 people wounded in the span of about 72 hours that week.

I went home that night and looked at the headlines online at The two big headlines that stuck out to me were Britney Spears' mental health situation and . . . then right underneath that was that the City Council had voted to make sure every 4-month-old cat and dog was neutered.

Way, way down was a story about some recent violence and arrests in South L.A.

Well, so the vast majority of citizens in Los Angeles don't have any idea that that even occurred.

Meanwhile, there was an entire community that was traumatized by that situation and in some ways, paralyzed . . . .

The truth of the matter is, I don't care if you live in West L.A., the San Fernando Valley, the South Side, in East L.A., everybody has to have skin in the game, or we're just not going to make progress.

Do you think gang members look at you differently because you're a minister?

I don't know. Maybe some of them do. I mean it's interesting. In my past, the thing that was most abrupt to people is that I'm a white guy.

Someone said to me the other day, it's interesting being Caucasian, it sort of galvanizes people's focus and attention on you.

But then when they see that I'm very comfortable and at ease in those situations [with gang members in a diverse community], it sort of takes people off guard so it probably gives me a little bit of an advantage, that people, you know, see me different.

And then after they find out I'm a minister to boot, then that really throws them off guard.

What are you doing to bring the religious community into this conversation?

Well, I talk to any of them that I can. I actually preached at Bryant Temple [A.M.E.] Church. I've been invited to preach a couple of services, to try to talk [about], in my mind, what the faith community ought to do. . . .

The problem is, if you look at some of the toughest neighborhoods that have some of the biggest challenges, unfortunately there is a church on every corner.

But those churches are largely shuttered except for brief times on Sunday and maybe once or twice during the week. And frankly, the church ought to be right in the thick of things, right in the middle of trying to transform these neighborhoods.

If they're not engaged in the relevant issues of these communities . . . I don't think they're living out their mission.

The church was never meant to be contained within the four walls of the building. Faith was meant to be lived out in the streets, in the lives of real people facing real challenges.

Have religious leaders been receptive?

I think some are. I mean, everyone's against youth violence and gangs. It's not like anyone's actually saying, 'I think that's a good thing.' But I think the question is some people don't know how to get involved, don't get the resources to get involved. Some are, frankly, afraid to get involved. They're not sure what that would mean for the church, could that potentially put them at risk?

What are you doing about Watts' uptick in gang homicides?

Our office was involved right from the start. I actually [got] the BlackBerry notification when I woke up at 6:45 in the morning [about the shooting that night at Florence and Main]. [I] immediately started calling folks to find out what was being done and spoke to someone who was involved with some hardcore-gang intervention workers. . . . I then found out Sunday morning at church that not only had we had a subsequent shooting, but we also had some other ones. So I immediately went to South L.A.

Unfortunately, for eight or nine hours, I was following shootings. There were all kinds of rumors going around, and I tried to serve as a link between police, who had facts on what had happened, and get the information to people who were talking to gang members and people on the street. The rumor was that five people were killed, but the truth is one was killed, which is bad enough.

I was in communication with the gang intervention workers, with the deputy chief in the [LAPD] South Bureau. During that week we had some meetings in Watts, at various housing developments. I was at the Watts Gang Task Force on Monday morning. We started talking about what we can do in the community to get people to get together and push back against this violence. It was sort of the first time since I've been in this position that we've had this spate of violence.

How much time do you spend in the community and how much at City Hall?

I bet you I spend as much or more outside City Hall than I do inside. I really believe that the solutions to many of the challenges we face are actually rooted in communities.

If you sit on the stoops of apartment buildings and hear the moms and dads tell of their aspirations for their children. Or listening to kids who maybe go to some of the lousiest schools and live in the toughest neighborhoods, in slum apartment living conditions.

They still have the same aspirations that I and my parents had for me. They just don't have the resources to achieve those dreams. My job is mostly connecting resources with needs.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Gang Prevention Intervention in a Maximum Security Prison

Every month I visit a program in the Arkansas Department of Corrections Maximum Security Unit. The program is called UNITY (You and I Teaching Youth) and was founded by inmate Alvin Williams, Correctional Officer Major Jack Davis and prison psychologist Richard Moore. The program works to reduce violence in the prison and the streets.

Inmates apply to the program and must complete several months worth of classes. E-Mail me if you have further questions.

The below video is a short clip of the current class's opening ceremony.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Grape Street Crips and East Coast Crips Battling in L.A.

2 held in Watts killing linked to feuding gangs

Four have been killed since Sunday. LAPD has tripled its patrols in Watts.

By Richard Winton

Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

February 2, 2008

Two men have been arrested on suspicion of fatally shooting a man at a Watts housing complex as part of a gang feud that has left four men dead since Sunday, the mayor said Friday.

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Los Angeles Police Chief William J. Bratton said that in the wake of the bloodshed, the city has tripled patrols in the Watts area, sent out dozens of gang intervention workers and held several community meetings to end the fighting between the Grape Street Crips and East Coast Crips.

"We will not tolerate that kind of violence in our city, but especially not in Watts, where we have made so much progress in the last two years due to hard work of the Watts gang task force," the mayor said, noting that the area's homicide numbers had been cut by half last year.

The violence, which also left 13 wounded, began early Sunday when Brandon Bullard, 25, whom police identified as a key member of the Grape Street Crips, was killed at a South Los Angeles party also attended by East Coast Crips, Deputy Chief Charlie Beck said. Bullard's family said he was not a gang leader.

Later that afternoon, Maurio Proctor was shot as he stood outside the Jordan Downs housing project with a friend. Police believe the shooting of Proctor, the son of a gang intervention worker, was retaliatory.

LAPD security cameras captured the gunmen's Chevrolet Impala, leading to the arrests of Daniel Colvin, 19, and Cedrick Johnson, 18, authorities said. Det. Sal LaBarbera said the two are connected with the East Coast Crips.

Ten incidents have been linked to the feud, including two other fatalities. Van Knott, 19, a bystander, was gunned down Monday morning, and Chontel Johnson, 35, was fatally wounded hours later inside a clothing store, police said.

Villaraigosa said attendance at some Watts schools was down to 50% because of what he called the "chilling effect" of the killings. However, school officials said that although parents expressed concerns, authorities saw no marked decline in attendance.

Bratton said the LAPD has patrol cars stationed 24 hours a day at various housing projects and has secured routes to local schools, in part with the help of county, city and federal law enforcement agencies. "We will focus the efforts of not just the Los Angeles Police Department, but the total law enforcement community here in Los Angeles County," the chief said.

Beck said the force would police the funerals of those killed in the spasm of violence.

"The funerals as a result of these homicides will require additional resources," he said, and "when those resources that we have in Watts are removed, we will be faced with the threat of additional violence."

Gang Violence Breaks Out at Local High School

Note from Steve: Sources advised me that the following fight was gang-related. More to follow as it comes in.

10 students arrested in two brawls at Mills

Melees hurt 4; school meeting set for Monday

By Stacy Hudson

Saturday, February 2, 2008

LITTLE ROCK — Ten students were arrested at Wilbur D. Mills University Studies High School after fights Friday that sent a student to the hospital and injured three people, including a Pulaski County sheriff’s deputy.

A fight started as soon as the bulk of students entered the school’s front doors about 8:30 a.m. and quickly spread to the back of the school, sheriff’s spokesman John Rehrauer said.

As many as 40 people may have been involved, he said.

Four felony charges, including having a knife on school property and battery of an officer, and 17 misdemeanor charges were filed against the students, most of whom were under age 18.

About an hour and a half after the first brawl, a second fight broke out in the school’s parking lot. One student was taken to a local hospital with head injuries resulting from that fight.

His condition was not available Friday, but his injuries aren’t life-threatening, Rehrauer said.

Cordell Tidwell, 18, and another student were charged with misdemeanors in that fight, according to police.

Carletta Wilson, a spokesman for the Pulaski County Special School District, said officials plan to hold a meeting Monday at 6 p.m. in the school auditorium to answer questions from parents.

The district also plans to add three assistant principals and more security at the school next week to keep students safe, said School Board member Mildred Tatum, whose zone includes the high school.

Tatum said she plans to attend the meeting.

“We’ve been needing some help for a long time,” she said, adding that students are often bigger than some of the teachers.

Fights happen in all schools, Tatum said.

“When we went to school and people started fighting, everybody started jumping in,” shesaid, adding that even she had been in fights in school. “Kids haven’t changed.”

About 1,000 students in grades 9-12 attend the high school, Wilson said.

School officials had heard rumors about a possible fight this week, Wilson said, adding that it’s “not uncommon” for there to be talk about fights.

After the fight, some parents picked their children up from the school. Classes continued like any other school day, Wilson said.

The students who were fighting will be punished according to school policy, which takes into account a student’s disciplinary record, Wilson said. She couldn’t specify what actions will be taken against the students but said suspension or expulsion is possible.

Names of the students involved were not released because they are not yet 18.

Police don’t know what started the fight, to which state police officers and sheriff’s deputies responded.

Sheriff’s deputies remained at the school throughout the day.

Thursday, January 31, 2008


Announcement can be downloaded at


The path to correcting the problem of youth violence and gangs, in part, lies with the following: "You cannot right the wrong in their world... without first understanding their world" -Tony Massar

This amazing training opportunity presented by The Finnegan Group** and produced by Steve Nawojczyk - - will be two days you will never forget. The Finnegan Group has put together some of the most amazing researchers and practitioners in the world of youth violence intervention and prevention. Participants will be able to return to their communities and immediately begin practicing what they have learned.

Former Pulaski County (AR) Coroner Steve Nawojczyk - Info Here- whose work with gangs was featured in the award-winning HBO documentary Gang War: Bangin' in Little Rock will be opening the conference with his highly acclaimed "Current Trends and Realities of Youth Violence and Gangs, Posses, Cliques and Crews". Nawojczyk has lectured and researched this issue in over 40 states and has spoken to hundreds of thousands of students nationwide about the downside of gangs. His fast-moving presentations almost always win the "Best of Show" award at the various venues where he speaks.

Also presenting at this conference will be Dr. Michael Walker-Jones, an honor graduate of the University of Rochester, NY who holds a doctorate of Education in Curriculum, Human Leaning and Education Policy.*

Course attendees will also hear from Mr. Tony Massar who is a city councilman in Binghamton, New York. Massar has taken the lead on dealing with gangs and other juvenile issues in his city and recently was asked to testify before the New York State Commission on Gangs about how to recognize and deal with gangs and other youth issues. Massar has been a leader in his community by introducing legislation to deal with youth violence.

One of the most successful Police Athletic Leagues in the nation will have representatives speaking on how a community can set up a wonderful intervention and prevention program through the local law enforcement agency.

Course leaders will also be covering the art of grant location and writing suggestions and techniques.

In short, you will return to your community armed with nearly all the knowledge you need to tackle the complex issue of youth crime and its effects.

*Dr. Walker-Jones has taught at the pre-school, elementary, high school, under-graduate, and graduate school levels. As teacher and education policy advocate for the last thirty years, he has taught in the public schools of Rochester, New York where he was a federal title I program mathematics teacher trainer. He has worked with Dr. David Elkind in early childhood development studies, was an assistant professor at Boston University and the University of Louisville in Curriculum Development.

Recently he was the keynote speaker at Maltepe University, Istanbul Turkey, International Symposium “Violence in the Schools.” While serving as the assistant vice president for Health Affairs at the University of Louisville, he assisted with the recruitment, counseling, and retention of minority and disadvantaged students.

As a trained Arbitrator and conflict resolution specialist he settled over 120 individual, gang, and labor, and civil disputes. Dr. Walker-Jones has been an advocate for teachers and students through the Kentucky Education Association, the Arkansas Education Association, where he became a FOB, and currently the Massachusetts Teachers Association.

Dr. Walker-Jones is a staunch advocate of the public schools, the power of education as tool for life and personal achievement and the ability of all people to resolve conflict through non-violent processes.

Dr. Walker-Jones will inspire you and will be taking participants step by step through the process of setting up a successful peer-mediation program and other important educational concepts.

Educators and school personnel, law enforcement officers and administrators, intervention and prevention specialists, social workers and school counselors and transportation workers. (The front line workers in other words.)

February 12 and 13, 2008

Wyndham Hotel, 2 Riverfront Dr., North Little Rock, AR. The Wyndham is right in the heart of one of the fastest growing and most exciting downtown revivals in the nation.
Wyndham's website here.

501-371-9000 for reservations. Be sure to mention the Finnegan Group conference for a special rate.

Send check for $275.00 (prior to January 10th) or 295.00 after January 10th to:

Finnegan Group
10 Shackelford Place
Suite 201
Little Rock, AR 72211

Phone 501-975-6364

Course participants will receive extensive handouts and a letter and certificate of completion. We will work with any licensing group for continuing education credits. Course fee includes a closing banquet. THIS IS AN EARLY BIRD ANNOUNCEMENT FOR OUR SPECIAL FRIENDS in order to insure you get first shot at a seat. Information will soon be posted on our website (s).

** The Finnegan Group is dedicated to providing the most current and comprehensive training packages for educators, law enforcement and community leaders and administrators. For more information contact Stephen Finnegan at 501-975-6364 or email Steve Nawojczyk at

Friday, January 25, 2008

18-year-old shoots up house, kills 6-year-old girl

Thursday, January 24, 2008

 — A day after police arrested a man in the killing of 6-year old Kamya Weathersby, the girl’s mother said she suspects the gunmen were targeting her boyfriend.

The boyfriend, Antoine Jones, had been friends with Kevin Banks, who is charged with capital murder in the death of Kamya.

But both Kamya’s mother, Lashandria Washington, and Jones said in interviews Wednesday that they don’t know what prompted the shooting.

“It shocked me,” Antoine Jones said. “I don’t understand why” the shooting happened.

The couple spoke to a reporter about the shooting after Banks, 18, made his first appearance before a judge Wednesday morning on charges of capital murder and committing a terroristic act.

Police say Banks and at least one other person fired more than 40 rounds into Washington’s house at 2715 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Drive early Dec. 29, many of the shots going into the bedroom where Kamya and her 3-year-old sister, Jasirae Vick, were sleeping.

At the hearing in Little Rock District Court, police detective Tommy Hudson said the shooting stemmed from a disputebetween “Mr. Banks and some people in the neighborhood, who have been shooting back and forth at each other over the last couple months.”

After the hearing, police spokesman Lt. Terry Hastings declined to elaborate on any suspected motive for the shooting-up of the house. At the request of police, Judge Lee Munson ordered the court records to be sealed. He also ordered Banks held without bail.

Jones, 28, said he and Banks both grew up in the neighborhood around where the shooting occurred, but hadn’t seen each other much recently.

Banks, the cousin of incarcerated drug kingpin Bobby Banks, had been in the custody of the Department of Human Services’ Youth Services Division at least as recently as last June, according to court records.

Kevin Banks had been sentenced to state custody on charges stemming from his arrest in August 2006 in the break-in of a house at 2823 S. Center St. Banks and Wayne Earl Jones, 18, were carrying pistols and threatened a neighborhood resident who attempted to confront them during the break-in, according to court records.

Washington said Wayne Earl Jones and Antoine Jones are not related.

Antoine Jones was released in 2005 from federal prison after serving 10 years for robbing a bank in Hope.

He said he hadn’t been in any trouble since he was released from prison and hadn’t been in any disputes with Banks or anyone else.

He and Washington, 26, have been together for about a year and a half. Three months ago she gave birth to his daughter, Aries.

Washington said she knew about Jones’ past but he seemed committed to doing better. She said he works from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the Odom’s Tennessee Pride plant in Little Rock, then attends night classes at Arkansas Baptist College, where he is studying business.

“It didn’t seem to me that he done anything to anybody,” Washington said. “We don’t bother people.”

Washington said she, Jones and her five children moved into the house on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Drive a day or so before Christmas. They had been living in a three-bedroom apartment in North Little Rock, and they wanted a bigger place with a yard.

