Friday, December 03, 2004

What began as a trickle of neighborhoods expanding out of Los Angeles has become something of a flood that now reaches from ocean to ocean. It started logically enough with colonies in Nevada and Arizona. And as posted here, there's a growing presence in places like Idaho and Utah. The wave has apparently hit the East Coast with enough force that two congressmen have written a bill to build some flood control measures.

Rep. FRANK R. WOLF and Rep. THOMAS M. DAVIS, both Virginia Republicans have gotten Congress to approves $48.6 million for regional law enforcement task forces (mostly in Virginia) and to create an FBI NATIONAL GANG INTELLIGENCE CENTER. The FBI Center will cost $10 million and will put up to 80 agents and analysts to work monitoring interstate gang activity. It's no accident that the bill's authors are from Virginia. In the past few years, that state has had a significant spike in gang activity and some celebrated gang murders, the kind we see almost every day in LA but rare for Virginia. So rare that the County Mounties had to send faxes and jpegs to their brother cops on the West Coast to figure out what all the placasos and the tattoos meant.

It's interesting that it only took a handful of homicides in Virginia to energize their congressmen to take some big measures. California's gang homicides, probably the highest in the country, have apparently never prompted our congresspeople to do anything quite this ambitious. We've built a lot of jails, of course, we've got the Metropolitan Task Force on Violent Crime (yeah it's still operational and run out the Federal building on Sepulveda and the 405) and we've got some savvy gang cops, but for some reason, State LE and politicians never took that ultimate step to feed all that information into an FBI database and share it with the rest of the country.

The lag time between appropriating the money and going operational could go on for months, if not years. So West Coast homies planning flag-raising missions to the East have a fairly big window of opportunity before the BIG EYE of the Federales is upon you.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

A large number of LA readers have emailed asking if I saw CHRIS BLATCHFORD'S two-part story on the battle between the Mongols and the Eme on FOX 11 NEWS. Yes I did. A number of these emailers asked me what I thought about the story. I'm pleased that the inthehat audience is as interested in the subject and as eager to learn as I am. While I consider myself more of an ardent student than an expert, I'm rather humbled to be asked my opinion on this situation.

First off, Blatchford did a very good job. I'm also amazed that FOX 11 gave him him enough air time to tell the story as thoroughly as he did. While I don't know Blatchford, from his past coverage of criminal organizations and crime issues, I get the sense he's extremely dialed in and has terrific sources. He seems to have more than an academic interest in the subject.

For out of town readers, here's the outline. The Mongols is a motorcycle gang based in SOCAL with chapters all over the country. They're the Un-Cola, a slightly different flavor for people who don't like the taste of the original -- Hell's Angels. As the world witnessed in LAUGHLIN, NEVADA two years ago, the Angels and Mongols get along about as well as the Palestinians and the Israelis. The Laughlin battle put three soldiers in the cemetery and a bunch more in the hospital.

While the Angels have predominantly been a white group, the Mongols have an open enrollment policy that offers membership to Hispanics. According to the FOX 11 piece, (and it seems to line up pretty well with what I found out) the Mongols have been heavily recruiting among SOCAL neighborhoods. Essentially, a lot of the new members are SURENOS with their cultural roots deep in the neighborhoods. Rather than seeing themselves as traditional outlaw bikers and iron horse iconoclasts, these new members could be better described as Leather Homies. In fact, as the FOX 11 story reported, some of these new members don't own bikes and don't even know how to ride.

When they put on the leathers, they didn't necessarily divest themselves of certain "allegiances" and cultural modalities. They took the Sureno culture with them. So they basically fly both flags -- the screaming skull and the black hand. There's a saying about a house divided against itself.

What probably happened, and this is speculation, is that once there was a critical mass of Sureno membership within the Mongol organization, the brothers perceived the entire organization as merely another set in the larger Sureno universe. And as Surenos, the natural order of things is that they should get in line with the rest and begin to pay tribute.

Apparently, it hasn't worked out that way. The Mongols have officially refused to pay taxes. In response, the Eme issued one of its famous greenlights on the Mongols.

Bodies have fallen on both sides and it looks like a low intensity shooting war has broken out.

The truth is, the Mongols didn't pick this fight. It looks like the fight came to them. Just as it came to MS, Maravilla and other tax-resister gangs.

If this was a horse race, the smart money would be on the Brothers. In terms of sheer numbers, organization, intelligence gathering and horsepower in prison, the Brothers are in complete control. Any Sureno with a strap and some heart is now free to pop a Mongol anywhere, anytime and be assured of earning a stripe. SOCAL Mongol membership right now is reported to be around 200. When you consider that a single Sureno neighborhood like Avenues can muster 800 men at arms, 600 for El Sereno, and equally large numbers in neighborhoods like Florencia, CVTF, VNE, RSP, San Fer, Pacas -- well, you get the idea. Think of a sledgehammer hitting a flea.

This is not to imply that Mongols don't have heart and aren't willing to get grimy. But the numbers facing the Mongols are just staggering.

Will discretion be the better part of valor? We'll see.
No doubt, almost everybody with a TV set has seen the stabbing and fight that broke out at the VIBE awards two weeks ago. As usual, the media did a lousy job of telling you exactly what happened. Here's the deal from a guy who was there.

There was a lot of security that night, both private and uniformed LAPD. The private security had been ordered to keep Suge Knight out of the venue if he appeared. The reason to keep Knight out was because DR. DRE was getting a lifetime achievement award and knowing the history of bad blood between him and Knight, nobody wanted a confrontation.

When Knight showed up, the private security people told Knight that he wouldn't be allowed in. Knight pressed the issue. He wanted in and nobody had a right to stop him. On their radios, the security detail asked for confirmation that Knight was not to be admitted. Somebody in charge had a change of heart and told them to let Knight in even though he had no invitation. Big mistake. Suge and his entourage took a table about 20 feet from Dre's table at which time Suge proceeded to mad dog Dre for most of the evening.

Just before the fight broke out, Suge got up, went to the back of the room and took a position right next to an LAPD copper. Apparently, this was the signal for the "autograph seeker" JAMES JOHNSON, to approach Dre. Instead of producing an autograph book, Johnson wound up and punched Dre in the face twice. Knight, of course, had himself the world's best alibi because he was way across the room next to a cop when the fists started flying. Just an innocent bystander. Suge is on parole and can't afford another beef.

That's when hell broke loose. The puncher was swarmed by Dre defenders, including YOUNG BUCK who proceeded to stab the puncher. Knight cohorts jumped in to save him from the crowd, private security jumped in to separate the parties and the LAPD dragged non-involved attendees out of the room and proceeded to lock the doors.

The stabbing could have been avoided if the VIBE organizers had installed metal detectors. Apparently, there weren't any. Maybe next time. Or maybe they should have separate VIBE awards. One for FRIENDS OF SUGE and one for everybody else.

Dre is going ahead with an assault case against Johnson. Johnson is being represented by Knight's lawyer. The DA will probably go after Young Buck for the stabbing. Knight's lawyer is saying that Knight and Johnson have no association with each other. Right.

The AP is carrying a story right now that law enforcement is looking at videotape of the event to determine if Knight was involved in the fight. They won't find a single thing on that tape to implicate Knight. He was way across the room standing next to a uniformed cop. Case closed. Knight skates. Next time, naked VIBE awards in a big padded room with fire hoses at the ready.