Zero Tolerance, Few Details
Apparently, some of the kids at Thurgood Marshall Middle School held a “Bring Your Guns to School Day” on Thursday, March 18, but the administrators were less than impressed with the show-and-tell. According to SignOnSanDiego, an unidentified Marshall student brought two unloaded guns (presumably handguns) and an unspecified number of rounds to campus; two friends “handled” the weapons, and the three were later nabbed by school-district police off campus. By the end of the day, seven students — including four whose roles remain unclear — had been arrested. Invoking what it terms a “zero-tolerance policy,” the San Diego Unified School District has recommended that six of the pistol-packing (pistol-palpating?) pubescents be expelled from the eucalyptus-rimmed campus in Scripps Ranch.
Those who read the story — especially locals — might have asked, “What kind of kid brings sidearms to a middle school in a quiet, white-bread upper-middle tract-home place like the Ranch?” After all, this is a sleepy burg within the burbs, a neighborhood so tranquil, so orderly, so boring, perhaps, that the news shocker of the day might be something like a deer sighting or a squabble over an easement. SignOnSanDiego’s account doesn’t fill in the, well, blanks, preferring instead to quote the district’s flackmaster, Jack Brandais, who said that no further details could be released.
Putting aside such issues as the public’s right to know and privacy (the latter always a handy shield for school administrators and other cogs in the commodious, bureaucratic machine) — what about those details? What can — or will — the news media tell us about the perps? Did SignOnSanDiego at least press the district for answers?
Some Marines are looking for a few good parties — well, more than a few, actually — and that seems to be a problem for the brass at Camp Pendleton, who’ve declared a passel of San Diego County locales to be off-limits for its gallivanting gyrenes. Pendleton’s official online mouthpiece, the online iteration of the venerable Scout, recently gave notice that certain dens of iniquity will have to get by without help from USMC paychecks. Reiterating restrictions that have been in place since February 11, Sergeant Alvaro Aro, in an article posted on March 18, sought to remind Pendleton grunts about the extant advisory directed toward Marines wandering the greater San Diego–Tijuana region for fun. Writing that “federal holidays are probably the most awaited time for service members to…visit their hometown,” Aro surmised that the dearth of long weekends between Presidents Day and Memorial Day results in Marines partying close to Pendleton rather than traveling longer distances.
According to the Scout, Pendleton’s finest are barred from certain establishments “due to violent criminal and gang activity”; however, judging from the blacklisted businesses, the Corps’ concerns appear to center on drugs and (gay) sex. On the outs are two joints that peddle smoking accessories (“head shops,” in parlance of the recent past), the Get-It-On Smoke Shop in Mission Beach and Dream Crystal Gifts in National City. Marines are also warned against entering the doors of Club Mustang, Club San Diego, and Vulcan Steam & Sauna, male-only bathhouses in which, presumably, bathing is but a minor component of the activities.
I asked Sergeant Aro why these establishments — not generally known as gang hangouts or violence magnets — have been singled out; he stated, “I’m not permitted to give you my personal opinion.” The sarge did admit, however, that commanding officers at the unit level can override the order on a case-by-case basis: “Let’s say, for example, if your mother lived next to one of these places.”
The Scout goes on to delineate other county places that are “of concern” or “of caution,” including Otay Mesa, “San Diego City Park,” and Willie Henderson park (a sports complex in Shelltown), as well as trolley stations and areas around the perimeter of the 32nd Street naval base. The Scout pulls no punches: whatever their motives, Marines who cross the virtual yellow caution tape are subject to punishment under Article 92 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
Despite restrictions in San Diego, local Marines aren’t without off-Pendleton leisure options. The Scout notes that those servicemen who long for the traditional Tijuana sojourn are still permitted to trek south — provided they obtain signed authorization by a commissioned officer in their chain of command and, ideally, complete “an anti-terrorism course.” Once in Mexico, they’re urged to report all incidents to the Border Shore Patrol, “especially incidents involving extortion or assault by Mexican police or uniformed private security personnel, such as club bouncers.” And one more thing, states the Scout: “[Marines] should not resist lawful arrest or attempt to settle disputes by offering or giving money to police.”
The Gang with No Name
Operation Winter Storm was a raging success, according to San Diego’s Fox 5. The just-concluded “sweep” — designed to cleanse America’s finest county of its most violent gangbangers — started in September 2009 and was carried out in Southeast San Diego by a consortium of local and federal officers, including the San Diego Police Department and the Drug Enforcement Administration.
On March 24, Fox’s comely Kathleen Bade issued the good word from the studio — the city has been rendered safer. Bade kicked off the story by saying that gang members are “off the streets and out of your neighborhood” and sent viewers out to Walter Makaula in the field. Makaula, covering a news conference presided over by SDPD boss William Lansdowne, reported that the “crackdown” had reeled in thugs, drugs, and guns.
With admirable specificity, Fox relayed the numbers. According to Lansdowne and sidekick Cesar Solis, the multiagency squad arrested 57 people accused of armed robberies, gang-related shootings, and pimping/prostitution; they also “confiscated 20 firearms, including an SKS assault rifle and a pistol shotgun” and seized “a pile of illegal drugs…including 4.5 ounces of powder cocaine, one pound of crack cocaine, more than 1.5 pounds of methamphetamines, and a couple hundred tablets of ecstasy.”