News Tribune Gang Roundtable
May 25, 2006
Portland Avenue Community Center
Lt. Kathy McAlpine, Tacoma Police Department
Pat Erwin, principal, Lincoln High School
Lawrence Stone, World Vision, gang counselor, director of Big Homie program
Laura Rodriguez, World Vision
Moni Hoy, Safe Streets
LaTasha Evans, East Side Boys and Girls Club (absent/delayed)
Rick Talbert, Tacoma City Councilman
Kelly Goodsell, teacher, Park Avenue Center
Roxanne Miles, Metro Parks Tacoma
Tacoma Police Capt. Mike Miller
Edwina Magrum, East Side Community Action Team
“Brother” Rico Leslie, Project SAVE (gang resistance program)
“Brother” Dennis Turner, Project SAVE
From the News Tribune:
David Zeeck, executive editor
Karen Peterson, managing editor
Randy McCarthy, team leader
Sean Robinson, reporter
Mark Briggs, online editor
Cathy Brewis, marketing director
Drew Perine, photographer
Peterson: Thank you for coming. We decided to do this after publishing stories by Sean Robinson and Stacey Mulick (April 28 and 29) – the first about some specific instances of gang violence on the East Side. The second-day story, many of you participated in. We talked to people who had one piece of this puzzle.
We're going to try to accomplish three things tonight. First, introduce ourselves and try to get to know each other better. Second, an exercise: We're going to try to identify what success would look like if the East Side licked this problem. Then, identify the barriers. Then we'll brainstorm ideas for overcoming those barriers.
Third, we don't want to leave without brainstorming ideas for next steps. What are the next steps we should tackle? Our intention is to publish a story that will come from this conversation.
Who wants to start? What's your vision of success in the community?
THE VISION OF SUCCESS
McAlpine: Everybody can walk freely on the streets, play in their yards again without thinking about their environment, play in the park without hesitation. Be able to participate in your community with freedom, without worrying about a stray bullet. Adults and children both.
Erwin: It would be kids involved in productive things, more engaged in school, in clubs and sports activities. Aside from that feeling of safety, that they have other choices to make.
Talbert: To expand on both of those, it's not only just a sense of safety, it's actually real safety. It's one thing to feel safe but it doesn't necessarily mean that the crime rate is where we want it to be, that the stats that we monitor are where we want them to be.
We have to make sure as a community that the numbers are where we want them to be. We talk about kids so often because kids are the ones to get involved with gangs. They don't just decide when they're 25 or 30.
We have to provide our children with opportunities so they do go down that path. My kids go to East Side kids, and they come home with stories, and it terrifies me that they are exposed to this stuff… we need to provide them with the structures…
Hoy: To me, success is the whole community engaged in the lives of children. I think Rick is right in that a person doesn't just decide to become a gang member overnight, it's a long and perpetual process.
To prevent our youth joining in gangs we need to make a presence –parents, the community, teachers, we all need to make a presence in our youth's lives.
Stone: Some of the resources in this community need to be culturally relevant. Relevant to their situation, economically, racewise. It takes a starving man to understand a starving man, and a rich man to understand a rich man. A lot of people come in here with academic experience, but they don't have the life experience to understand our babies. It's just a lack of understanding. If you've never been through somebody's experience in life, you can only walk so far with that individual. [Success is] leaders that have experience with what the kids are going trough.
Erwin: … Everyone has to be engaged.
Goodsell: success has to be in the home. Students proactively, actively involved with their families.
Rodriguez: I think it's important that in our community we have enough job opportunities.
Erwin: when I came to the East Side, Pastor Ron Vignec [of the East Side Lutheran Mission] gave his tour of the East Side. Success can be such simple things, like a grocery store on the East Side, opportunities for gainful employment on the East Side.
When you talk to people in Tacoma, they don't really come over to this part of town. There's nothing to draw them here. They might come to the Portland Avenue Nursery. We need something to draw them here.
Rodriguez: Speaking of the tour of the East Side, there was one lady who lived here on the East Side growing up years ago.