The morning of the shooting, she, Jones and Aries were sleeping in a back bedroom. The two oldest children, Jalun, 10, and Nykia, 8, where staying with their grandmother.

When the gunfire started, “It sounded like something out of a movie,” Washington said. “I thought I was kind of dreaming.”

She said she got on the floor with Aries. At first, she thought the shooting was at another house. Then it sounded as if the gunmen were inside, she said.

“I just remember my kids screaming and hollering,” Washington said. “The last thing I heard Kamya say, she screamed out, ‘Mama.’ Then I didn’t hear her no more.”

When the gunfire stopped, she went to the front bedroom where Kamya and Jasirae had been sleeping. Jasirae ran to her.

“I called to Kamya and looked in the room and she was laying in the bed,” Washington said. “I thought she probably was still sleeping.”

Then she went over and turned her daughter over.

“I just seen a lot of blood,” she said.

Her family has experienced violence before. In November 2003, Bobby McGee, the father of Washington’s daughter Nykia, was shot and killed while being robbed at the Parkwood Apartments at 3510 S. Bryant St. in Little Rock. Two men were arrested in the robbery.

Washington said she doesn’t think McGee’s death has anything to do with Kamya’s.

“The guys that did that, they’re already locked up,” she said. “They were from out of town. They didn’t even know” McGee.

Since the shooting, the family has moved in with a relative in North Little Rock. Washington hasn’t been back inside the house where her daughter was shot.

She said Jasirae has been having nightmares and is scared by loud noises. At preschool Tuesday, she was so upset by a glass that fell and broke that Washington had to bring her home.

Washington said the shooting bothers her most when she’s alone, without friends or relatives to comfort her. She also thinks about it in the morning, when she wakes up her children.

Kamya “was the slowest one to get ready,” Washington said. “She would always be the last one to come out.

“Now, I’m missing that last one.” Information for this article was contributed by John Lynch of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

Arkansas, Pages 11, 15 on 01/24/2008

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Blood Feud in Little Rock- Arrest Made in Six-Year old's Murder-Convicted CRIP Gang Kingpin's Cousin Charged in Brutal Slaying

LR man charged in 6-year-old’s fatal shooting

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

— Bullet holes still scar the Little Rock house where 50 gunshots crashed into a children’s bedroom last month and killed 6-year-old Kamya Weathersby.

But with a capital murder charge filed in the case Tuesday against an 18-year-old already accused of committing another homicide in what police have called a blood feud between families, there is hope that in time other, deeper scars will fade, police and a prominent Little Rock pastor said.

Kevin Banks was charged with capital murder and committing a terroristic act in connection with the girl’s death. He was being held without bail Tuesday night at the Pulaski County jail.

Banks was almost immediately considered a suspect after dozens of gunshots slammed into the front of the house at 2715 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Drive early Dec. 29, police said. In remarks made at the time, Little Rock police said Kamya and her 4-year-old sister, Jasirae Vick, were deliberate targets of multiple gunmen, simply for being members of the wrong extended family.

Wearing Pulaski County jailissue blue pants and a matching V-neck top and orange open-toe jail slippers, Banks was led into a Little Rock police patrol car Tuesday evening after an interview with detectives. A television reporter shoved a microphone in his face and asked if he killed Kamya.

“No, sir, I did not, sir,” Bankssaid.

During a youth revival Tuesday night at the Temple of Restoration Church of God in Christ, deep in south Little Rock, the Rev. Benny Johnson sat near seven lit candles - one for each year of Kamya’s life and a seventh in prayer for the capture of the people responsible for the shooting.

“If this is the person who did this crime, this can be the beginning of a healing,” he said.

Banks was arrested Jan. 2 and charged with first-degree murder in the Dec. 20 shooting death of Brent Pettus, 25, of Little Rock.Banks had been in custody since his earlier arrest.

Police said they continued their investigation and their hunt for information implicating more people.

Sgt. James Lesher, who supervises the Little Rock Police Department’s homicide unit, said he could not release specific information about how Banks became a suspect or how detective Tommy Hudson built the case against the teenager. He said he would take the unusual step of asking the Pulaski County District Court to seal Hudson’s arrest-warrant affidavit, a normally public document that outlines the case against the suspect.

“Frankly, this is real delicate,”Lesher said. “This is a case that’s got to be treated gently if we’re going to get the outcome we want. There’s still more people out there who were involved in this, so we have to be real careful in telling what we know.”

At the house where Kamya died, on a narrow residential section of King Drive, stuffed animals still lay in the front yard Tuesday night. Bullet holes pockmarked the wooden siding and a window. Trees framing the walkway and the front door bore fliers with her picture, the offer of reward money and a phone number for police.

It was dark. And quiet. No one was home.

Lesher said police likely could have charged Banks sooner butwanted to collect more information to build their case.

The founder of Little Rock’s Stop the Violence Inc., Johnson handed out fliers on New Year’s Day at Roosevelt Road and King Drive - a few blocks from the shooting - and has opened a Bank of America account in Kamya’s name to offer at least $3,000 in reward money for information on the case. He said he had no problem with police waiting to charge Banks.

“Better safe than sorry,” Johnson said.

Banks is the younger cousin of Little Rock gang leader Bobby Banks, who is serving the second year of a 55-year federal sentence for drug trafficking.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Fort Worth Gang Pimps 14 year olds


FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) - Several teenage gang members have been arrested on suspicion of forcing girls as young as 12 into a prostitution ring, police said Tuesday. 

After befriending the girls and getting them high, Varrio Central gang members took them to some regular customers and then sought other men by trolling apartment complexes, offering the girls' services for $50, Fort Worth police Lt. Ken Dean said. 

The gang apparently targeted runaways and other girls with unstable homes, and if the girls refused to have sex for money the members beat and sexually assaulted them and threatened their families, Dean said. 

"The age of the victims and suspects is the surprising part of it," Dean said. "To have such young individuals in a somewhat organized business, a forced prostitution ring, is somewhat alarming and such a horrendous crime against the 12- to 16-year-old girls." 

Detectives found five victims, ages 12 to 16, but believe there may be more. Those girls are back with relatives or in other safe places, he said, declining to elaborate. 

A 15-year-old girl who may be a gang member helped the group by going to the victims' houses to pick them up under the pretense of going shopping or to a movie, which fooled the parents, said Lt. Dan Draper. 

Four alleged gang members were arrested Jan. 3 after they took a 14-year-old to a convenience store to have sex with the owner, a regular customer of the prostitution ring, police said. 

Diego Rodriguez, 19, and Martin Reyes, 17, were charged with counts including engaging in organized criminal activity, aggravated kidnapping and trafficking of a person. Rodriguez, held on $170,000 bond, did not have an attorney, and a lawyer for Reyes, held on $150,000 bond, could not be immediately reached for comment Tuesday. 

The cases of two boys, ages 15 and 16, and the 15-year-old girl accused of helping the gang are being handled in the juvenile system. Police expect more arrests as the investigation continues, Dean said. 

The convenience store owner, Chang Hyeong Lee, 56, was charged with aggravated kidnapping, engaging in organized criminal activity and prostitution. He remained jailed Tuesday with bail set at $300,000. His attorney could not immediately be reached. 

Police discovered the prostitution ring after a woman was caught in August in a neighborhood allegedly offering men sex for $50 with a 14-year-old girl. Police have declined to reveal the relationship between Debra Flores Castillo, 33, who was charged with compelling prostitution, and the teen gang members. 

She was released on a $20,000 bond. Her attorney, Mark Scott, declined to comment. 

Jorge Martinez, accused of paying for sex with the teen in August, remained jailed on $10,000 bond Tuesday on a sexual assault of a child charge. His attorney did not immediately return a call. 

Monday, December 31, 2007

A Horrible Story from Little Rock. Six Year Old Appears to have Been Targeted According to Police

Gunmen aimed for 2 girls, say LR police

$1,000 reward is set for details on attack

By Andy Davis

Monday, December 31, 2007

LITTLE ROCK — Two or more gunmen appear to have been purposely targeting a 6-year-old girl and her 4-year-old sister when they fired more than 40 shots into a south Little Rock house early Saturday, a Little Rock police detective said Sunday.

Detective Tommy Hudson also said police believe the shooting, which left the older girl critically injured, may have been connected to a homicide and two other shootings in the area within the past month.

“It may have been they were trying to pay back somebody in the house,” Hudson said.

Hudson made his comments during a news conference, organized by the Rev. Benny Johnson, an anti-crime activist, in front of City Hall on Sunday afternoon.

Along with Johnson and four other ministers, Hudson pleaded for information from the public.

“We need more than what people are just hearing on the street,” Hudson said. “We be-lieve there are people who know who did this, and we need them to come forward.”

Through its Crime Stoppers program, the Little Rock Police Department is offering a $1,000 reward for information leading to an arrest, Hudson said. If a witness wants confidentiality, police “will do everything in our power to make sure the person’s name is not released,” he said.

The shooting occurred just before 5 a.m. Saturday at the small beige house at 2715 Martin Luther King Jr. Drive.

Police believe two or more gunmen drove up in two or three cars, stood in a driveway and fired into the south side of the house just a few feet away.

Most of the shots went into a bedroom where 6-year-old Kamya Weathersby and her 4-year-old sister, Jasriae Vick, were sleeping.

The bullets broke out the bedroom’s south window and left seven holes in the glass that remained. Kamya’s bed was just inside the window. On Sunday, the bed was clearly visible through the window. The sheets had been removed and the mattress was stained with blood.

Kamya was struck seven times. Jasriae, who also had been sleeping in the room, was grazed by a bullet.

Kamya’s mother, Lashandria Washington, 26, and her boyfriend, Antoine Jones, 28, were asleep in a back bedroom, along with their 2-month-old daughter, Aries. They were unharmed.

Kamya was taken to Arkansas Children’s Hospital, where Hudson said she has been declared brain-dead but is being kept alive so her organs can be harvested. A hospital spokesman declined to provide any further information.

The guns that were fired into the house were all semiautomatic, and at least one was an assault rifle, Hudson said. At least one handgun was also used, he said.

Although it was dark at the time of the shooting, the bedroom was illuminated by a television that had been left on, Hudson said. He said investigators alsohave other evidence indicating the gunmen knew who they were shooting at.

“We do believe the children were targeted,” he said.

On Sunday, a hospital employee turned away a reporter who attempted to speak with family members gathered in a thirdfloor waiting room, saying any interviews would have to be approved by the hospital. A hospital spokesman later said the family has requested privacy.

Hudson said police are exploring a possible link between Saturday’s shooting and three other shootings within the past month, including the Dec. 20 shooting death of Brent Pettus, 25, of 3026 S. Arch St. in the 3200 block of Center Street.

Pettus was found dead about 9:30 p.m. inside a 1976 Oldsmobile Cutlass with its engine running.

Another shooting occurred about 7:20 p.m. Dec. 5 in the 2600 block of Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, just a block north of where Saturday’s shooting occurred.

David Jones, 26, of 2517 Martin Luther King Jr. Drive was struck in his lower back. Robert Lasley, 17, of 3117 Ringo St. was hit in the jaw, and Ishmel Osler, 25, of 3100 Ringo St. was hit in the lower leg. All of the men were taken to hospitals for their injuries. Hudson said he didn’t know whether Antoine Jones and David Jones are related.

The third shooting left one person injured, Hudson said, but he declined to give further details. It’s unclear whether drugs or gangs are involved in any of the shootings, he said.

Standing beside Hudson on the steps of City Hall on Sunday were Johnson; Bishop Charles E. Williams of the Covenant ofZion Cathedral Church; the Rev. Virgil Taylor and the Rev. Larry Gary, both of New Grace Baptist Church; and the Rev. Marcus Walker of First Liberty Hill Missionary Baptist Church.

Johnson wore a sweatshirt with his organization’s name, and the ministers held signs with messages such as “Stop the senseless slayings” and “Get a life, don’t take one.”

Johnson said people in predominately black neighborhoods, such as the one where the shooting occurred, are often reluctant to speak up, afraid they’ll be labeled a “snitch.”

“We’ve come to the place where we’re going to be victims in our own homes,” he said.

Anyone with information about the shooting may call the Crime Stoppers line at (501) 371-4636 or police detectives at (501) 371-4666.

A New Year's Respite

This slide show was prepared by one of our local street peace activists, Leslee Freeman. Leslee exemplifies the many volunteers in my home of North Little Rock, Arkansas. For more information on our local activities go to:

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Gangs In The Military

The Entire Documentary "Ain't No Deny'n" Now Available on YouTube

This is the video documentary "Ain't No Deny'n" which originally hit the streets in 1996. It is a little over 30 minutes long and contains no profanity.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Bus Stop Shooting in Las Vegas

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Scene from Gang War: Bangin' In Little Rock

The 1994 Award-Winning HBO America Undercover Series Gang War: Bangin' in Little Rock has been posted to YouTube. Here is a clip featuring the infamous "drive-by" scene.

For information on getting Steve to come to your community to assist with gang or youth violence issues, contact him (link available on this site) or by calling 501.940.4264.


Monday, November 26, 2007

Smart Choices Better Chances

A program available through Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniels' office. Call 501-682-2007 for more information.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Cops Being Out-gunned

Click here to read a CNN story about the arms race between Police and Gangs. A festering problem continues.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Two Differing Models for Juvenile Detention Facilities and Treatment...Missouri vs Texas

NPR Investigative Series Examines Two Models for treating youth offenders. One seems to work, the other seems to harm.

All Things Considered,
October 30 & 31, 2007

Part I: Missouri Sees Teen Offenders as Kids, Not Inmates

At the Northwest Regional Youth Center in Kansas City, Mo., a science class is under way with students eagerly discussing botany and roots.The scene resembles a science classroom at any urban public high school except for the thick screens on the windows.A tall chain-link fence surrounds the building, but inside there are few signs that these 10 teenagers are confined. They wear regular clothes and the teachers and staff are dressed casually.

The Northwest Regional Youth Center is where Missouri sends some of its most troubled — and troublesome — juvenile offenders. Street thugs from St. Louis mix with gang members from Kansas City and pint-sized, rural car thieves, yet there's a sense of calmness. It's part of Missouri's treatment-oriented approach toward juveniles where lockups are designed to resemble college dorms and offenders are treated firmly, seriously and humanely.

Offenders as Citizens

Tim Decker who runs the Missouri Division of Youth Services, says the goal is for young offenders to turn their lives around and not return. The way to make their criminal behavior stop, he says, is to help them get their lives on track. The result of Missouri's focus on rehabilitation is a 7.3 percent recidivism rate.

"Our first and primary function is public safety. We have young people who've become a problem in our community and that needs to stop," Decker says.

The Northwest Regional Youth Center is an old elementary school that houses 30 teenagers in three "teams" of 10. Each boy spends most of his day with nine other boys. They go to class in the same classroom, play basketball together, bunk in the same room and eat together. In the evening, they attend group therapy and counseling sessions as a group.

Barry Krisberg, president of the National Council on Crime and Delinquency, praises Missouri's approach and says states with troubled juvenile corrections systems could learn from its system."The basic logic of youth corrections is that if you treat young people like inmates, they'll act like prisoners," Krisberg says. "If you treat them like young people capable of being citizens, they'll much more likely act like citizens."

An Innovative Approach

Reggie, 16, came to the center five months ago, but he's been in juvenile detention facilities almost continuously since he was 13. His room, with a dozen bunk beds lining the wall, is festively decorated for Halloween with cardboard cutouts of black bats and orange pumpkins on the walls. He says the worst thing about being at the center is not seeing his family.

"That hurt me more than anything, just knowing that I can't just pick up the phone, call my family — know what they're up to," Reggie says. "I just can't go to the next room and expect my momma to be there or see my sister. Or go downstairs. I can't do any of that."

