This summer, the jetty parking lot on the south end of the Mission Beach isthmus became a popular hangout for the Bloods, a coalition of black street gangs whose members invariably wear something red. Their migration from Southeast San Diego was triggered by the escalating turf wars with the rival Crips, who wear blue. “Do you blame young men for leaving a community infested with drugs, guns, and violence?” asks Ray Smith, director of the Triple Crown Youth Coalition, diversion program for gang members. “The pressure became so great that they wanted to out and explore, and down there by the jetty, they not only found a beautiful place but a tremendous market for drugs.”
Among the Blood immigrants is twenty-four-year old Mark. All summer long, he and as many as sixty of his confederates have been congregating in the jetty parking lot every Sunday afternoon. “That’s the spot to go, man,” he says. “We just kick it; we picnic with our ladies, we show off our cars, we play basketball, and we don’t have to worry about no Crips coming over there, so there’s no trouble.”
Ah, but there is trouble. In July, police arrested two Bloods in the jetty parking lot on charges of attempted murder and assault with a deadly weapon. Earlier in the day, says Garland Peed IV, the deputy district attorney assigned to the gang prosecution unit, a series of drive-by shootings had occurred in Southeast San Diego. The targets had been Crips; the culprits, it was reasoned, were most likely Bloods. “On a hunch, two gang detectives decided to go down to the jetty and see if they (the culprits) might be there, because that’s where the Bloods usually hang out,” Peed says. The hunch was right, he adds: The suspects were there, and so was the assault weapon – a sawed-off shotgun in the trunk of their car.
Then, on August 7, someone almost got killed. According to Peed, five or six young black men were standing outside the Beachcomber bar on Mission Boulevard eating burritos and tacos they had just purchased from a Mexican take-out restaurant next door. It was 5:30 in the afternoon on a Sunday, and as usual, traffic was at a standstill. Suddenly, several car doors popped open, and out jumped maybe fifteen more young blacks. “A huge fistfight ensued between the two groups,” Peed says, “and at one point, someone pulled out what appeared to be a small automatic rifle, with a sawed-off barrel and a collapsible stock, and fired five or six shots into the air.” By the time police arrived, the attackers had fled, leaving behind their shaken victims. The victims were Crips, and they told police that their attackers had been Bloods.
Even before these two incidents involving gangs and guns, the Bloods have been making life miserable for South Mission Beach residents like Jeanne Wright, who lives just a few blocks north of the jetty. “Ever since summer began, Mission Boulevard has been lined with little trucks with big sound systems, blasting out loud music,” she says. “It starts about Thursday afternoon and goes on, around the clock, until Sunday night. Meanwhile, the jetty parking lot is full of people making more noise and doing criminal things like selling drugs, getting into fights, and drinking under the age.” The jetty parking lot, like most San Diego beach parking lots, is supposed to be closed between the hours of 11:00 p.m. and 4:00 a.m. “But the gate is only locked maybe one night out of seven,” Wright charges, “and on the nights when the gate is locked, someone almost always ties a chain to it from their truck and breaks it down.”
Noise and nighttime partying are one thing, Wright says. Guns and daytime violence are another. “It’s gotten to the point where people are totally freaked out,” she says. “This has been a close-knit neighborhood for years, and we just aren’t used to gangs being here. Race isn’t the issue; the reality is that gangs carry guns, and we don’t want anyone coming here with weapons. We don’t care what color they are – a gun is a gun.”
Two weeks ago, Wright and her husband Tom sent out a two-page letter to more than a hundred of their neighbors, warning that “gang violence is rapidly increasing in South Mission Beach” and asking them to lobby city hall in support of such drastic measures as charging three dollars per car in the jetty parking lot and closing off Mission Boulevard to nonresidents whenever the lot is full. The Wright’s also propose the lot be shut down three hours earlier, at 8:00 p.m., and that regular police patrols be instituted to ticket offenders. “I’ve always believed the beach should be for everyone,” Wright says, “but something has got to be done about this gang problem. And the only way to control this problem is to control traffic and parking.”
Deputy D.A. Peed agrees. “If you restrict access to South Mission Beach, you cut down on the cruising along the boulevard and the partying in the parking lot,” he says. “At the same time, you also reduce the potential for violence.”
So does Sergeant Mike Hentigan of the San Diego Police Department’s gang detail. “If gang members with cars and guns no longer have easy access to the beach,” he says, “there won’t be a problem.”
And so, apparently, does San Diego City Councilman Bruce Henderson, whose sixth district includes Mission Beach. After meeting with the Wrights and other South Mission Beach residents a week ago Wednesday, Henderson told his council colleagues he would like to see the jetty parking lot close each day at sunset. He also asked his staff to study various other proposals made by the Wright’s, including charging for parking.