She said when she came back to do the tour, she said, ‘It hasn't changed from 50 years ago.' In fact, she said, ‘I see less. They closed down our stores.' For people to come back and to see no progress…
Peterson: Success would be people wanting to come back and see a place they want to live in
Goodsell: Success would be children engaged in school and wanting to learn.
Peterson: Barriers. What are the barriers to getting to success?
Erwin: You need to know your community.
… The barrier could be not knowing the community and not having a connector.
You need to have people here who want to be here. Working at Boze Elementary, working at the [Portland Avenue] Community Center –it's not just a job, it's part of wanting to be part of community.
There's a saying from James Kollmar? , he says he “made it” because of a conspiracy of people who refused to let him fail.
We don't necessarily know who the leaders are. Everyone needs to know Lawrence , everyone needs to know Dennis and Rico.
McAlpine: Resources. When you look at all the things we want to accomplish, one of our biggest barriers is to get all the things we want to go where we want [them] to go.
The bigger picture, reduction of gang problems, the TPD, we are very committed to this. There is so much more we could do if we had more resources, to have more presence while we put it all together.
I think maybe the schools have programs that they'd like to institute that they can't fund. When you talk about barriers, I think one of the first stopping points is resources.
Peterson: What would you do with more resources?
McAlpine: It's more than just numbers, so it's how you apply those resources. Our coverage area [is so large] … you're driving around in a very reactive way [from call to call] instead of distributing resources to have a higher presence.
Peterson: Is a barrier the size of this place?
McAlpine: It certainly is. It's also the diversity of the community.
DIVERSITY: “TWO DIFFERENT WORLDS”
… In one block you have a native community, in another block a Hispanic community, and you have to understand all those cultural differences.
Talbert: Our greatest asset is our diversity, but it's also a barrier, in terms of cultural issues, trying to address a situation district-wide [Talbert represents City Council District 4, which includes most of the East Side].
In trying to address something on 44th and A and the same problem on 36th and Hosmer, they're two different worlds.
The numbers in the end might all wash out – but [look at] the sheer distance that they all have to travel and the difference in cultural distances that they have to travel. What's going to define the East Side is our cultural differences. We have to define all of this to get past all of that.
Erwin: I have a question for Kathy. In terms of policing, there's a psychological dimension to being a gang member. The fear I have of getting arrested might be different for a 15- or 17-year-old kid. Do you work with Lawrence about strategies for working with kids that might be gang involved?
McAlpine: Yes. I worked the East Side when the gangs were hot and heavy, then drugs, then [the] violent crimes task force. I believe it's way past an enforcement issue. We're committed to getting to root causes.
Our role in identifying that is to communicate and say we have a common goal in getting to these resources. My goal is to identify these resources and, say we're talking to a parent or child for the first time. Can I give them Brother Rico, or Lawrence, or what resource? We want to be the conduit for all these other resources.
In two months that I've been here I've spent a lot of time trying to identify the resources. It's not just me that's going to help make the East Side safer, it's gong to take all of us and a lot more out of this room.
Erwin: I just wanted to push a little bit to identify what that was. Another barrier is the psychological issue, and that is that [today's] 15-year-old is a lot different from the 15-year-old that I was. And we've got to talk to Lawrence about that.
Peterson: So the barrier is that we don't know how these kids think.
Goodsell: We never know how kids think. Grown-ups never know. That's always going to be a barrier. But a huge thing is that kids don't feel connected to things, and they don't feel they belong, so they search that out. In the setting I teach in, it's very small and intimate and we talk openly, and the kids talk openly about that.
Stone: In my case it wasn't belonging, it was economic. I made $500 an hour selling crack, I was my own man, why should I listen to anybody? If you're low income and on welfare your check runs out about the 20th of the month, so you've got to do something.
Evans: It's about what's going on today. Today there's no food in the fridge, today there's no clothes on my back. They don't think about 5 or 10 years in the future. They think about today. What can I do to get through today.
Peterson: That's a barrier. You've got to get them thinking about the long term.
Stone: You've got to get kids thinking about stuff they don't know about, like access and privilege. I didn't know there was racism until Pastor Ron sat me down and talked about it.