Reggie says he started stealing cars with his older brother when he was only 9 years old. One of eight children, Reggie was raised by a single mother who often shuttled the family between homeless shelters. He says therapy has made him think about how his chaotic childhood affected his life.

"I didn't have a lot of things that other kids had. I couldn't read, write or spell. I was class clown. That's what led up to me doing crime," Reggie says. "I'm not going to put everything off on that because it's got a lot to do with me making the right decisions, but it also has a lot to do with how I was brought up."

Reggie says he's been treated differently at the center. When he was first arrested, he couldn't read or write. Now Reggie is working toward his GED. Therapy has allowed him to let down his street-tough facade and talk about being angry and hurt. He says he hopes eventually to go to college and become a police officer.

Part II: Crisis-Prone Texas Juvenile Facilities Look to Reform

The Texas juvenile corrections system is in a deep crisis. Allegations of physical and sexual abuse at youth prisons in Texas have led to arrests and firings of top officials and prompted a push to reform.

Evins Regional Juvenile Center in Edinburg, Texas, has played a central role in the scandals rocking the Texas Youth Commission. The center is one of 22 youth prisons run by the Texas Youth Commission and it is emblematic of the crisis facing the commission.

Failing to Protect Youth

Evins, a high-security facility located in a dusty little town in the Rio Grand valley just miles from the Mexico border, receives young offenders from around the state, including Dallas, Houston, Beaumont and even El Paso, which is 800 miles away. A 14-foot chain-link fence surrounds the compound, which houses 240 teens. Inside, boys in grey T-shirts and black athletic shorts, under the close watch of guards, march across the 100-acre campus.

Earlier this year, the U.S. Department of Justice issued a report saying that conditions at the 240-bed prison violate the constitutional rights of the youth confined there. The report said that assaults at the facility are five times the national average and that the institution, "fails to adequately protect the youths in its care from youth and staff violence."

The problems at Evins are numerous. Like most Texas juvenile detention facilities, it is understaffed. There have been riots. In March, the superintendent was fired. Juan Gonzales, an employee for 16 years at Evins, was promoted to the facility's assistant superintendent in September. He says youth offenders, who range in age from 13 to 20, come to Evins for myriad crimes.

"We don't have a lot of kids for murder," he says, "because there are other programs that specialize in those kinds of kids. But from aggravated assaults to burglary, sexual assaults, anything like that."

Young Offenders Get No Privacy

One of the most problematic areas at Evins are the open-bay, 96-bed dormitories. Each dorm is split into pods with 24 metal beds and two metal tables bolted to the floor. Correctional officers monitor the dorms from a control center in the middle of the complex. Michael, who's serving a 15-year sentence for aggravated robbery, says there are often fights at night and there's never any privacy.

"You're right next to everybody," Michael says. "When you take showers everybody's right there. When you use the restroom somebody's right next to you. No matter what you do, you ain't got no privacy."

Michael is hoping to be paroled when he turns 20, but he also could be sent to an adult prison to finish his sentence. He worries that if he gets into fights here, it will hurt his chances for parole. But he says it's hard to stay out of trouble "because there are a lot of younger kids and they don't know how to act. The hardest thing is keeping from beating them up. It's hard trying to maintain control to get out of here."

Texas Seeking Alternatives

For those residents who can't maintain control, there is an isolation area called the Security Unit where as many as 30 people are kept in isolation cells. All the cells are occupied. In one cell, a 13-year-old near the door screams profanities and bangs on his cell walls. Assistant Superintendent Gonzales says teens can be held in this isolation unit — at times just until they calm down — or for as long as 90 days.

By comparison, in Missouri, there are only nine isolation cells in the entire state for a system serving 1,000 youth offenders. Evins, along with the rest of the facilities run by the Texas Youth Commission, is attempting to change and to become a bit more like Missouri, where the focus is on small, treatment-orientated group homes.

Missouri has reaped the benefits of an alternative system. Tim Decker, the director of the Missouri Division of Youth Services, says Missouri's recidivism rate is less than 10 percent. According to the Texas Youth Commission report, the recidivism rate in Texas tops 50 percent.

Evins is shutting down one of its large dorms and building individual cells. It also offers education and counseling for its residents, but in this isolated corner of the state, it's often difficult to attract and keep professional staff. Will Harrell, who earlier this year was appointed as the ombudsman for the Texas Youth Commission, credits Missouri with offering a model for reform, but he says whatever changes are adopted in Texas will be unique to the state and will take time.

"It's a transition and a difficult one at that," Harrell says, "but everyone needs to understand that it took many years to get to the crisis that imploded the agency earlier this year, and it's going to take a while to stabilize the agency and move forward."

Harrell says progress is being made, but he also warns that it will take increased resources and political will to build a safer, more effective juvenile corrections system in the Lone Star State.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

A Wonderful way to Reach Children Early

This program was started by nationally syndicated columnist Jim Davidson and is reaching children in a remarkable way. For more information contact Jim at

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

KIPP Schools making a difference around the country

New Education Plan: 'Work Hard. Be Nice. No Shortcuts'
Knowledge Is Power Program Sends 80 percent of Its Students to College

Oct. 15, 2007
From World News with Charles Gibson

Click Here to Watch the Video

All too often in U.S. public education, ZIP code is destiny. Kids from poor neighborhoods are six times less likely to graduate from high school than their middle-class peers, and attempts to close that gap have been the source of exhaustive research and expensive battles. But as politicians argue over No Child Left Behind and school boards debate whole language versus phonics, a pair of teachers has quietly spent the past decade developing a magic formula that sends low-income kids to college at an astounding rate.

It may be as quaint as the eat-right-and-exercise model of weight loss, but those are the very real pillars beneath the Knowledge Is Power Program, known as KIPP. It was developed in 1995 by two young, idealistic fourth-grade teachers in Houston. As members of the Teach for America corps, Dave Levin and Mike Feinberg landed in a barrio school and quickly had their grand aspirations beaten to a pulp by reality.

Despite their best efforts, an alarming number of their students went on to middle school only to drop out, join gangs or become parents. "At first, it was very easy to go into the teacher's lounge in elementary school and point the finger," Feinberg told me. "Blame the other schools, blame the district, blame the kids, blame their parents, blame the community. And we had an epiphany one night where we realized you know what, all this finger pointing is ... just adding to the problem. And it's not finding a solution.

"With U2's "Achtung Baby" playing on auto-repeat, the two pulled an all-nighter in front of their Apple Mac Classic and created a model for, as they say, "better teaching and more of it." Their ideal school day would run from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., with classes held every other Saturday and for three weeks during the summer. A "KIPPster" spends 60 percent more time in class than a peer in a typical public school. And KIPPsters leave their nine-hour school day with another two hours of homework. "There's no such thing as a middle-school kid who gets off at 3 and says, 'Boy, I'm beat. I need a nap.'" Feinberg said. "They're going to be somewhere, doing something. So the question is, can we give them something productive, constructive and fun to do, versus just hanging out on the streets."

They convinced the Houston school district to try out their ideas as a charter model. Charter schools are public schools, open and free to anyone, but they take less tax money per student in exchange for more freedom. A charter school principal can hire, fire and promote teachers based on merit rather than seniority. Levin and Feinberg recruited the sort of teachers willing to put in long days and still be available via cell phone 24/7.

Those first two schools were so successful so fast that the Fisher family donated $15 million of its Gap retail fortune to "KIPPnotize" other needy districts. In the 11 years since Levin and Feinberg's all-nighter, there are now 57 KIPP schools in 17 states and the District of Columbia. Most of their students enter these middle schools two grade levels behind. And after three years in KIPP, most go on to elite prep or magnet high schools, and 80 percent go to college, a rate four times higher than their public school counterparts.

Visit one KIPP school, and the thirst for learning is obvious. "Work hard, be nice" isn't just a slogan on the wall. It is witnessed in the halls. No slamming lockers, no mayhem, just serene, focused sixth-graders killing time between classes reading or chatting softly. Learning is cool. Kids feel secure. There are no locks on the lockers. Ask a fifth-grader when he'll go to college, and he'll shout "2015!" without a second's hesitation.

It takes serious cash to open a KIPP school. The Fishers are now in for $50 million, while Bill and Melinda Gates pledged $10 million to expand KIPP's efforts. And as the program expands, there has been some pushback from teacher's unions in certain states. Public school advocates often accuse charters of poaching the best students with the most motivated parents. But raves for KIPP far outnumber the criticisms. If public schools are like the U.S. post office, KIPP is a FedEx; hyperefficient and motivated; the metaphorical rising tide that lifts all boats."As long as people are making excuses, we're never going to advance the ball on public education," Feinberg said. "So wherever there are these 'yes, buts ...' we want to start schools under these same conditions, under the same social, economic, political and legal conditions to prove what can and should be happening across the board. Because we wholeheartedly believe that the day these excuses end is the day solutions are going to begin."

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Little Rock in 1994

Friday, September 28, 2007

Little Rock Shoot Out

Bullets fly across rush-hour traffic; 1 dead, 1 injured
No arrests yet in Asher shootout
By Jacob Quinn Sanders

LITTLE ROCK — A wild rush-hour shooting Thursday that sent bullets flying across Little Rock’s Asher Avenue and cars swerving to avoid the chaos left one man dead and another shot in the gut, police and witnesses said.

According to their accounts, a group of men drove up and parked about 5 p.m. in the small lot next to the Pro-Cut & Styles barbershop on Asher just east of Fair Park Boulevard. The men - three or four, witnesses said - walked toward another group, hanging out in the parking lot of the XXPress Auto garage just south across Asher.

Before they even hit the sidewalk, witnesses said, they opened fire.

“I’m not kidding you, it sounded like someone was playing the drums, there was so much shooting,” said Kevin Hamilton, 52, a contractor from North Little Rock. “I don’t even think I saw people being shot at.I just saw people shooting.”

He said he and a friend and the friend’s daughter leapt across an alley and huddled next to the western wall of Hub Cap Annie’s.

Shots flew back across Asher, and then more shooting came from a man police identified as the owner of XXPress. The man, whose name police did not release, fired as he chased men from the first group across the street toward the barbershop.

“I saw two of them coming toward me, right toward me, and at that moment I didn’t think to move,” Hamilton said. “If they wanted to shoot me, they could have shot me easy, we were that close. But they just ran on by and jumped a fence and took their guns with them.”

The XXPress owner jumped in front of their car, witnesses said, which police described as a maroon Chevrolet Caprice.

“He was yelling at the driver, ‘Halt! Halt! Don’t you go any-where,’” Hamilton said. “But that driver took off, and the dude shot at the car as it headed off.”

In the firefight, one man got hit in the chest, witnesses said, and others loaded him in a car and drove to St. Vincent Infirmary Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead, police said. Another man, who police said took a bullet to the torso just below the ribs, staggered to the Gene Rush Garage a block away, where someone called 911.

Police declined late Thursday to release the name of either victim, even though relatives had been notified. Detectives said they had a suspect in mind but would not identify him publicly.
The owner of XXPress was taken to the Little Rock Police Department’s detective division for interviews.

“Right now, we’re not sure why he might have been involved, other than he might have thought he was helping somebody,” police spokesman Lt. Terry Hastings said at 6 p.m., standing in a parking lot on Asher.

The capital city’s 34th homicide of 2007 closed Asher totraffic for more than two hours after the shootout. Crime-scene tape expanded across Asher and business parking lots like yellow plastic spiderwebs as more detectives examined the scene. Spectators congregated in small groups behind the yellow lines, but seemed mostly curious, talking on cellphones and asking each other or passing officerswhat happened.

Crime-scene specialists left orange cones marking possible evidence in clusters - four here, three there, 18 in all, most marking shell casings. One bullet pierced a metal garage door at XXPress, and another passed sideways through the taillight of a Cadillac parked at the barbershop across the street.

For all the bullets fired, few seemed to have hit anything other than the two men.

“This is just a mess,” Hamilton said. “I’m mad. Mad that this could happen in the middle of a busy street. Mad that somebody’s failed at giving these people some sense. Why did I have to see something like this happen ?”
Click here to see KTHV's coverage and video.

This article was published Friday, September 28, 2007.
Arkansas, Pages 13, 22 on 09/28/2007

Monday, September 24, 2007

Violent Crimes Up, Experts Blame Gangs, Youth Violence, Less Police

U.S. violent crime rises in 2006
Mon Sep 24, 2007
By James Vicini

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The number of U.S. violent crimes increased in 2006 for the second consecutive year, with more than 17,000 murders nationwide, the FBI said on Monday.

Criminal justice experts have blamed the crime increases on gangs, youth violence, more gun crimes and fewer police on the beat. The experts have been unsure whether the numbers for 2006 represent a temporary upswing or the start of a long-term trend.

The FBI reported an estimated 1.4 million violent crimes nationwide in 2006, an increase of nearly 2 percent from the previous year. The number of murders committed last year increased by a similar amount from 2005.

An estimated 90 percent of the murders last year occurred in metropolitan areas, and firearms were used in nearly 70 percent, the FBI said.

Reacting to the latest statistics, Justice Department spokesman Brian Roehrkasse said that violent crime remained a challenge in some communities.

Today's FBI report shows that violent crime continues to trouble our nation," added Rep. Lamar Smith of Texas, the ranking Republican on the House Judiciary Committee. "Whether it's the increase in violent street gangs, the scourge of illegal drugs or the dangers our children face online, crime threatens American families today," he said.

According to the report, law enforcement authorities made more arrests for drug abuse violations in 2006 -- an estimated 1.9 million arrests or about 13 percent of the total number of arrests -- than for any other offense.

A group supporting the regulation of marijuana in a manner similar to alcohol criticized the record number of U.S. marijuana arrests last year.

"The bottom line is that we are wasting billions of dollars each year on a failed policy," said Rob Kampia of the Marijuana Policy Project. "Despite record arrests, marijuana use remains higher than it was 15 years ago, when arrests were less than half the present level."

The FBI in June released preliminary crime numbers for 2006. Monday's report contained the final numbers, which were slightly higher for murders and violent crimes than those released in June.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Check This Out

Be Strong - Not Violent: A Community Toolkit to Prevent and Reduce Gangs and Youth Violence

The problems of gangs and youth violence cross all ethnic, financial and social barriers. This toolkit will help your community be proactive in addressing gangs and youth violence before widespread fear and denial lead to an ineffective response. Includes CD with 3 PowerPoint presentations; PSA for television; manual with reproducible handouts addressing general information on gangs and youth violence, gang symbols, graffiti, safety tips for teens, and the role of, and action steps for, parents, grandparents, business and the faith community. Also includes strategies to mobilize your community, and a how to guide for developing a community-based Gang Task Force. A list of resources addressing gangs and youth violence, as well as resources to help build strong, resilient youth is included, as is a Zero Tolerance sticker (decal).

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

About Steve's Public Presentations

Lecture title:

Current Trends and Realities: Gangs, Posses, Cliques and Crews

What it does:

In this program Steve Nawojczyk gives an up-to-date perspective on current gang and clique trends and youth violence using a highly audio-visually driven presentation format.

Topics for discussion will include history and identification of gangs (past and current), profiling gang recruits, the reasons youth join gangs, gang recruiting practices many groups use as well as the basics of hand sign and graffiti interpretation.

It is a straight forward, fact-filled, thought provoking, and realistic look at the dangers and consequences of gang involvement and what can happen if a community does not respond to the issue.

Finally, the program addresses possible community solutions.

Having spoken around the country, Steve gives some insight on what programs have worked in other communities; moreover, he explains what has worked in North Little Rock, AR where he is the city’s Director of Youth Services.

Over the past five years, the city has developed the NLR ACTION plan, a concise community action plan that has proven to alleviate juvenile crime and gang and clique involvement by providing the needs most at-risk youth are seeking.

The program also highlights some the successful collaborations between governmental departments, youth service delivery agencies and other programs that have made an incredible impact on the lives of many youth and the community at large in North Little Rock, AR.

