Matthew Lickona 11:49 p.m., Dec. 10
An interesting article in The Reader about the SDPD’s attitude had me pondering the police attitudes here on the south side of Chula Vista. I’ve lived here for too many years to pretend that our police department is any different from SDPD. It’s been an on-going joke among locals here for many years that the local police seem to concentrate their efforts on the crime of being bald and brown. Of course, that attitude might stem from the fact that when it comes to the war between law enforcement and street gangs here in South C.V., prevailing police action seems to be based on a belief that the best solution to gang violence is cast a wide net that will put anyone who fit’s the profile in jail. If you’ve lived here long, it’s quite obvious that this approach isn’t working. They’ve tried it that way since I was a middle school student in the late 1960s - it didn’t work then and it isn’t working now. First of all, too many innocent young people get labeled as gangsters or associates. Never mind that a lot of these kids get the label because they are spotted talking to a relative or neighbor who the police have already categorized as a gangster, whether that is true or not. That ripple effect tends to label many people that in reality have no relationship to a gang other than living in a gang area and being Hispanic. One young man told me he was at a family party and since a cousin was in the PD gang database, he was photographed and entered in the database as well. Was the cousin a bonafide gangster? According to other sources, no. He was in the database because he had been walking with schoolmates, one was designated a gang associate by the police, so the boys walking together were all entered in the database for walking with him. Also a problem is the fact that where I live, many young people will hang with gangs as a survival mechanism. Given other options, many of these young men might make other, more positive choices. Once labeled gang bangers, a lot of those options disappear. Interesting in that rather than working with the community to create other options, our police here in C.V. seem to be working under the premise that keeping young Latino men and boys incarcerated is the solution to stopping gang activity. Although our prisons are full to overflowing, there is no shortage of gang violence or activity in our area. You still hear gunshots on a regular basis and the amount of shootings within blocks from my house continue with disappointing and consistent regularity. The police continue to feed the prison system at great expense to the taxpayer with no positive impact on what goes on in the streets of South C.V. Another curious note - although we hear the gunshots, “ghetto birds” and hot pursuits on our street, there is often no mention of these activities on the news or in the Union-Tribune. The fatalities tend to hit the TV news but the myriad of other police response incidents do not. Mountains of statistics from organizations like Rand Corporation and the Department of Justice demonstrate quite clearly that it is much more cost efficient and also, produces more positive results to put time and energy into creating more opportunities for our youth than in incarceration. Support from the community can make these alternatives available and effective. Yet our PD still operates on the archaic idea that it’s better to try and warehouse young Latinos rather than giving them the tools to be productive and successful members of our community. The truth be told, San Diego Police don’t have the market cornered when it comes to bad attitude or bad manners. Chula Vista Law Enforcement operates the same way. Shame on you CVPD!