When I was looking for a job or employment or trying to do something honest and I barely had shoes on my feet or clothes, they assumed something about my mother, they assumed she was illiterate. That produces bias and racism, that produced barriers I didn't even know about.
Hoy: The economic barrier I think is very prevalent on the East Side. We have a large population of immigrants, a lot of whom don't even speak English, a lot of whom don't have a good paying job. They have to try to just survive. It makes it difficult for them to have that presence in people's lives.
In the Cambodian community, a lot of the parents are single mothers. For them to raise the children without the father poses another challenge. There's also generational challenge that goes on in some of these immigrant families in that children are raised differently than in their former country – so it's that conflict that makes things difficult for the parents
Erwin: Another barrier I think is that kids who are gang involved become celebrities of sorts. When [The TNT] did that story some time back [gang stories published April 28 and 29], I appreciated the interest… But at the same time, my kids are walking around the school that day with newspapers saying, ‘Look at this.' It's good I suppose that they're reading, but look what they're excited about.
Rodriguez: For me the main thing is economics also. A lot of times, education for the parents is a big one. They don't know [American] culture, [but] the kids catch on really quick, they learn English really quick, they catch on to what they're seeing, the parents have no idea so they can't stop it. They don't know.
FAMILIES, RACE AND SAFETY
Peterson: For some families, the criminal element within the families is the barrier to overcome. Is that a barrier?
Stone: If [a sibling or relative] assumes the role of a big brother or a father figure in that child's life… I don't think that's a real barrier. I think the real barrier is beginning to be broken down when you see people in a room like this talking like this, because four or five years ago you wouldn't have seen this, with people of different ethnicities and backgrounds in a room talking together.
Everyone in this room, before we can begin touching the youth, we have to throw out all our past history and say this room is a rainbow. But if everybody walks out of this room saying I'm one color, there won't be change.
Peterson: Inertia's a barrier.
Erwin: Sometimes we like to present things in a nice way. We like to say we don't see color. Well, Lawrence is black. I'm a white male. Being a black male is a defining feature, it's important to him. I don't want to say I don't see Lawrence's color, that's important to him. When it comes to defining character, that conversation is a difficult conversation, it's not nice to have.
Talbert: Let me just disagree a little bit. I grew up here. I had friends, I looked at them, I knew they were different colors, I never looked at it that way until I went to Western Washington University . I was plopped down in a school that was 95 percent white. That was culture shock for me. I was used to a school that was less than 50 percent white.
I just left my son's - his two best friends, one is black and one is Cambodian. I never see race or cultural issues, they're just three little boys. I don't think we should go into it saying that because we're culturally diverse we should segregate our thinking. We're talking about children. I don't think they care what color they are, they just want to be friends. … from my own perspective, these are children still, and if we capture them early enough, they're not going to fall into that.
Peterson: Let's go back to the list of what success looks like and the barriers
Goodsell: I was talking to kids the other day and the rag issue [wearing or carrying colored, gang-affiliated “rags”] came up and I said, ‘Why do you have to do that?'
They were saying, ‘I just have to.' It's so infiltrated into the neighborhood. ‘I just have to.' The pressure is so intense right now for our kids. Maybe it's because my kids [students] are so at risk and they don't see another way, and there isn't another way for them. There isn't. Because of what's going on and the root issues, they feel trapped. They just do it to survive.
Robinson: One thing that I found towards the latter end of reporting this – and trying to understand it from my suburban perspective – is that some of these guys and girls are joining these groups for protection. In a twisted way, it's safer to belong than not to belong. It's safer to be together.
Miles: Some of it's just reputation and trying to break out of old molds. Sometimes there's a perception that [street crime is] expected. That infuriates people to think there's a tolerance level. People are used to seeing it. Lack of resources, not knowing it'll be addressed when they call [police]. They don't want to just pick up the phone and call, whether it's because of a language barrier. They don't want to fill out a report. Some people know that [drug] dealing happens in certain places or certain places, they don't deal with it, they just stay away from it. That has to change.