For more information, pricing and scheduling, email Steve at: or call 501-940-4264

Monday, August 20, 2007

Time Once Again for the School Assembly

Can you decipher this paper taken from a middle-school student? You will be able to once you sit through one of Steve's highly acclaimed teacher and community presentations.

"Steve doesn't talk to the kids, he talks with them. They understand he walks the walk and knows the reality of the streets. In short, they listen to his powerful message." 9th grade school Principal

For information on Steve's public presentations, including letters from various officials, teachers and others along with newspaper articles and other useful data, click here and download the PDF.

In order to maintain peaceful hallways, a message of hope and reaching out to one another must be lived in the schools. These presentations are designed to motivate and excite a campus to become a place of change. What happens in the schools echoes on the streets of our communities. Steve's community and school lectures have a proven track record.

For information on what is involved in Steve making a visit to your community contact him direct at: or by calling 501.940.4264. Visit  

You might also want to visit my new discussion group area at:  but first you will have to become a member by emailing me at and I will send you an invite.  I will be posting various things not available to non-members at that site such as right now members can download the thirty minute documentary "Ain't No Deny'n" a highly acclaimed mini-documentary first released in 1996.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Secretary Powell's call to action in America's schools

NY Daily News
Sunday, July 29th 2007

Colin Powell

I am often asked what advice I would give someone about to enter the military. I say, as I have said countless times, "complete your mission." I suppose that is to be expected from a general. Yet, the real question is: Why isn't that expected from all adults - particularly when it comes to raising our children? I imagine that most Americans would be shocked to learn that our nation, the richest in the world, finishes next-to-last among 21 developed countries in child well-being. Babies born here are less likely to see their first birthday than babies born in more than 20 other countries - and infant mortality among African-Americans is double the national average. In fact, just this week we learned that one in 10 New York kids lives in extreme poverty - a rate higher than the embarrassing national rate of 8%. Add to this the startling fact that every 29 seconds, another student gives up on school. There are about 2,000 high schools in the United States where graduation is a rarity. These high schools, sometimes called "dropout factories," are mainly found in large cities like New York, where 40% of students fail to complete high school on time.

Why should we care? Because dropouts are much more likely to be unemployed, live in poverty, receive public assistance, be unhealthy and become single parents with children who themselves go on to drop out. They are more than eight times as likely to wind up incarcerated as a person with at least a high school diploma.

A few tweaks here and there will not rise to this challenge. We need a mass mobilization that draws on all our strengths. We need an integrated approach to investing in our youth, one that involves the family, the school and the community. Such a philosophy is already succeeding at The Vito Marcantonio School (PS/IS 50) in East Harlem. Three years ago, PS/IS 50 was on the road to failure. Gangs were a problem and one-third of PS/IS 50's students scored far below the standards on math and literacy tests. Then came a remarkable principal on a mission named Rebekah Marler-Mitchell, whom schools chancellor Joel Klein persuaded to take on the challenge. Between her leadership, the support of City Year and the Children's Aid Society, and a whole-child focus - working relentlessly not only on kids' academic well-being but also on their home life, neighborhoods and other influences - these kids are turning the corner.

Now, gangs are gone. Test scores are rising. But more importantly, PS/IS 50 is a caring community, both inside and outside the school. Success stories like this remain, for far too many young people, the exception. As the organization that I was proud to have founded and that my wife, Alma, now leads, America's Promise Alliance, enters its second decade, we must all do better. Here's how: Research shows that when young people receive four of five basic resources, which we call the Five Promises - caring adults, safe places, a healthy start, effective education and opportunities to help others - they are twice as likely to receive A's in school, twice as likely to avoid violence and 40% more likely to volunteer.

Together, we must ensure that 15 million more at-risk American young people experience these promises. Don't look at young people who are angry or adrift, standing on some city streetcorner, and think they're someone else's problem. They're not. By volunteering to help in this battle, you can help us win the war. When I was growing up in the South Bronx, I had a teacher I will never forget. Her name was Miss Ryan. She didn't let us get away with anything - because she was determined that we would succeed, despite the tough odds against many of us. Miss Ryan completed her mission every day no matter what the challenges.

It's time for our nation to complete its mission by investing in the whole child. Our kids need us. Our nation needs us. And failure is not an option.

Powell, former U.S. secretary of state and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is founding chairman of America's Promise Alliance.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Forming friendships, changing lives

In nine years, PAL has grown and impacted many kids

By Carson Fant and D.J. Smith
NLR Times
Thursday, July 26, 2007

Since September 1998, when 120 kids took to the field as flag football teams representing the 10 North Little Rock police substations in the newly formed Police Athletic League (PAL), the program has grown tenfold, now numbering more than 1,200 kids who participated in a multitude of year-round programs.

“The whole basis of PAL is trying to provide kids with opportunity,” said Police Sgt. Scott Yielding, one of those responsible in forming the program that launched nine years ago.

Those opportunities include realizing life’s potential; former PAL kids of other chapters include: boxing legend Muhammad Ali, Secretary of State Colin Powell, and entertainers Billy Joel and Bill Cosby.

The PAL program has benefited innumerable children in 343 chapters nationwide since its foundation in New York City in 1914 by Police Commissioner Arthur Woods. A 1914 New York Times article championed the creation of “safe play streets” by commenting it would “reduce the temptations of wrongdoings by keeping children off the streets and by giving them a chance for wholesome play under proper supervision.”

“In Rose City at the time [1998], the big problem was kids were just walking in packs down the middle of the street,” Yielding said. “Every crime watch meeting you went to was [comments on] ‘kids, kids, kids.’”

Then Assistant City Attorney Paul Suskie, with Yielding, Sgt. Jim Bowman, and local Deli-Mart owner Linda Tredway, started with a budget of $5,000 from the state’s Juvenile Emergency fund and a $7,000 procurement from the city championed by Mayor Pat Hays. These and other volunteers put into motion a program that is now recognized nationally for its innovative – and frugal – ability to impact the kids and communities of North Little Rock.

In the past, dive, art, photography, and archery programs have been offered. Football, baseball, T-ball, basketball and cheerleading have become the core activities, but 18 different programs are now available.

More than 80 volunteers, still predominately police officers but enhanced with willing parents, using “around $60,000 a year,” now allow these kids to occupy their time in positive endeavors. At about $50 per child, the results are hard to ignore.

The drop in juvenile crime, though not immediate, soon became significant as more programs and volunteers were incorporated to increase the numbers of kids participating. Statistics from the summers of 2002 and 2003, when a full-time dedicated PAL officer to oversee the program was established, were compared. In Rose City area alone juvenile arrests went from 26 to two and burglaries were down 40 percent, Yielding said.

“Well, once the programming really kicked in, and we got a got foothold of the number of kids working it, the [crime] pretty much stopped,” Yielding explained. “I feel like they just had different activities to participate in. They were just given something to do.”

Officer Matt Grace has been in the program from the start as a coach, and is now the dedicated PAL officer responsible for the day-to-day operation. Grace said the impact alone in developing a closer relationship between the police officers and neighborhood kids is worth it and marked by “so many stories [from officers]…The kids talk to you now.”

Yielding remembered when recent North Little Rock High School graduate Rod Jackson and other kids first came out to play PAL baseball saying, “Rod’s been with us basically the whole time PAL’s been here. He’s kind of grown up with us.”

“The first day of practice we threw the gloves out on the floor,” Yielding said. “They all put them on backwards. Baseball was just something they never really thought about.”

Though Jackson stopped playing in PAL programs, that didn’t stop him from being involved in a bigger way. He worked long days on the baseball and softball fields “with officer Grace helping him to lay sod, shovel dirt, you name it…[It’s] a reflection on Jackson’s character,” Yielding said.

“He’s volunteered every bit of it. You can just tell that he wants to be involved and help to give back. For an 18-year-old to spend every day out at the ballpark working his butt off for no reason, that’s something you don’t really see very often.”

Jackson said umpiring was difficult with fans and coaches yelling at him, “But it was all worth it for the kids.”

In August, Jackson will report for Air Force basic training in San Antonio. After the six-week training course, Jackson said he will realize a desire to be able to specialize in the field of medicine. Yielding’s wife Christina said they plan to attend Jackson’s graduation ceremony, “because we are so proud of him.” Having gotten to know him over the years the Yieldings have spent coaching him, Jackson has become “another son to us.”

PAL is already planning to expand into other areas of North Little Rock and opened a part-time center in Levy this July. Both Yielding and Grace are looking forward to the opportunities that a new center will provide. Former North Little Rock police officer Darin Archer and local businessman Lindsey Clyburn, who donated the building that serves as the center, are both black belts in tae kwon do and will run the center.

Archer’s 1995-2003 Ranger program of scuba diving and cave exploration predated PAL but became the first official program besides flag football when Archer agreed to Yielding’s suggestion it be incorporated in 1998.

“We wanted for about two or three years to try to get back out in reach of more of the city, and Levy is where we wanted to do it,” Yielding said. “I can’t tell you how excited we are about Levy.”

The center in Levy will offer tae kwon do, dance and sewing classes, among other activities. “That center is going to open up a lot of doors for the kids in that area,” Grace said. “Hopefully in the future we can look at expanding to different areas, maybe downtown, Lakewood and Park Hill also.”

Grace said, “We had a good year as far as family involvement – a lot more than I can remember,” but Yielding added he sees a real need to create teams because “there are so many kids that are wanting to play.”

“That’s the goal – to keep expanding [and] more money for more equipment – we could do a lot with it,” Grace said. “More volunteers would be nice.”

Click here to visit the National PAL website

Saturday, July 21, 2007

CRIP Gang Leader's 55 Year Prison Sentence to Stand

Notorious Crip Gang Leader Bobby Banks' attempt to overturn his convictions on drug and other charges was shot down by an appeals court. From the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette- (Click here for a previous posting about Banks)

Appeals court: Gang leader’s convictions stay

Bobby Glenn Banks’ complaints of trial fail to sway federal panel

By Linda Satter

Saturday, July 21, 2007

LITTLE ROCK — A federal appeals court on Wednesday upheld last year’s drug-trafficking and police-intimidation convictions of Bobby Glenn Banks, a well-known former gang leader in Little Rock who is serving a 55-year sentence.

After Banks’ conviction, then-U.S. Attorney Bud Cummins described him as someone whose criminal activities “have plagued this community for years,” as he operated a drug business “through a system of gang-related threats, intimidation and violence.”

Police breathed a sigh of relief upon learning of the conviction, citing Banks’ position of several years as the reputed leader of the 23rd Street Crips, also known as the Wolfe Street Crips, and his notoriety dating to 1994, when he was featured prominently in an HBO documentary on the city’s growing problem with street gangs.

On Feb. 7, 2006, a federal jury convicted Banks, now 31, of multiple charges related to a drug-trafficking conspiracy that originally included 16 other defendants and a single charge of threatening a Little Rock police officer who had trailed him for years.

U.S. District Judge George Howard Jr., who died earlier this year, sentenced Banks on July 21, 2006, to 55 years in prison.

In appealing his convictions and sentence, Banks raised four issues. He first argued that Howard failed to remedy a discovery violation that occurred when prosecutors failed to provide his lawyer with a copy of audio recordings. However, the threejudge panel of the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected that argument, noting that the lawyer acknowledged he had received transcripts of the recordings and failed to take advantage of an opportunity to review the materials before trial.

Banks also complained that the judge should not have let jurors see a letter containing two references to the “Crips,” but the panel said the argument lacked merit because the references were fleeting, vague and not emphasized by prosecutors.

Banks also argued that Howard should have compelled threewitnesses to appear on his behalf midway through the trial. The panel noted that Banks’ lawyer, Ron Nichols, did not follow proper procedures to ensure the witnesses’ presence and that the judge nevertheless tried to accommodate the request until learning that doing so would delay the trial unnecessarily, especially when Nichols did not explain how the witnesses were material to Banks’ defense.

Finally, Banks disputed the amount of drugs, particularly cocaine, linked to him through testimony and used to calculate his sentence. The appellate panel rejected that argument as well, saying the total quantity from witness accounts equaled about 2.8 kilograms, well above the 1.5 kilograms that the government sought to attribute to Banks. The panel also noted that Howardpostponed the sentencing hearing to allow Banks to contest the amounts in writing.

The panel included U.S. Circuit judges Roger Wollman of Sioux Falls, S.D.; Arlen Beam of Lincoln, Neb.; and Steven M. Colloton of Des Moines, Iowa.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Justice Policy Institute: Gang Wars - Research Calls for Better Intervention and Prevention Programs

Report: Gang Suppression Doesn't Work
from The Associated Press

Anti-gang legislation and police crackdowns are failing so badly that they are strengthening the criminal organizations and making U.S. cities more dangerous, according to a report being released Wednesday.

Mass arrests, stiff prison sentences often served with other gang members and other strategies that focus on law enforcement rather than intervention actually strengthen gang ties and further marginalize angry young men, according to the Justice Policy Institute, a Washington, D.C., think tank that advocates alternatives to incarceration.

"We're talking about 12-, 13-, 14-, 15-year-olds whose involvement in gangs is likely to be ephemeral unless they are pulled off the street and put in prison, where they will come out with much stronger gang allegiances," said Judith Greene, co-author of "Gang Wars: The Failure of Enforcement Tactics and the Need for Effective Public Safety Strategies."

The report is based on interviews and analysis of hundreds of pages of previously published statistics and reports. And though it is valid and accurate, the ideas raised in it are not new, said Arthur Lurigio, a psychologist and criminal justice professor at Loyola University of Chicago.
"These approaches, although they sound novel, are just old wine in new bottles," he said. "Gang crime and violence in poor urban neighborhoods have been a problem since the latter parts of the 19th century."

Lurigio, other academics and gang intervention workers have echoed elements of the report that found gangs need to be viewed as a symptom of other problems in poor communities, such as violence, teen pregnancy, drug abuse and unemployment.

The report says Los Angeles and Chicago are losing the war on gangs because they focus on law enforcement and are short on intervention.

It cites a report this year by civil rights attorney Connie Rice, who was hired by Los Angeles to evaluate its failing anti-gang programs. Her report called for an initiative to provide jobs and recreational programs in impoverished neighborhoods.

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Police Chief William Bratton both commended Rice's report. But in February, they unveiled a strategy that focused on targeting the city's worst gangs with arrests and civil injunctions that prohibit known gang members from associating with one another in public. Rice describes the city's policy on arresting the city's estimated 39,000 gang members as "stuck on stupid."

Wes McBride, executive director of the California Gang Investigators Association, dismissed the findings of the report, which he said was written by "thug-huggers." The investigators association is a professional organization for police officers.

"Are they saying we can't put a thief in jail, we can't put a murderer in jail, that we should spank them, put a diaper on them, pat them on the bottom, hug them and let them go?" McBride said. "It's obviously a think tank report, and they didn't leave their ivory tower and spend any time on the streets."

"Gang Wars" also criticizes politicians who overstate the threat of criminal gangs and seek tougher sentences.

Greene specifically criticized a bill introduced by Sens. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, that would make it illegal to be a member of a criminal gang and would make it easier to prosecute some minors as adults.

But Feinstein spokesman Scott Gerber said the bill also calls for spending more than $400 million on gang prevention and intervention programs, which he said would be the largest single investment of its kind.

Associated Press writer Dan Strumpf in Chicago contributed to this report.
On the Net:

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

AETN to address violence in state with live program

CONWAY — The Arkansas Educational Television Network will present the live program “Violence in Arkansas,” at 7 p.m. Tuesday, July 24. Steve Barnes and Pamela Smith host.

