Wednesday, December 20, 2006

As a number of SOCAL papers reported this week, Peter "Sana" Ojeda was sentenced to 14 years on various RICO charges having to do with selling dope and collecting taxes. If he serves his entire sentence, he'll be 78 when he comes out. As a lifelong reputed Emero, Sana will no doubt be placed in the Pantheon of legendary brothers along with Huero Flores, Chy Cadena, Joe Morgan, Hatchet Mike and a handful of others. While there's some dispute as to whether the idea of taxation was original to him, there's no question that he was the first to launch that particular initiative and enforce it with extreme measures. History will have to give him the credit for that.

What was a first a mere trial balloon, the idea of street taxes took off and became more successful than anyone on either side of the law had imagined. Frankly, the Emeros really had no idea that the neighborhoods were going to fall in line as quickly as they did. We're at the point now where tax resistance is isolated to a few cliques that, despite all efforts to bring them into the fold, remain holdouts. The overwhelming majority of neighborhoods, however, got with the program and continue to salute the blue flag, happily or otherwise.

The issue of taxation can't be viewed as a standalone phenomenon. With the taxation came a significant consolidation of power, a huge network of intelligence and naturally, large amounts of cash. The concept of consolidation, or as a business theoretician might call it, vertical integration, is one that policy makers, politicians, activists and, to some degree law enforcement, has yet to fully understand or deal with. Some, even when presented with irrefutable evidence, continue to insist on the model of "disorganized" crime. If the planned LA "gang Czar" is ever to succeed, the first lesson he, or she, will have to learn is that the problem has to be tackled from top down. With a combination of suppression at the top and intervention at the bottom, there may be a chance to break the chain of command, disrupt the internal policy structure and enforcement and deprive the mid-level and senior level managers of the next generation of recruits.