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Another view: Street gangs not the biggest problem facing Carson youth

John DiMambro

Small cities like Carson City are not exempt from street gangs. There are no gangicide aerosol cans at your local grocer or hardware store to ward off these urbanite creatures. Like earthworms under mud-padded rocks, street gangs just seem to exist, slinking nocturnally along their own mucus paths, and then concealing themselves as if subterranean until provoked to emerge and make their presence known.

I’ve heard many people in Carson City – Reno, too – express concern about street gangs. I don’t like that street gangs contribute body count to our population, but when the lights go out, am I concerned about street gangs in and of themselves?

No. I’m more worried about the other idiots walking the streets. You know, normal people – people with jobs. It is from that general population that emanates road rage, synthetic drug production, trafficking, rape, murder, robberies, car-jackings.



True, street gangs can turn little neighborhoods in small cities into a 21st Century Rio Bravo. The Guns of Navarone turned gangland. In many cases, they are more dangerous to themselves. Their gunfire is mostly pointed to mirrors. Their bullets seem to circle in suspended motion like mosquitoes and flies to a porch light – circling and rotating a target, and then darting out and striking on command to puncture new flesh. The flesh usually belongs to rival gang members and snitches.

But I’m not entirely of the faith that gang members only kill other gang members. Violence is violence. Some people who place their creed in that religion would say, “Let ’em kill themselves off!” Well, maybe. But that’s when they do become a threat to us. What we need to watch out for are their drive-by shooting skills.



You’re walking out of a store with a bag of groceries, and a stray bullet, with someone else’s name etched into its little lead helmet, burns a hole through your box of Fruit Loops and milk carton and buries itself in your chest. Down you go, face first in a milky-white puddle with red blood streams churning pink swirls around a milk-soaked brown bag. Now that’s something to be concerned about. But an incident like that doesn’t need a street gang to make it happen.

Will street gangs jump your son and daughter in a high school hallway? Sure. But so can any average student (or non-student). I was robbed on my first day in high school – a Catholic high school – and that was 34 years ago. No street gang robbed me – just your everyday good ol’ altar boy-looking Catholic jockstraps.

Is it accurate to say that belonging to a street gang is the educational process for credit hours toward imprisonment? The graduate school and occupational trade workshop for a Ph.D. in a life of crime? No question. But street gangs are not the problems of our youth in Carson City.

There are nine known street gangs in Carson City. Most of these gangs are bona fide criminals. But maybe two or three of these “gangs” are just groups of young high school (or no school) delinquents who gave themselves a name in an act of self-proclamation. Budding thugs who’ve yet to be nipped.

The thread of commonality and connectivity that these gangs share, however, is all of them have enough frequent user points on their crime cards to earn them a trip to prison.

Vandalism and graffiti are their most evident marks of territorialism. Their graffiti – one part Jackson Pollack with a stroke, one part Jean-Michel Basquiat with epileptic seizures, and one part the crayon-coloring frenzies of a child – is their chosen native language. It’s their communication by a different sound of war drums. A smoke signal splashed on walls and pavement that is code-protected and free from interpretation by others.

The problems facing our high school youth and the headaches of the parents have about as much to do with street gangs as I do with starting a war in Iraq. The non-directional labyrinth of meth making, drug taking, sex in the hallways, pregnancy right after learning how to use a Play Station, and no idea of what to do after graduation is what we need to be worried about.

– John DiMambro is publisher of the Nevada Appeal in Carson City.


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