In 2006, homicide across the U.S. was the second-leading cause of death for people ages 15-24 years old according to the Centers for Disease Control. This program will take a look at violent crime in Arkansas and explore prevention and intervention programs that seek to stem the violent trends around the state. A guest panel of crime prevention and intervention specialists and an interactive studio audience will address issues on violence. Panelists include: Steve Nawojczyk, youth services administrator for the city of North Little Rock; Dwayne Yarbrough, education specialist for the Arkansas Attorney General’s Office; Dr. Albert Kittrell, medical director for the Arkansas State Hospital; and Judge Willard Proctor of the Pulaski County Circuit Court 5th Division.

Sharing her story of loss will be Zena Cooper of North Little Rock whose two sons were both murdered. Marcus Cooper, 21, was caught between two men shooting at each other April 23, 2005. Eleven months later, 25-year-old Cortez Mallet was gunned down. To preserve her sons’ memory, she has begun driving an ice cream truck, which gives her the opportunity to visit with children about the importance of staying out of trouble and choosing the right friends.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

The No Snitching Culture Continues

A Little Girl Shot, and a Crowd That Didn’t See

New York Times

TRENTON, July 8 — A woman who was standing 10 feet away when a stray bullet from a gang fight struck 7-year-old Tajahnique Lee in the face told the police she had been too distracted by her young son to see who fired the shots.

A man who was also in the courtyard when that .45-caliber round blew Tajahnique off her bicycle told detectives he had been engrossed in conversation with neighbors and ducked too quickly to notice what had happened.

Indeed, at least 20 people were within sight of the gunfight among well-known members of the Sex Money Murder subset of the Bloods gang 15 months ago, but the case remains unsolved because not a single one will testify or even describe what they saw to investigators. The witnesses include Vera Lee, Tajahnique’s grandmother, who declined to be interviewed for this article. People who have spoken to her about the shooting said she would not talk to the police for fear she would “have to move out of the country.”

When it happened, Tajahnique’s shooting in the Wilson-Haverstick housing project in Trenton promised to become a tipping point in the city’s five-year struggle to control gangs, with residents furious that anyone could be callous enough to stage a gun battle in broad daylight where dozens of children were playing. The horror and anger inspired by Tajahnique’s image — her beatific smile, and the thought of her lying injured in a pool of blood as neighbors screamed — made gang violence the focal point of the city’s mayoral campaign and pressured the feuding gangs to announce a truce as the police arrested two of their members in connection with the shooting.

Instead, the case stands as a striking example of the way witness intimidation has stymied law enforcement and allowed gangs to tyrannize entire communities. The truce quickly unraveled. The charges against the two gang members were dropped within a month. Even a local program designed to coax young men out of gangs by buying them business suits has seen its limitations; one participant had his outfit designed in Bloods red.

Ten months after Tajahnique was wounded, 18-year-old Naquan Archie was shot and killed on the same corner during a robbery that the police believe was carried out by a member of the Bloods. Neighbors and detectives say there were at least three witnesses, but none have identified the gunman.

“I watched my nephew die in my apartment,” said Mr. Archie’s aunt, so terrified of retaliation that she would speak only on the condition her name not be published. “People saw him get shot. But they know what’s going to happen if they talk. There’s nothing anyone can do about it.”

Such silence has spread over the last decade in cities across the country, as the proliferation of gangs like the Crips, Bloods and Latin Kings has made witnesses an endangered and elusive component of countless criminal investigations. Criminologists say gang culture has made fair game of brutally punishing anyone who helps the police. What results is a self-perpetuating cycle of intimidation and helplessness: residents refuse to risk their lives by helping a police force that cannot protect them; the authorities say they are powerless to lock up gang members without witnesses willing to testify.

In Trenton, a city of 85,000 where the police estimate that the Bloods have as many as 2,000 members, overall crime is down and officials say violence is largely confined to areas where gangs are most prevalent. But gang killings remain a persistent problem. There were 20 homicides in the city last year; the police have made arrests in nine of the 16 killings they consider gang related, and in three of the others. In the first half of this year, murders increased by 50 percent.

“Our informants have told us what happened and given us a good idea of who is responsible” in Tajahnique’s case, said Capt. Joseph S. Juniak, head of Trenton’s criminal investigation bureau. “But getting someone to say it in court is a whole different matter.”

Bobby Johnson, a member of Sex Money Murder, said he had heard detailed accounts of the shooting, but would never discuss it with anyone outside the gang because “that’s the rules of the game.”

In the area of the Wilson-Haverstick Houses, where Tajahnique’s neighbors routinely encounter gang members in coin laundries and convenience stores, on street corners, at bus stops and occasionally in church, many people say that silence is a survival tactic.

“You just keep to yourself,” said Shaunte Bellamy, who raised her children in the project, explaining that she concerns herself only with what happens inside her own apartment. “If it didn’t happen in 3C, it didn’t happen to me.”

A Silent Insult

The gun battle that led to Tajahnique’s getting shot began with the fluttering of $1 bills.
Trenton police officers had been aggressively pressuring Sex Money Murder members who dealt cocaine in the Wilson-Haverstick Houses. The gang’s resulting financial woes had become so widely known that on the morning of March 31 last year, a leader of a rival group, the Gangsta Killer Bloods, drove through the housing project taunting the idled drug dealers by tossing dollars out the window of his pickup truck.

To members of Sex Money Murder, it was a disrespectful call to arms. Within an hour, about 30 of them had gathered at Coolidge and Eisenhower Avenues, waiting for a chance to strike back. Shortly after 5 p.m. that day — as residents and passers-by moved about the crowded housing complex — the truck returned.

The police say there were about six shots in 10 seconds. They said one — fired by a man who emerged from the crowd shouting, “This is it!” — missed the truck and hit Tajahnique as she rode a two-wheeler toward her grandmother’s apartment in the complex. The bullet passed in one cheek and out the other, knocking out two molars and clipping the tip of her tongue. She was the only person injured in the shootout.

The police descended en masse. Wilfredo Rodriguez, a Trenton detective who interviewed more than 100 people in the days after the shooting, said the anger in the eyes of many of Tajahnique’s neighbors made investigators hopeful that they would solve the case quickly.

Tajahnique became known in the news media as “Trenton’s Sweetheart,” and donations poured in to help pay her medical bills, send her to Disney World and buy her a new bike. A businessman from nearby Philadelphia offered a $70,000 reward, and Vera Lee appeared alongside him at a news conference to say, “They have to pay for what they did to my granddaughter.”

Leaders of Sex Money Murder had a news conference of their own to insist they had nothing to do with the shooting. They declared a cease-fire and accused the police of unfairly tarnishing their reputation. The police rounded up more than 100 suspected gang members, and, six days after the shooting, arrested two members of Sex Money Murder.

Trenton’s mayor, Douglas H. Palmer, who was in the final weeks of a heated re-election campaign, accompanied Tajahnique’s family to court for the bail hearing, vowing to rid the city of guns and gangs.

But the case fell apart quickly. The police said that the lone witness had offered his information in an attempt to win leniency on an unrelated gun charge, and when detectives tried to corroborate his story they found he had lied about where he was during the shooting — and about his own name. Three weeks after the arrest, prosecutors released the two men.

By that time, the truce declared by the Bloods had dissolved. Members of Sex Money Murder had rekindled their drug business. Investigators who returned to the neighborhood to search for new witnesses found little more than closed doors.

“People don’t want to talk,” said a rap artist known as The Big Ooh who walks the neighborhood surrounded by an entourage. “Because they don’t want to take a bullet.”

In recent interviews, many who were asked about what they saw that afternoon mentioned Kendra DeGrasse, a Trenton woman who had planned to testify against her ex-boyfriend regarding a 2001 shootout with the police. Then in 2003 she received a letter from prison.

“If you come to court Monday to testify against me, it’s over for me as well as you and your son (straight like that),” read the letter, which handwriting experts attributed to the ex-boyfriend. “I am not afraid to die, what about you?”

Ms. DeGrasse recanted. Two years later, she was killed, an unsolved shooting the police call retaliatory.

“What are you going to do, testify so they can come back and get the rest of your family?” asked one of Tajahnique’s neighbors, who spoke on the condition she be identified only as Traci.
Tynesia Lee, Tajahnique’s mother, would not discuss the investigation, but said in an interview that she was relieved her family survived without further bloodshed.

“She still has nightmares about it sometimes, and she says she’s never going back there,” Tynesia Lee said as she held Tajahnique, whose bright smile and radiant face show no signs of the gunshot. “She’s better, though. She came back.”

‘It Takes Time’

Little has changed at the intersection of Coolidge and Eisenhower. Drug dealers and prostitutes openly solicit business around the clock, as a network of sentries alerts others via cellphone to the arrival of the police or any unfamiliar visitor.

Officers have tried to counter the sophistication of local gangs by using databases to track their members’ movements. In February, in conjunction with other law enforcement agencies, including the state police, they arrested 47 suspected gang members.

Among them was Reginald Jackson, known as Hamburger, who the police believe was involved in the gunfight last year, but who is being held on unrelated charges. Mr. Jackson’s lawyer, Ed Heyburn, said he was not responsible for shooting Tajahnique.

Joseph J. Santiago, Trenton’s police director, said he was optimistic that detectives would eventually solve the case — and get a handle on the city’s gang problem — but he sees it as a protracted battle.

“Los Angeles has had a gang problem for 40 years, and they’re still trying to figure it out,” Mr. Santiago said. “Trenton has only had these kinds of gangs for five years or so. Hopefully, it won’t take us 40 years. But it takes time.”

Some community leaders are trying to speed that process by working to change gang culture from within. Earlie Harrell, a high-ranking member of Sex Money Murder who goes by the street name Messiah and helped broker the truce after Tajahnique’s shooting, worked with local ministers and business owners to create Buy a Brother a Suit. One weekend last month, 13 members of the gang, including a 7-year-old boy, were picked up in a limousine, fitted for tailored suits, then honored at a church ceremony heralding the beginning of a nonviolent chapter of their lives.

“I have a kid; I don’t want her to get shot, and I don’t want anyone else’s kid to get shot either, so we’ve got to teach these kids it’s not right, it’s not Blood, to go shooting people up,” said Mr. Harrell, 31. But he also tells young gang members “not to be talking about what they see, because they could get hurt.”

“If they know too much,” he added, “police might try to blame them for something they didn’t even do.”

The weekend after the suit ceremony, part of a broader effort known as the Trenton Peace Movement, two men were slain within a quarter mile of the church and the housing project. The police say both killings were gang related and occurred in front of more than 10 people.

No witnesses have come forward.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Gangs In Tennessee Creating Problems in Clarksville

Click here to read a story about gangs in Clarksville, Tennessee. (Be sure to check all the articles as it was a series over a couple of days.) It is still an amazing concept that officials continue to say "we don't want to legitimize gangs by talking about them." Hello!? Seems one would realize that this does exactly the opposite. Imagine a gonna-be gangster reading the paper and saying- "We will show them credibility."

I remember years ago being criticized for actually discussing teen suicide with, gasp, teens. People said I could be encouraging a youngster to end their life. Baloney. Of course we now know it is important to deal with these issues up front. Does not talking to teens about sex keep them from having it? Ha.

I certainly hope the community in Clarksville comes together to deal with the issue in a sane and safe fashion. Go to and download the Current Trend and Realities of Gangs in Arkansas file to see what they should do about the issue.

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Monday, June 18, 2007

From-Save Our Streets Television Show

Here is a short clip showing some OGs pleading for change in the lives of those younger than them. This aired on the "Save Our Streets" television show.


Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Race-Based Gangs

More ‘Ethnic Cleansing' Violence Hits Los Angeles

The December murder of a 14-year-old African-American girl, the latest apparent victim of Latino gang members' campaign to "ethnically cleanse" many neighborhoods in Los Angeles, has set off a political earthquake, prompting top city officials to acknowledge for the first time a frightening rise in racial killings by Southern California street gangs.

Cheryl Green, playing on her skateboard with a group of friends just south of 206th Street, was shot dead on Dec. 15 by two men who approached the group and began firing without uttering a word. Three others were wounded. Two members of the Latino 204th Street gang were later arrested in the killing.

The slaying prompted Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Police Chief William Bratton to hold a press conference on Jan. 18 to launch a major campaign against 10 street gangs, six of them Latino. "The 204th Street and Eastside Torrance gangs have contributed to the rise in racially motivated murders and other crimes," the mayor's office said in a press release. "204th Street has a long and violent history. This is especially true regarding crimes committed against African Americans."

Green's murder came just days after the Winter 2006 issue of the Intelligence Report went to press. That issue's cover story, "L.A. Blackout," detailed how the powerful Mexican Mafia, a prison-based gang, had given the "green light" to the many Latino gangs it controls in Southern California to terrorize and murder black people as part of a campaign to drive blacks from Latino neighborhoods.

Cheryl Green's murder was not the only such development.

On Dec. 28, a white man was stabbed 80 times, his throat slashed and his body dumped in the street. Police said Christopher Ash was killed by gang members because he witnessed Green's murder. Five men, including one of the two eventually arrested in Green's murder, were arrested and charged with capital murder.

On Jan. 26, three Latino gunmen stormed into a middle school gymnasium in L.A., shouted expletives and opened fire. Demetrius Perry, a 23-year-old black man with no gang ties, was killed. Police blamed an unnamed gang. Witnesses identified that gang as Florencia Trece, or F13, a Mexican Mafia affiliate.

While the vast majority of violence is intra-racial for both black and Latino gangs, interracial gang violence is on the rise. The Los Angeles Times reported an 11% increase in such crimes in L.A. County from 2002-2006, with Latino-on-black attacks rising from 247 to 269 and black-on-Latino attacks going from 213 to 240. A rise in similar violence was also reported in the nearby San Fernando Valley.

Najee Ali, a black community activist, said that Green's murder had nearly set off a racial gang war — a war he and Green's mother helped avert when they calmed enraged black gang members. He also disagreed with the contention by some Latino activists that "ethnic cleansing" was an unfair description of the crimes.

"Remember, even in Bosnia and even in Nazi Germany, it all started with just a handful of people being killed because of ethnicity. Then it mushroomed," Ali told the Intelligence Report. "If there is an orchestrated plan to push blacks out of neighborhoods, then we have to call it what it is."

Intelligence Report
Spring 2007

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Cheese: The Newest Kid Killer

Stopping a Kid Killer
A concoction called 'cheese' has led to 21 deaths in the Dallas area, and authorities worry it will spread.

By Catharine Skipp and Arian Campo-Flores

May 21, 2007 issue - Nick Cannata finally seemed to be pulling his life together. A bright kid and talented artist, he had plunged into a spiral of drug use in his early teens after his parents' divorce—marijuana, cocaine, then methamphetamine. But after attending a drug-rehab program in the fall of 2004, he seemed cheerful and motivated. By early 2005, he was doing his homework, going out with a new girl and testing drug-free. "Everything was falling into place," says his father, Dave Cannata, who lives in Coppell, Texas, outside Dallas. Unbeknownst to Dave, however, Nick was likely taking a new, sometimes hard-to-detect drug concoction called "cheese"—a mixture of heroin and cold medication. One Saturday night in June that year, Nick, 16, came home from a party in an apparently altered state. Dave was worried, but decided to let his son sleep it off. The next day, when Nick failed to emerge from his room, Dave went in. "It was not pretty," he recalls. "He was already gone."

Nick is now one of the first fatalities believed to be linked to cheese. Cheap, addictive and often deadly, the new drug has spread virulently in the Dallas area. Since 2005, the year of the first confirmed cheese death, an estimated 21 people have died from the drug. Most of them were young, white or Hispanic males. Cheese arrests among students in the Dallas Independent School District jumped from 90 in the 2005-2006 school year to 145 so far in 2006-2007. The drug's surge in Dallas bucks the national trend in heroin consumption, which declined from 94,000 users age 12 to 17 in 2002 to 60,000 in 2005, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Now the Drug Enforcement Administration is worried that cheese will spread to other parts of the country. The agency is investigating a few possible cases, including one in California.

