Hispanic gang activity on the rise

Published 8:41 am Thursday, March 12, 2009

Civil war divided the United States almost 150 years ago, pitting the north against the south.

But nowadays, fighting between the north and south boils down to rival Mexican gangs.

Earlier this week two juveniles, ages 14 and 15, were arrested for their part in a drive-by shooting that police consider retaliation for a prior drive-by.

There have been six such arrests in the past two months, Port Arthur Police Sgt. Kirk Boneau said. All of the suspects are charged with aggravated assault and police believe all were involved in a drive-by shooting.

Inside Port Arthur Police Department’s Street Crimes Unit office, mug shots of wanted gang members line a section of wall.

The men in the photographs are members of Mexican gangs active in the area. Most have dark, close cropped hair but the similarities stop there.

They are Surenos, or Sur 13, representing southern Mexico, and Nortenos, or Norte 14, representing northern Mexico.

PAPD Chief Mark Blanton said there has been a spike in Hispanic gang activity.

While no one was injured in a March 4 shooting on Rosedale Drive, one person was shot in the arm in what police believe was a retaliation shooting in the 3100 block of Berndardt Drive on March 8.

The normally quiet Griffing Park area of town was not the targeted area, Officer Nathan Mingo said, just the place where the incident ended.

“These gangs are rivals,” Blanton said. “They’re not out there preying on citizens, they’re preying on each other. But we can’t risk innocent persons.”

Officer Eli Van Horn said there are currently seven drive-by shootings under investigation.

One of the shootings occurred Dec. 29, 2008, outside Mega Play Bowling Alley

During the investigation officers found that two people had been robbed at gun point in the front of the bowling alley by two suspects. After that robbery, the two suspects then went to the east side of the bowling alley next to Ninth Avenue and demanded a purse from another victim. That victim fled on foot and was fired at by the suspects.

Officers then found a fourth victim had been shot while in the east parking lot but was it was not believed he had been robbed.

Other shootings have occurred along Rosedale Avenue, the 5200 block of Eighth Street, and Peak Avenue.

These investigations are ongoing.

The “macho” tough guy image is valued by the Mexican gang member making the structure of their gangs unique.

“There is no real leader, no shot caller,” Officer Steve Flores said. “It’s about respect, it’s about who beats up the most people, commits crimes. Their hierarchy is based on respect.”

Gang member claim, or tag, an area as theirs and spray paint their symbols in visible places.

Police are working to curb this crime.

Boneau said they are beginning an undercover surveillance operation looking for those who graffiti. Those individuals will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

Anyone with information about gang crimes or any other crime is urged to call EasTex Crime Stoppers at 724-TIPS. You will not be asked your name and could earn a cash reward.