Photo courtesy of [junio] Don't think just shoot
To ignore the growth of criminal gangs in your city-even if you don't live in Los Angeles, Chicago or New York-could be more dangerous than you think.
Gangs are predatory by nature, and they don't play by our rules. Even small gangs are criminal opportunists, and they will exploit every situation to their advantage. This includes civil disorder and natural disasters.
Los Angles street gangs have caused or exploited major civil unrest: the Zoot Suit Riots of 1943, the Watts Riots of 1965, The Vietnam Moratorium Riots of 1971, and the Rodney King Riots of 1992.
The Big Easy is the nickname given to the city of New Orleans long ago. It got that name because it has always had an easy going tolerance of shady dealings and slightly crooked people. What we now know is that "La Cosa Nostra" ("The Mafia") had its American beginnings in New Orleans. On October 15, 1890, New Orleans Police Superintendent David Hennessey was murdered by Sicilian Mafia members. This was the first major criminal act of the Mafia in America.
In the summer of 2005, New Orleans was statistically well on its way to being one of the deadliest cities in the U.S. More than 202 people had already been murdered and another 107 or so murders were expected before 2006. Not counting tourists, New Orleans boasted a population of 450,000 making the rate of murder one for every 1,452 residents. It was more like Iraq than even Chicago or Los Angeles.
New Orleans is sometimes known as "504" (its telephone area code) in the world of gangs. Its gangs were not the big Crips and Blood gangs from Los Angeles, nor the Latin Kings or the Gangster Disciples of New York or Chicago. New Orleans gangs tended to be small local groups divided among its 17 voting districts or "wards." The Third and Galvez (3'n'G) gang or their rivals the Dooney Boys fiercely defended small turfs usually associated with the public housing projects. Often the gang would simply scrawl gang graffiti to claim "9th ward" or "KC Mob" for the Kenner City suburb.
Unlike L.A.'s crack dealing Crips and Bloods, the New Orleans gangster's primary product was heroin. These small New Orleans gangs fought violently for their small piece of the drug territory. Life was gangster good.
Nothing seemed to stem the growing gang body count. Victims and witnesses were reluctant to appear in court, or they had a change of heart before trial. They feared further gang reprisals, and the justice system was broken. A 2003-2004 study by the New Orleans Metropolitan Crime Commission showed only seven percent of suspects charged with crimes were ever sent to prison. New Orleans residents had lost whatever faith they had in the system long ago.
At approximately 10 a.m. on Sunday August 28, 2005, New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin ordered the mandatory evacuation of the city after the National Hurricane Center declared the approaching Hurricane Katrina a category 5 storm, the most powerful rating for a hurricane.
Monday morning Aug. 29, 2005, at 6 a.m. Katrina made initial landfall with category 4 hurricane winds of 145 mph. At 8 a.m. the Army Corps of Engineers reported the following: "A barge broke loose and crashed through the floodwall, opening a breach that accelerated flooding into the lower Ninth Ward and Saint Bernard Parish." At 9 a.m. the vengeful eye of Katrina passed over New Orleans and six to eight feet of water covered the lower Ninth Ward.
By mid-morning two holes were ripped in the Superdome roof and 10,000 storm refugees, who could not or would not evacuate, were inside. Later that morning the 17th Street Canal Levee was breached. The American Red Cross announced that it was "launching the largest mobilization of resources in its history" to assist the Hurricane Katrina Victims.