Cheese is made by grinding up cold medication and mixing it with black-tar heroin, which is typically smuggled in by Mexican drug cartels. A $30 purchase of heroin can yield 40 to 50 cheese hits, each costing about $2—more affordable for users and more profitable for mixers. The drug, which is snorted, derives its name from a supposedly Parmesan-like appearance, though in reality, it looks more like coarse sand. Because the amount of heroin in cheese is sometimes small—as little as 3 percent—the drug rarely shows up in field tests. But the heroin quantity can be inconsistent. "Kids will be scoring 3 percent and all of a sudden, they get 9 or 10 percent, and you are dead," says James Capra, Special Agent in charge of the DEA's Dallas field division.

One of the most disturbing aspects of the cheese phenomenon is the users' age. Dallas police have arrested kids as young as 12—and in one case, the Dallas school district nabbed an 11-year-old. In fact, dealers use the drug's inoffensive moniker to market it to youth, says Capra. "Put yourself in that kid's mind," he says. " 'It's got a funny name, and it's only a couple of bucks'." The users' youth also complicates treatment. "Cognitively, they don't understand consequences," says Michelle Hemm, director of the Phoenix Academy of Dallas, a residential treatment facility for teens that's seeing a growing number of cheese cases. "This age group is developmentally hard to deal with."

Authorities are responding aggressively. The DEA and Dallas police have arrested low-level dealers and say they're working on several investigations targeting suppliers higher up the trafficking chain. The cheese craze recalls a trend that nearby Plano witnessed in the 1990s, when users mixed heroin with sleep aids. But "in less than two years, Dallas has exceeded the number of deaths that took Plano five years to get to," says Jeremy Liebbe, a narcotics officer with the Dallas school district. Law enforcement eventually stamped out the Plano problem with a series of high-level busts. Residents in Dallas—and communities beyond—can only hope authorities are as successful this time around.

Gangs Not Only on the Streets and in the Schools, But on the Internet Too

Gangs in Colorado Springs: On the Streets, In School, On Myspace

Any law enforcement officer in Colorado Springs will tell you gangs are a growing problem. With more transients moving to Colorado Springs from southern California and Chicago, local gangs have grown.

They continue to recruit new members. They have even recruited kids who are still in elementary school. Most of them get dragged in by older brothers or family members.

For nearly nine years, Ingrid McDonald has worked as a school resource officer in Colorado Springs. She said there is gang involvement in all grade levels. She said, "They're writing it in the graffiti in or around their schools or neighborhoods... they're writing things in their notebooks."

Colorado Springs gang members might not be hardcore gangsters, but McDonald said "wanna-be" gangsters are sometimes worse. She said, "They have to make a name for themselves... and sometimes they'll do that in really inappropriate ways."

Tom Peterson is a community parole officer for the Department of Corrections. As the city grows, he said so does the number of gangs. Peterson said, "We saw small sets of Crips and Bloods that were transplants from the west coast; now as the city's grown bigger we see more midwest gangs, gangs from chicago, etc."

Peterson said most gang members come from rough families. "So if a gang offers them some money, some love, some attention, that's a strong pull for a young guy."

Whether it is drug dealing, identity theft or other crime, he said they are all in it for money. He said, "As the gangsters say it, the 'S' with the two lines through it [$] is a big part of what they do and why they do it."

Peterson said street turf is constantly changing. "I mean if we talk about this a year from now, the conversation would probably be different."

Colorado Springs Police Lieutenant Thomas Harris said, "Do we have gang members? Yes. Is it a major problem? Not at this time."

Harris runs "COMMIT," the city's community impact team. By patrolling "hotspots," he said officers are targeting gang activity. He said, "We're looking at shots fired, disturbances, violent assaults, those are the kind of cases we look at."
They have partnered with other law enforcement, including FBI, ATF, probation and parole. Earlier in May, they busted a major gang network, seizing "four handguns, one rifle, 15 felonies, 11 misdemeanors."

Officers are also tracking graffiti. Harris said, "[Graffiti] can be an indicator of trouble brewing."
However, it is not just graffiti. Gangs have also logged onto

Local profiles show all sorts of affiliations: Bloods, Crips, Surenos, Nortenos. Users even post pictures of themselves, wearing gang colors and flashing hand signs. They also comment on each other's profiles, encouraging membership and making threats.

Officer McDonald said, "We want them to know that we're looking, and it's a challenge, because they'll change their profiles on us."

She said some of the content could put myspace users and their families in danger. She said, "When we find this, the school resource officers usually will confront those kids."

She said most parents have no clue what their kids are posting. "The parents need to start paying attention to that. That's where kids are putting out things to other public."

She said the best way to prevent gangs starts at home. "It doesn't hurt to still have that open communication, so they don't have to be afraid of us if something is going to happen."

Local law enforcement urges the community to report graffiti, report crime and talk with your kids.

Youth Violence/Crime Contributing to Nationwide Crime Spike

Crime Spike Blamed On Youth Violence, Gangs, Guns
Justice Department To Announce Results Of Nationwide Study

(CBS) WASHINGTON Increasing violence among teenagers and other youths appears to have contributed to a nationwide crime spike, the Justice Department said Tuesday.

Gangs and gun violence are partly to blame for the rise in crime that is on pace to increase for the second straight year, says Attorney General Alberto Gonzales in a prepared speech.

In response, the Justice Department is pledging to spend nearly $50 million this year to combat gangs and guns, and will push Congress to enact new laws to let the federal government better investigate and prosecute violent crime.

FBI data from last fall show violent crimes, including murders and robberies, rose by 3.7 percent nationwide during the first six months of 2006. Those findings came on top of a 2.2 percent crime hike in 2005 - the first increase since 2001.

Faced with the discouraging data, Gonzales last fall ordered a study of 18 cities and suburban regions to show why crime is surging.

According to Gonzales' prepared remarks and a Justice Department fact sheet, obtained by The Associated Press, the study found:

• That a growing number of offenders appear to be younger, and their crimes more violent, and that laws in some states provide few, if any, tough penalties on juvenile offenders.

• Many youths have little parental oversight and are too easily influenced by gang membership and glamorized violence in popular culture.

• Loosely organized gangs present the biggest concern for law enforcement officials because they are hard to investigate and their members often commit random acts of crime out of self-protection.

• Offenses committed by people using firearms pose a major threat not only to communities, but also to police. So-called "straw purchases," where gun owners buy their firearms through a go-between is an area of concern.

The Justice Department plans to distribute $18 million in grants nationwide this year to prevent and reduce illegal gun sales and other firearms crimes.

Gonzales also will announce spending $31 million in new funds this year to combat gangs, according to the Justice Department fact sheet. The department also is working on a new crime bill to help federal authorities assist local and state police in cases involving juvenile crime.

Gonzales urged Congress on Monday to strengthen laws to protect and prosecute counterfeiting, piracy and copyright infringement claims. The proposed legislation is called the Intellectual Property Protection Act of 2007.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

LA Gangs Out of Control

Click here to watch a CBS story about LA's crackdown on gangs. Are LA gangs involved in a race war? It might seem so. Please move to deal with these issues in your own communities, don't wait until there is a disaster of death.

Does the LAPD suffer from a "warrior" mindset? Read the CNN article here.


Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Justice Deptartment Expands Anti-Gang Initiative

Attorney General Gonzales Announces Expansion of Anti-Gang Initiative

On April 26, 2007, the U.S. Department of Justice issued the following press release:

Rochester, NY - Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales today announced the expansion of the Justice Department's Comprehensive Anti-Gang Initiative to include four additional sites targeting dangerous street gangs and promoting prevention efforts to keep communities and neighborhoods safe. Attorney General Gonzales made the announcement during a visit to Rochester, NY, one of four sites that will receive $2.5 million in additional grant funding to combat gang violence. Oklahoma City, OK, Indianapolis, IN, and Raleigh-Durham, NC were also selected to receive funding as part of the Department's Comprehensive Anti-Gang Initiative.

"Helping law enforcement, state and local leaders, and parents combat gang violence so that our nation’s youth can grow up in safe communities is one of the Justice Department’s top priorities," stated Attorney General Gonzales. "The Comprehensive Anti-Gang Initiative provides federal, state, and local law enforcement with additional resources to increase law enforcement and prevention efforts in targeted areas across the nation. Today’s announcement reinforces the Department's commitment to keeping America's neighborhoods safe."

In February 2006, Attorney General Gonzales announced the creation of the Justice Department's Comprehensive Anti-Gang Initiative, designed to support law enforcement combating violent gang crime, while also promoting prevention efforts that discourage gang involvement. As part of the initiative, in May 2006 the Department provided anti-gang resources for prevention, enforcement and offender reentry efforts to six sites across the nation: Los Angeles, CA, Tampa, FL, Cleveland, OH, Dallas/Ft. Worth, TX, Milwaukee, WI, and the "222 Corridor" that stretches from Easton to Lancaster in Pennsylvania. The Comprehensive Anti-Gang Initiative has already made strides in the original six sites. For example, in Cleveland one of the most violent gangs operating in the target area has been dismantled through both federal and state investigations and prosecutions that have resulted in 63 federal and state indictments. Fifty-five defendants have pled guilty and the remainder are awaiting trial.

The four additional sites were selected to receive these grant funds based on a variety of factors, including the need for concentrated anti-gang resources, established infrastructure to support the envisioned prevention, enforcement and re-entry components, and existing partnerships prepared to focus intensely on the gang problem. U.S. Attorneys in the four sites selected today will be responsible for coordinating federal, state and local efforts under this initiative.

The Justice Department's strategy to combat gang violence around the nation is two-fold: First, prioritize prevention programs to provide America's youth, as well as offenders returning to the community, with opportunities that help them resist gang involvement. Second, ensure robust enforcement policies when gang-related violence does occur.

The U.S. Attorney in the selected areas will work with state, local and community partners to implement strategies that address the following areas:

Prevention - The Department will make available approximately $1 million in grants per community to support comprehensive prevention efforts such as the Gang Reduction Program, which focuses on reducing youth-gang crime and violence by addressing the full range of personal, family and community factors that contribute to juvenile delinquency and gang activity.

Enforcement - The Department will make available approximately $1 million in grants per community to help support enforcement programs that will focus law enforcement efforts on the most significant violent gang offenders.

Prisoner Re-entry - The Department will make available approximately $500,000 per community to create re-entry assistance programs with faith-based and other community organizations that will provide transitional housing, job readiness and placement assistance, and substance abuse and mental health treatment to prisoners re-entering society.

Since 2001, the Department of Justice has allocated over $1.6 billion to combat violent crime at the federal, state, and local levels. The Comprehensive Anti-Gang Initiative complements existing Department of Justice programs to combat gangs and reduce gun-related crime throughout the country. Those programs include the Violent Crime Impact Teams, Safe Streets Task Forces and the Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN) initiative, under which the number of federal firearms prosecutions has more than doubled in the past six years, compared to the six years prior to PSN's implementation.

Justice Department Expands Anti-Gang Initiative

Attorney General Gonzales Announces Expansion of Anti-Gang Initiative

On April 26, 2007, the U.S. Department of Justice issued the following press release:

Rochester, NY - Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales today announced the expansion of the Justice Department's Comprehensive Anti-Gang Initiative to include four additional sites targeting dangerous street gangs and promoting prevention efforts to keep communities and neighborhoods safe. Attorney General Gonzales made the announcement during a visit to Rochester, NY, one of four sites that will receive $2.5 million in additional grant funding to combat gang violence. Oklahoma City, OK, Indianapolis, IN, and Raleigh-Durham, NC were also selected to receive funding as part of the Department's Comprehensive Anti-Gang Initiative.

"Helping law enforcement, state and local leaders, and parents combat gang violence so that our nation's youth can grow up in safe communities is one of the Justice Department's top priorities," stated Attorney General Gonzales. "The Comprehensive Anti-Gang Initiative provides federal, state, and local law enforcement with additional resources to increase law enforcement and prevention efforts in targeted areas across the nation. Today's announcement reinforces the Department's commitment to keeping America's neighborhoods safe."

In February 2006, Attorney General Gonzales announced the creation of the Justice Department's Comprehensive Anti-Gang Initiative, designed to support law enforcement combating violent gang crime, while also promoting prevention efforts that discourage gang involvement. As part of the initiative, in May 2006 the Department provided anti-gang resources for prevention, enforcement and offender reentry efforts to six sites across the nation: Los Angeles, CA, Tampa, FL, Cleveland, OH, Dallas/Ft. Worth, TX, Milwaukee, WI, and the "222 Corridor" that stretches from Easton to Lancaster in Pennsylvania. The Comprehensive Anti-Gang Initiative has already made strides in the original six sites. For example, in Cleveland one of the most violent gangs operating in the target area has been dismantled through both federal and state investigations and prosecutions that have resulted in 63 federal and state indictments. Fifty-five defendants have pled guilty and the remainder are awaiting trial.

The four additional sites were selected to receive these grant funds based on a variety of factors, including the need for concentrated anti-gang resources, established infrastructure to support the envisioned prevention, enforcement and re-entry components, and existing partnerships prepared to focus intensely on the gang problem. U.S. Attorneys in the four sites selected today will be responsible for coordinating federal, state and local efforts under this initiative.

The Justice Department's strategy to combat gang violence around the nation is two-fold: First, prioritize prevention programs to provide America's youth, as well as offenders returning to the community, with opportunities that help them resist gang involvement. Second, ensure robust enforcement policies when gang-related violence does occur.

The U.S. Attorney in the selected areas will work with state, local and community partners to implement strategies that address the following areas:

*Prevention - The Department will make available approximately $1 million in grants per community to support comprehensive prevention efforts such as the Gang Reduction Program, which focuses on reducing youth-gang crime and violence by addressing the full range of personal, family and community factors that contribute to juvenile delinquency and gang activity.

*Enforcement - The Department will make available approximately $1 million in grants per community to help support enforcement programs that will focus law enforcement efforts on the most significant violent gang offenders.

*Prisoner Re-entry - The Department will make available approximately $500,000 per community to create re-entry assistance programs with faith-based and other community organizations that will provide transitional housing, job readiness and placement assistance, and substance abuse and mental health treatment to prisoners re-entering society.

Since 2001, the Department of Justice has allocated over $1.6 billion to combat violent crime at the federal, state, and local levels. The Comprehensive Anti-Gang Initiative complements existing Department of Justice programs to combat gangs and reduce gun-related crime throughout the country. Those programs include the Violent Crime Impact Teams, Safe Streets Task Forces and the Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN) initiative, under which the number of federal firearms prosecutions has more than doubled in the past six years, compared to the six years prior to PSN's implementation.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Hip Hop Mogul Russell Simmons Tired of Vulgar Lyrics

Seems even the "Godfather" of Hip-Hop, Russell Simmons is tired of the language rappers use in their lyrics. Click here to read the story.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Mind of an Assassin

If you think what happened at Virginia Tech is incomprehensible, you’re about to meet some people who understand that kind of madness very well: they're the people who protect the president of the United States.

For years, the U.S. Secret Service has sent psychologists into prisons and mental hospitals to interview those bent on assassination.

As Scott Pelley reports, their interviews bring extraordinary insight into the mind of an assassin; what has been discovered in the process is that many of the same characteristics found in assassins can also be found in school shooters.

In recent years, 60 Minutes has had unprecedented access to the Secret Service Intelligence Division.

Click to Title to read the entire story and watch the videos.

Stop Snitchin': A Devastating Code of Ethics

In most communities, a person who sees a murder and helps the police put the killer behind bars is called a witness. But in many inner-city neighborhoods in this country that person is called a "snitch."

"Stop snitchin'" is a catchy hip-hop slogan that embodies and encourages this attitude. You can find it on everything from rap music videos to clothing. "Stop snitchin'" once meant "don’t tell on others if you’re caught committing a crime."

But as CNN's Anderson Cooper reports for 60 Minutes, it has come to mean something much more dangerous: "don’t cooperate with the police – no matter who you are."

