Tonight was gang night. The first half of the evening was a prosecutor going over the legal definition of what a gang is, what they have to prove in order to get gang enhancements, the history of gangs in California , and the most common colors and symbols.
Basically, to qualify as a gang, you have to have the following:
- 3+ people
- common signs or symbols
- one of the primary activities is committing crimes
- members have engaged in a pattern of criminal activity
As far as I can tell, street gangs are big pyramid schemes and it all comes down to money in the end.
After hearing about the geographic sort-of-borders, with the Norteños mainly north of Bakersfield and the Sureños mainly south of Bakersfield (although we have both in Woodland), the clueless blond girl (CBG) says "I'm from Bakersfield. Which one should I be worried about?" Questions like that make me want to pound my head on the desk. She kept asking over and over until finally someone pointed out that what she should really be worried about is drunk drivers unless she has a habit of hanging out with drug dealers or going to parties in cheap motels.
One thing I learned is that these groups have co-opted sports logos because they have the right color and letters. So despite it looking like we have a large population of die-hard Nebraska Cornhusker fans in Woodland, it turns out that they're all Norteños that like red hats with a big letter "N". Just another reason to distrust anyone wearing sports gear if you ask me.
Another question by CBG: "What kinds of drugs do they sell?" If she's trolling the class, she's really committed to her art.
The second part of the evening was a talk given by an investigator with the DA's office who has a bunch of gang experience. I'm sure he knows what he's talking about, but the talk was geared more toward parents of teenagers who are worried that they might find out their child is secretly a gang member. At various points in the evening I was convinced this was one of those "kids who play D&D are secretly worshiping Satan" talks that were very popular when I was a teen, but updated with different symbols.
Once you bring numerology into the mix you can make up anything you want and say you have proof. For example, the Norteños are associated with the number 14 and N is the 14th letter of the alphabet. Okay, I can go along with that. But the Sureños are associated with the number 13 because... "they're from L.A. and L is the 12th letter of the alphabet and A is the 1st letter and when you add them together you get 13". And maybe that's where that really came from, but I'm not buying that it's so obvious that it deserves a vigorous head-nod and a loud "uh-HUH". It could just as easily be 6+7 or 10 + 3 or some other combination. Or something completely different.
Then we watched a rap video that was produced by a bunch of members of one of the local gangs. The tune was kind of catchy, but mostly what I noticed was the really poor production values. I mean really, all those young people and none of them are any better at filming and mixing than I am? It's a really bad sign when there's nobody with any artistic talent in your group. I think that was the saddest part of my evening.
But the thing I had the most trouble with was the questionable parenting tips being offered -- because, yes, making your 3rd grade son run until he cries and pukes is absolutely the best way to deal with him bullying another kid, why wouldn't it be? *Deep breath*
By the end of the evening I was again glad that I don't have children and thus don't have to worry about attending information nights like those.
Anyhow, next week is the last week. I get a certificate. And pizza. And my Thursday evenings back.