As a result, police say, witnesses are not coming forward. Murders are going unsolved.

Reluctance to talk to police has always been a problem in poor, predominantly African-American communities, but cops and criminologists say in recent years something has changed: fueled by hip-hop music, promoted by major corporations, what was once a backroom code of silence among criminals, is now being marketed like never before.
Click the title to read more and watch the interviews.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

On the terror front, the enemy within is gangs

LITTLE ROCK — If one waits long enough, word gets around. In a recent issue of American Spectator, conservative writer Ben Stein announced that “in the five and a half years since September 11, 2001, there have been roughly 40,000 killings by gangs and gang members in this United States of America, mostly in the African-American and Hispanic sections of large cities.” Stein goes on to say that the innocent members of those communities, infant to elderly, “are living in a nonstop reign of terror.”

It is good that Stein has noticed this and that he is making clear to his conservative readership that it has kept its head in the sand while thumping its chest and declaring its deep resolve to stand up to terrorism. “Why don’t the leaders of this country ever address this problem?” he asks. “How can we conservatives,” he wonders, “explain how it’s a conservative position to simply ignore the loss of lawin our cities?” Good questions.

As if obliquely addressing the liberal supposed “friends of people of color,” Stein throws this one right across the plate: “Is it non-PC to even mention it because the killers are almost always non-white?”

I have wondered these same things for years and have come to the conclusion that the black and Latino communities have been left on the chopping block of anarchic urban terrorism because the realities of American life now challenge too many prefabricatedopinions based on ideas about victimization or lack of individual drive.

In other words, we can never “blame the victim” because we all should knowthat so-called minorities are inevitably helpless to stand up against the economic and environmental circumstances that shape them into a decidedly small percentage who actually join gangs and the drug crews responsible for so many coldhearted murders. On the other hand, if these people had more pluck and a stronger work ethic, they wouldn’t even be there when the bullets fly, killing innocent people of all ages who actually should be living in the suburbs, watching the carnage with their white neighbors.

Both “visions” are cowardly.

What we need in this time of extraordinary urban and domestic terror is actual leadership focused on the preservation of American lives. One of the first things liberals, conservatives and moderates who would lead need to think about is what they would do if those responsible for nearly 40,000 murders among so-called minorities were not “people of color,” but white gang members and drug posses.

This is the deepest racial irony of our time. None of the perpetual arguments or explanations for barbaric behavior is ever made when the perpetrators of hideous crimes are white.

For instance, when James Byrd Jr. was murdered by a trio of white men, one was quite hard put to get the regular “analysis” used for lower-class minority murderers, such as poverty,class envy, lack of self-esteem and the need for a feeling of empowerment. Berry, Brewer and King were not seen as helpless victims of circumstance and social pressure, men who needed to feel as though they “were somebody.”

An all-white jury treated them as what they were: conscious predators who had themselves some fun at the cost of another man’s life. They were sentenced to death.

But imagine if Byrd had been murdered by three black members of a Texas version of the Crips. Fairly soon, Byrd would have been no more a victim than his murderers, all of whom were “forced” to bring attention to themselves through violent action.

I think that all of those running for president in 2008 need to confront this issue of national terrorism and tell us what they intend to do about it other than wring their hands. This should be a defining issue for both parties and all political persuasions. It is time for those who would lead to lift their heads from the sand of denial and face the harsh, murderous light of anarchic terrorism in the big cities of this country. This issue will make it clear as thesummer sun just who is serious about the proven threats to American life and who is not.

Stanley Crouch can be reached by e-mail at

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

New wave of gang violence worries cities

Loose-knit affiliations are different, but toll on communities is the same. Police and residents are taking action.

The Kansas City Star

In cities as small as Moline, Ill., and as large as Kansas City, the memories of gang violence in the early 1990s linger.

Police can’t forget the neighborhood gang wars, drive-by shootings and fears of letting children play outside.

That is why a recent surge in gang activity has some cities across the nation — Topeka, Wichita and Springfield among them — worried about what would happen if gangs again gained a foothold.

“A lot of people don’t remember how it was 10 years ago,” said Tom Stolz, Wichita’s deputy police chief. “It was the OK Corral around here. We had drive-by shootings every night.”

In the past two years, the shootings, assaults, burglaries and robberies committed by suspected gang members have returned to some cities. Though the violence may not have reached the levels of the 1990s, police are resurrecting gang units and communities are working with law enforcement.

Lawmakers in at least 13 states want new legislation to improve gang laws and slap members with heftier prison sentences. They say it is time to stop gangs as they resurface in small and rural communities as well as big cities.

In Moline, police told residents at a neighborhood meeting last week that they needed to work with them to prevent more gang-related crimes in their city of about 43,000 residents. In Tallahassee, Fla., residents of the state capital packed a town hall meeting to discuss their gang concerns with police.

“All the ingredients are there for the perfect storm we had 12-14 years ago,” said Steve Nawojczyk, a national gang and violence expert. “I think it’s just trending back around again. … I hope the country learned from the history we suffered.”

If police departments in the Midwest and elsewhere are any indication, it did.

•Kansas City police spent much of last month searching for Shauntay Henderson, a gang member they said was in the middle of recent violence that included several shootings. Even after her arrest, police stayed concentrated on the violence, publicizing mug shots of wanted gang members and asking for the public’s help in finding them.

•When officials in Topeka first noticed an increase in assaults and graffiti last year, they revived their gang unit and identified possible members and their activities.

•In Springfield, community involvement has mixed with police action to address gang problems. The city tallied 31 shootings in a four-month period last year, a big increase in a town with a relatively low crime rate.

Gangs these days are different from a decade ago. They are not tightly knit, highly organized groups loyal to their cause.

“Used to be once a Blood, always a Blood,” said Topeka Police Maj. John Sidwell. “Well, shoot, they change from one to another in what we see now.”

Kansas City police said they did not see the organized-gang crimes that had terrorized cities like Los Angeles and Chicago for years.

“It’s more, ‘I have drugs I’m selling, and I don’t like that you’re my competition, so I’m going to rob your drug house,’ ” said Capt. Rich Lockhart, a Kansas City police spokesman. “It’s gangs, but it’s ‘gangs’ with an asterisk by the word. When you say that word, there’s an image that conjures up, and that’s not what you see in KC.”

Police officials in smaller cities admit this recent surge in gang activity caught many of them off guard.

When gang activity flattened out in the late 1990s to the early part of this decade, police reassigned officers. Gangs went on the back burner.

Sidwell likens police work to firefighting: Officers go to the hot spots.

“And gang activity wasn’t a hot spot for a while,” he said. “We went on to address other major issues.”

While violent crime was down across the nation, departments began dealing with an increase in property crimes.

“We were trying to address residential burglaries,” Sidwell said. “And while that was being addressed, the other (crimes associated with gangs) started coming.”

Nationally, violent crime in 2005 increased for the first time in five years, and experts pointed to gangs.

In Springfield, school officials first waved the alert flag in 2006. They started reporting that students were coming to school and leaving after they had peddled their drugs. Gang members were recruiting at middle and high schools.

“The school people were basically saying, ‘We need help,’ ” said Greene County Prosecutor Darrell Moore.

Not wanting to go back to the early 1990s when Gangster Disciples from Chicago had a presence in the city, Springfield police doubled the size of its gang unit from six to 12 officers. By December a grand jury had handed down 39 gang-related indictments.

“My goal was to try and stop the escalation,” Moore said. “We indicted people for robberies, assaults, weapons and drugs.”

Police in Kansas City and Wichita agree that a surge in gang violence requires fast action. If they do not solve those crimes quickly, retaliation starts. A recent Wichita homicide sparked at least four drive-by shootings.

“When cops tell you it’s important we make arrests on this, that’s why,” Stolz said. If they do not, the gangs will “take care of it themselves.”

Police are also quick to say they cannot solve the gang problems alone. The community has to get involved.

In Springfield, community members feel empowered by what they were able to do, said Chris Davis, gang prevention coordinator for Community Partnership of the Ozarks, a Springfield organization that works with other city agencies.

“It’s not a police problem, not a school problem. It’s affecting everyone in this community,” Davis said. “A stray bullet can hit anybody.”

To reach Laura Bauer, call (816) 234-7743 or send e-mail to

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Is the KKK dead? Commentary from the LA Times

Click here to read a story putting forth that the KKK is actually not nearly the threat as many think. What are your thoughts?

Saturday, February 24, 2007

A Judge to Remember

I had the opportunity to meet this judge years ago...I wish there were more like him. Check it out---

Saturday, February 17, 2007

City Year Young Heroes Kicks Off Again

This month in the Little Rock and North Little Rock metro area, City Year kicked off the "Young Heroes" program for the second year. Young Heroes is a community service project for middle schoolers.

The Young Heroes come together on Saturdays to listen to various community leaders and speakers during the morning and then they spend their Saturday afternoon doing a community service project.

As I write this blog, they are visiting and working at the Sherman Park Our Club in North Little Rock.

City Year is a wonderful service project for young men and women ages 17-24. For more information on City Year, click here.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Springfield Mo Re-Dux

Published February 7, 2007

Gang expert invited back for encore

Steve Nawojczyk will speak at middle, high schools.

John Taylor

A November visit by an expert on gangs and youth violence was so well received by Springfield schools that Community Partnership of the Ozarks is bringing him back.
Beginning today, Steve Nawojczyk, a former Pulaski County, Ark., coroner who was featured in the HBO special "Gang War: Bangin' in Little Rock," will speak to students at the middle and high schools he missed on his visit last year, said Melissa Haddow, executive director of Community Partnership.

Reed Middle School was among Nawojczyk's stops in November. Les Ford, Reed principal, said the presentation was an eye-opening experience for the students.

"There was maybe some shocked silence for part of it," he said. "They were realizing ... how awful it would be if it came to their neighborhood."

Local law enforcement made stemming gang activity a priority last summer. Springfield Police Chief Lynn Rowe asked for the public's help in fighting gangs, noting a double-digit increase in violent crimes for the first six months of 2005.

In addition, a grand jury impaneled in July to address gang-related crime in the county issued 36 gang-related indictments before its term ended in December.

At the time law enforcement was asking for the public's help, Community Partnership's gang task force was trying to get information out about gangs by putting together a PowerPoint presentation on gangs and youth violence.

Community Partnership also sponsored Nawojczyk's previous visit, which included a community forum on gangs that drew nearly 500 people to the University Plaza Convention Center.

The cost to bring Nawojczyk back will be $4,500 to $5,000 — a $3,500 fee plus travel expenses, Haddow said.

In addition to speaking to students, Nawojczyk will offer training to school counselors and speak to staff of youth services providers such as the YMCA, Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, Haddow said.

Haddow described that presentation as "Gangs 101."

"(Those organizations) are already actively engaged in prevention and doing the right things for our kids," she said.

Such groups offer caring adults, who Haddow said are important for youths.

It's also important for a child to feel like part of a family, and if a child does not receive discipline and rules from his or her biological or adoptive family, he or she can find that in a gang.

"A gang is a family. It's just a negative family," she said.

Training for counselors will be provided because students have approached school officials, said that they had a friend who was either in or on the fringe of a gang and wanted to know how that friend could get out.

Dealing with that issue is not part of a counselor's college curriculum, Haddow noted.

During Nawojczyk's previous visit, he showed students pictures and videos demonstrating the effects of gang violence, including the image of a 10-year-old boy who had a chunk of a stray bullet removed from his arm.

He said it is up to communities to balance law enforcement's efforts by giving youths recognition, discipline, love and respect. He also warned that gang activity cuts across every socioeconomic barrier.

It will be "pretty much the same message" this visit, Nawojczyk said. "I'll just be going to different schools."

He said it was promising to see a community coalesce to fight gangs, since that does not happen in every city.

"The community has to come together to deal with the issue. ... Everybody's got a role to play," said Nawojczyk.

November's community forum also included a panel presentation of law enforcement officials and other community leaders.

David Hockensmith, executive director of the Council of Churches of the Ozarks, was among the 475 people who attended the forum.

He said he was so captivated by the presentation that he decided it would be in the interest of the Council of Churches to work with Community Partnership.

"We're losing potentially good kids to a negative environment ... and that's bad for the community," Hockensmith said.

The faith community is a significant part of community life and has an obligation to provide meaningful relationships for children, he said.

Greene County Prosecuting Attorney Darrell Moore said the grand jury's presence, police response and community involvement helped stop the escalation of gang activity, but there is still a gang presence in Springfield.

He said what bothered him last year was gang members were trying to get into schools to recruit members.

Moore said that activity has been stopped for now, but the community needs to remain alert.

"We have gangs," Moore said. "They will always be a part of our lives."

Haddow said the worst offenders were probably no longer in the city. However, "if we do not stay on top of this ... the problem will come back," she said.

Ford has seen evidence that there is still a gang presence in Springfield. New gang-related graffiti was spotted in the Reed Middle School neighborhood just last weekend.

Monday, February 05, 2007

US Attorney's Bulletin on Gangs

Read the May 2006 Issue of United States Attorneys’ Bulletin on gangs. Bulletin topics include prevention, investigation, and prosecution of gang crime. Click on the title or click here.

Friday, February 02, 2007


NOTE: I was afforded the opportunity to preview this documentary. It is an amazing piece of gangster history that I believe everyone will be clamoring to see. I also think it will join Gang War: Bangin' in Little Rock as one of the true and correct records of gangs of our generation. Let us know via the comment section what you think about it. Peace- Live It or REST in it. Steve


Raised in the Athens Park neighborhood of Los Angeles, Cle “Bone” Sloan was four years old when his father died, and 12 when he became a member of the Bloods. Now an inactive member of the notorious gang, Sloan looks back at the history of black gangs in his city and makes a powerful call for change in modern gang culture. Acclaimed feature film director Antoine Fuqua (Training Day) produces BASTARDS OF THE PARTY along with Sloan, who also directs.

In researching the subject, Sloan discovered that the roots of black gangs were nurtured within a distinct political landscape. BASTARDS OF THE PARTY traces the development of black gangs in Los Angeles from the late 1940s, through the charged atmosphere of the ‘60s and ‘70s, to the breakdown of community in the ‘80s and ‘90s, and the brief truce between the Crips and Bloods that followed the Rodney King riots in 1992.

The documentary features interviews with past and current gang members from the Bloods and Crips; and also chronicles the role of the Los Angeles Police Department and the FBI in the evolution of gang culture.

If you are interested in attaining assets such as stills, poster art, or a trailer, please don’t hesitate to contact me! Also, be sure to visit:

Don’t miss this informative look at the history of Los Angeles and the cultural genocide that continues to occur day-in and day-out. BASTARDS OF THE PARTY premieres on Tuesday, February 6th at 10PM ET, only on HBO!

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Business vs. Gangs

Professor Mike Carlie of Springfield Missouri speaks of the importance of Business Involvement in Gang Prevention

The Springfield (MO) Business Journal examines the importance of the involvement of the business community in combatting the growth of street gangs and posses. Click here to view the article.

And, from up Denver way it appears the business community is involved. Click here for that story.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

The Underworld of Gangs...In Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Check out this article from the Milwaukee Magazine...

Gang Wars
A feuding underworld of black, white, Latino and Asian drug gangs. A unit of tough cops that battles them. A murder-plagued, multimillion-dollar business most citizens could never imagine.


L.A. Mayor Seeks Fed Money to Fight Gangs...

L.A. mayor seeks federal aid to combat gangs, but some say L.A. really needs a Gang Czar to be more effective. Check out this story from the L.A. Times (CLICK HERE).

Friday, December 22, 2006


Anyone wishing to be placed on an informational Gang War e-mail list simply send a message to us at with the word "list" in the subject line and we will happily put your name on the Gang War Zaplist. We will never compromise your email address to anyone and the zaplist will be maintained by a person, not a computer.

You will receive the latest news items as well as other miscellaneous information about things having to do with Gangs, Posses, Cliques and Crews and how communities can deal with this most urgent issue.

We wish you the Happiest Holiday Season. Steve

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Got Gangs?

Got Gangs in Your Community?

Yes, No, Don't Know? Click Here for an article on Warning Signs and how one community realized it had a gang issue, then began to proactively attacked the problems.

The Importance of Networking...And a Note about G.R.E.A.T.

Networking, prevention of gangs focus of summit

By Daniel Sillimand
Clayton News Daily

Law enforcement officers from Clayton, Fayette and Spalding counties sat around a table in Atlanta, eating lunch and talking. In the room around them, hundreds of other officers, educators and experts sat around other tables having the same conversation — one centered around how to fight gang-related crime, how to prevent children from joining gangs and how to work together.

“Anytime we can [we] get together and network,” said Clayton County Police Lt. Mark Thompson. “That’s essentially what we try to do here.”

The United States Department of Justice hosted the second annual Gang Prevention Summit this week, bringing together agencies and officers from across metro Atlanta to discuss their work and work on gang prevention.

“Today’s gang prevention summit shows that law enforcement understands that we cannot solve the gang problem alone,” U.S. Attorney David Nahmias said Tuesday.

Thompson and the other officers from the Southern Crescent spoke about the need to work together, and share intelligence on suspected gang members who move from county to county.

With increased pressure from the police in Clayton, gang members are being pushed south, Thompson told other officers. Thompson, who has been working on gang intelligence for eight years for the Clayton Police, offered to share some files on the Southside Mafia and the Hit Squad gangs, and offered to help other departments start gang databases.

“The south side of town is slow getting into it,” Thompson said. “Some counties in the south are trying to keep things low key.”

Police have to balance the need to focus attention on increasing gang problems, with the panic that attention can cause.

“One thing that will drive commerce into the ground is the mere mention of gangs,” Thompson said.

Riverdale Police Chief Thetus Knox told the audience gathered at the summit how the city of Riverdale ignored the problem for too long, until three children were killed in gang-related shootings.

“They knew they had a gang problem, but nothing was done about it,” Knox said.

Since 2005, she has been working with the city and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to do something proactive and preventative.

The Riverdale Police have used saturation patrols, aggressive curfew and truancy enforcement and education enforcement and the ATF’s education program to help reduce gang activity and bring crime down by 9 percent this year, Knox said.

In the spring of 2005, Riverdale began to work with the ATF’s Gang Resistance Education and Training program, working with elementary school students. The program, taught in classrooms by uniformed officers, trains students in setting goals, preventing violence, communicating, resisting peer pressure and resolving conflicts.

“What they’re hearing from officers in uniform, who are bonding with them, is that they are the future,” she said. “Just as they listen to rap, they’re listening to G.R.E.A.T.”

The program has been dramatically effective, Knox said, and will soon be taught in Riverdale’s middle schools and, she hopes, brought to schools throughout the county.

The county police have followed a similar policy, increasing the pressure on gang-related crimes like auto theft and burglary, but also adding positive interaction with children who aren’t involved in crime.

Thompson pointed to the effectiveness of the police’s recent efforts in both enforcement and encouragement. He mentioned the Burglary Suppression Task Force and the Armed Robbery Task Force, recently started by Interim Police Chief Jeff Turner, and the Summer Strike Team which put officers out in the parks and playgrounds, interacting with children over basketball and bicycles.

“We don’t want their only involvement to be when there’s crime scene tape and dead bodies,” Thompson said.

Nahmias said the annual summit encourages this proactive, two-pronged approach. The first summit focused on the scope of the gang problem in the Atlanta area, and strategies to fight back with arrests and convictions. The second summit was focused on prevention.

“What we also realized is that’s not going to stop the gang problem. By the time we arrest and convict them, it’s unlikely they’ll ever become fully productive members of society,” Nahmias said. “We rely on our partners in education, social organizations, juvenile justice and elsewhere to show young people that there are real and better alternatives to joining gangs.”

Call It How You See It...But A Duck Is A Duck

School fight blamed on wannabe gangs
Facing trouble head-on

M. Ferguson Tinsley, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

When a teen was taken to the hospital Tuesday, East Allegheny High School administrators realized they had a tough problem that wasn't going away.

The East Allegheny student was taken to Forbes Regional Hospital at 9:23 a.m. after a fight with two other girls at the high school. She suffered facial wounds that required treatment, North Versailles police Chief James Comunale said.

Police charged the other students involved with simple assault, aggravated assault, disorderly conduct and criminal conspiracy and took them to the Shuman Juvenile Detention Center.
Neither police nor school officials would release the names of the injured girl or her alleged assailants.

"I call it Christmas vacation jitters," Chief Comunale said. "I don't know what gets into these kids."

But the incident, and a series of others since October, prompted Principal Gary Peiffer to call a meeting yesterday with a dozen parents whose sons and daughters have been named in more than one occurrence. The meeting was slated for 5:30 p.m. at the high school.

Mr. Peiffer said some students had declared themselves "wannabe" gangsters. They are called the "CTGs" or Crestas Terrace Gangsters, after a North Versailles neighborhood.

According to students at the school who asked not to be identified, the CTGs wear blue bandannas and blue T-shirts to style themselves after the Crips. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, the California-based Crips established "sets," or chapters, from coast to coast.

The CTGs in North Versailles "step to," or actively oppose, a specific rival group at school that wears black bandannas and T-shirts, say students.

The clothing has been banned, Mr. Peiffer said.

But he downplayed any resemblance between the CTGs and the ultraviolent, drug-dealing Crips of decades ago.

"I wouldn't call them a full-blown gang," Mr. Peiffer said of the East Allegheny group. "Not as the Crips and the Bloods [are considered] full-blown gangs. The [CTGs] are ganglike. I don't think they have the organization or the initiation rites and the symbols that a full-blown gang has."

Although he knows of only two major fights at school, Mr. Peiffer said he understood why parents have become alarmed by violence that has boiled up inside and outside the school.

More than a week ago, after a dance at a McKeesport community center, rivals waited for CTGs to exit. A boy who was mistaken for a member was badly beaten.

That fight resulted in two student suspensions. By Tuesday, the beating at the dance and less serious, "loosely related" incidents at school had resulted in a total of six suspensions, Mr. Peiffer said.

Mr. Peiffer said one source of friction among the students was disparaging Web messages. He is appealing to parents for help.

"Parents can help us by being proactive and coming to us with any rumors about any type of activities," Mr. Peiffer said. "And by monitoring any [blog] activity, text messaging and Internet e-mailing. This is occurring outside the school, but it's having an effect inside the school."

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Where to Find Leifel Jackson- Former Crip Leader now a Crusader Against Violence

Leifel Jackson is All over the place...

Check out Leifel's Myspace Page at to get the latest news and whereabouts on OG.

Also, Leifel Jackson, who is Director of the North Little Rock Our Clubs and a former CRIP leader who was featured in the HBO documentary series, Gang Wars appeared on the Pat Lynch Show. You can go here to download the interview about this inspiring success story.

Leifel is available to speak to schools and other groups. If you desire information about him, email at

Monday, December 04, 2006

Steve Gives Interview in Springfield, MO (Watch It Here)

The Mayor's Roundtable Interview

Steve recently visited Springfield, MO, speaking to hundreds of students at several Middle and High Schools, about the choices they make and the consequences of those choices. Steve also participated in a Community Forum and consulted with civic and neighborhood organizations on ways to combat the City's gang issues. Check out Steve's interview with the Mayor of Springfield, MO.

Click Here to Watch the Video! (Note: Click on Mayor's RoundTable)

Saturday, December 02, 2006

DVD Verdict Reviews The GANG WARS dvd release--

DVD Verdict reviews the HBO released DVD "Gang Wars" which features both Gang War: Bangin' in Little Rock and the follow up documentary Back in the Hood as well. Click here to see the entire review but below is a part of the commentary--

"Weaving throughout these profiles of Little Rock's gangs is Steve Nawojczyk, the county coroner who can no longer stand idly by as the endless stream of people killed by gang-related violence is passing through his morgue. With a simple, home-made poster board of photos of those killed by gang violence, Nawojczyk pounds the dangerous streets of Little Rock, using his poster to show kids the grim realities of gang life while pleading with them to "put the guns down."

"In this nightmarish world of distant bullets continuously ringing out in the night and the very real possibility of death at any given moment, Steve Nawojczyk's tireless crusade to stop the madness brings a semblance of sanity to the craziness. Nawojczyk is constantly putting in the "sweat equity" needed to fight the problem: He brings pizzas and take-out chicken to gang members' hang-outs as he talks with the key players with the most influence to calm things down. The meals are more than an opportunity for kids to indulge in free food; Nawojczyk is trying to show these kids that someone cares about them. It's truly inspiring to see this man, obviously well-versed and educated about the gang scene and its history, using his own time and resources in a constant effort to stop these kids from killing each other. It's also jarring to see just how much Nawojczyk and his proactive approach differs from that of the police profiled in the second documentary. Nawojczyk starts direct, honest dialogue with the gang members in their own neighborhoods; a police officer rides with a shotgun across his lap and refers to gang members as "terrorists."

Still, Nawojczyk never glosses over the horrific consequences of gang life, something that both of Levin's documentaries do without being overly bloody or gory. It's difficult to see an 18-month old infant on a stretcher after being hit by a stray round, a chunk of flesh missing from a child's arm that was "grazed" by an assault rifle's bullet, or a young girl literally being beaten into her gang by those who were supposed to have love for her. Some of the madness is purely emotional: A weeping mother collapses at her son's funerals; a brother spills quiet tears and fights back a trembling jaw as he visits the grave of a sibling who found suicide to be the only way out of the gang life of which he'd grown so tired. It's truly unsettling to think these events could have anything to do with a life that is supposed to provide so much respect, love, and wealth."

(Photo is of Steve doing school assembly in Springfield Missouri recently. Click here to read the articles from Springfield's News-Leader)

For more reviews click on these links:

The Cinema Source
DVD Talk
Reality Dish

Friday, December 01, 2006

Don't Forget to Visit the NLR Youth Services Blog

Many good resources are posted on the City of North Little Rock Mayor's Office of Youth Services blog. NLR MOYS keeps current information posted on a daily basis about issues not only relevant locally but nationally as well. It's worth a visit. Steve

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Race & Education

Race in Our Schools

KTHV Channel 11 News sits down with a group of 21 Central Arkansas teenagers of different races and from different backgrounds. What they have to say about the role race plays in schools is provocative. They hold nothing back and their answers may be the ones we most need to hear.

Click Here for the Video

Click Here for the Extended Interview

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

G.R.E.A.T. Working, Expanding in Bethlehem

Bethlehem initiative teaches about the 'real world' of gangs
City gets grant to expand the federal program

By Steve Esack Of The Morning Call

Margie Reyes knows raising two teenage boys in a city of any size is hard.

There's too much temptation, too much glorified violence and too many negative feelings toward police officers.

That's why on Monday she brought her boys, Michael Reyes and Jose Montero, to the Bethlehem Police Department to watch U.S. Attorney Patrick L. Meehan present the department with a $68,360 grant to expand its anti-gang program in schools and the community.

''In today's day and age I think it is very difficult to keep them away from drugs and gangs,'' said Reyes, 33, of south Bethlehem, who enrolled her sons in the department's first junior police league this summer. ''These type of programs open up their eyes and hopefully let them see what the real world is all about.''

The grant money will help the department expand its Gang Resistance Education And Training program. It is a 15-year-old U.S. Justice Department gang-prevention initiative that uses police officers to teach gang-awareness classes to seventh-graders and also helps school districts and municipalities defray the cost of having police ''resource officers'' assigned to schools.

Meehan said seventh-graders are at the prime age for the influence of gangs, which under the program are defined as a group of two or more people banded together through colors, symbols and mannerisms and who are bent on committing crimes.

''It creates a negative view of gang activity,'' Meehan said at a news conference featuring nearly a dozen graduates of the junior police league. ''Most significantly, it helps reduce risk behavior.''

Citing the 2004 homicide of a Latin Kings member in Saucon Park, police Chief Randy Miller said Bethlehem has a mix of semi-organized, sophisticated gangs like the nationwide Latin Kings, and other loosely-based groups causing crime.

The city plans to expand the anti-gang program beyond schools by offering gang-awareness classes that will be sponsored by the Parks and Recreation Department, Mayor John Callahan said. In addition, Callahan said part of the grant proceeds will help the city and Bethlehem Area School District pay for a new resource officer at the district's new alternative education school in west Bethlehem, Career Academy, for troubled students on the verge of dropping out.

''Historically, we've received $25,000 to fund GREAT,'' Callahan said. ''This is a significant bump.''

The Justice Department has rarely evaluated the prevention programs it funds, with the exception of a five-year study of the Gang Resistance Education And Training program, according to the department's National Institute of Justice.

The study, released in 2004, showed the program has ''modest positive effects on adolescents' attitudes and delinquency risk factors but no effects on their involvement in gangs and actual delinquent behaviors.'' Although the program has not cut down on gang involvement, the report said it does show that negative behaviors can be changed before children hit high school.

Bethlehem police officers James Zarzecki and Simon Boddie understand the power and limits of the program as resource officers assigned to East Hills and Broughal middle schools, respectively. Both agree that 90 percent of the student body appreciate the anti-gang lessons they teach and their presence in school hallways and cafeterias.

''It's that 10 percent you want to change,'' Zarzecki said.

Boddie said he has identified three students as gang members in Broughal, which has a population of 658 students. Being so close to the students, Boddie said allows him and Zarzecki to pass crime-stopping and -solving tips to other officers.

''One kid I never thought would come around,'' Boddie said, ''and then one day he came up to me and said, 'Officer Boddie, you need to know something.''' 610-861-3619

Fighting gangs from inside, out

Correctional facility becomes first in state to operate anti-gang program, which offers job training, remedial education, sense of family

Newsday Staff Writer

Ceremonially signing a $25,000 check, Suffolk Sheriff Vincent F. DeMarco yesterday made the Riverhead correctional facility the state's first county jail to run an anti-gang program with the Council for Unity, which operates school and community anti-gang programs.

Riverhead thus became the first community in New York State to team a jail-based program with a school-based one, also run by the council, a national not-for-profit group. And, the Riverhead Police Department is working to develop a companion anti-gang program with the council.

The program is designed to show gang members who are inmates that there is an alternative to street violence, and that gang membership often leads to long jail time, with former gang members sharing their own experiences. It offers job training and remedial education, and it strives to give those who enroll a sense of belonging to a different kind of family.

Founded in Brooklyn in 1975, the Council for Unity started its first jail-based chapter in 2004 at Sing Sing. The council says about 100,000 youths take part in its various programs. It has about 60 programs in New York, Texas and California.

"The cycle [of gang membership] ends here," said Robert DeSena, president of the Manhattan-based council and recipient of the $25,000 from the sheriff. One of the goals is to train gang members so they can find a job when they get out of jail. Some of them end up working for the council as youth counselors, DeSena said.

The Riverhead school program started last year as an after-school activity and is now given as a two-credit class.

Officials in Brentwood and Central Islip are looking at similar school programs, according to Eastern Suffolk Board of Cooperative Educational Services. The jail-based program, which is expected to start in the next few weeks with a pilot class for about 20 gang members, is paid for by the prisoners themselves. The money comes from a special fund built with profits from the jail commissary. Eventually, DeMarco said, the jail program will accept as many of the estimated 400 gang members in Riverhead's jail who are interested.

"Gangs are the biggest threat to public safety on Long Island," DeMarco said. "... We want them [gang members] to leave here with a job, to drop their colors, and don't come back."

Riverhead Supervisor Phil Cardinale said he was optimistic that the combined program at the jail and in the town could work to reduce gang membership, because it provides youths with something to look forward to. "Hopefulness is what attracted me to it, hopefulness with a history of results."