JOBS, ACCESS AND PRIVILEGE
Talbert: It certainly is a barrier, it's a barrier for every community, we need jobs not only for youth but for adults as well. As a lifelong resident, again, the East Side is actually in a better position now than it was 20-30 years ago.
We have a gang problem, but economically, investment possibilities are flying off the map right now for the East Side. We have an opportunity to capture that and do something with it.
With property values going where they are right now, we're already seeing some change. Right or wrong, property values are going to gentrify our communities. We should do something about that. We don't want to push out the people who make the community what it is. There is hope on the horizon, things are changing, things are getting better from that perspective. It doesn't address the problem of the gangs.
Stone: I just want to ask you a question. I love all these people, but I've been through a portion of my life where I've been the problem that everyone is talking about. And I am black, and I'm trying to tell you about access and privilege and what it is. The leaders in our churches, most of them are 50-60 years old. Those guys ate in the back of the building and didn't have a right to vote. We have people that are half a man and half a spirit.
I'm coming back like a whole man. I'm telling you that access and privilege is a big thing. You will have more opportunities and privilege. Does that make you a bad person? No. Does that make me a good person? No. Racism and poverty makes crime, and that's what keeps people from getting a good job.
Hoy: This comes back to cultural diversity, that's the barrier here.
Goodsell: I don't see age as a barrier when it comes to talking. Connections can happen.
Evans: At my Boys and Girls Club, 150 kids, 15 of their parents come in every day. It comes back to economics. How can you have families and communities together when you have families that can't come together? 95 percent of our membership is free because our families can't afford it. It comes down to money. This community is the working poor.
POCKETS AND NUMBERS
Peterson: There are people outside the nuclear family that are uninvolved?
Miles: It's bound more by the cultural groups. It's getting to know the leaders. That's why Pastor Ron is so critical. It's like the Russian, Slavic-speaking group. The inter-generational support is there, but it's within each group. You have to tap into each one to advance, to really bring those leaders to the table.
It's saying, we need you to come here. It takes a lot of work to connect into those communities. When you get people with different agendas, it takes a lot of work.
Peterson: My understanding is that the gangs themselves are not divided up culturally. While we've got pockets, the gangs are not necessarily mixed the same way.
McAlpine: Correct. It can be by neighborhood, whether you're talking about the OLBs [Original Loco Boyz, a gang set] or Native Gangsters. It doesn't matter if you're native, it's the neighborhood you're in, I would defer to Lawrence, but I think that you see a huge mixture. You're talking communities. Lincoln might have a group. Mt. Tahoma had a group called The Folks. It might be a very diverse group.
Peterson: The sheer number of groups has got to be a barrier.
Robinson: There's one entity that we had invited and we'd hoped to hear from and that's the [Puyallup] tribe.
In the sense of talking about barriers, what I find when I try to get into that group of people and ask them about these things is that it's a very closed system, they keep their decisions to themselves, it's very hard to get people to talk about what's going on because they want to represent themselves as just great no matter what. What do you think the community needs from that entity?
Rodriguez: Not just involvement, but trust. That's what we need between the groups. In the Latino population we don't trust our children to just anyone – and the natives have more reasons to not trust. We cannot expect them to open their doors to us when they have been done wrong for so long.
McAlpine: Regarding age. In the groups I have spoken to, you have a mixture of the young and retirement-age. I have seen a mixture of people who are really trying to be involved and get educated about what they can do for their community.
THE FAMILY ELEMENT
Randy: I keep thinking, ‘Crummy parents make crummy kids.' Have you guys gotten to the family element?
McAlpine: I don't think it's that simple. If you have a single parent that's working two jobs and can't afford day care, that child is at risk. …
Erwin: I've got some wonderful parents I've worked with. When I have some involved in the gang area, they were not Americans, they had emigrated to this country, they didn't know what was going on, and once they knew what to look for they were all over it.
Peterson: One (TNT) reader commented online, he was a teacher at Mt. Tahoma , he was talking about how teachers need to be educated.
Robinson: that is where the age barrier has a profound effect. He said the older faculty members at the school did not see it [signs of gang activity] and were worn out, or not getting it and needing to be brought into the circle.
Goodsell: That would make sense.
Erwin: My kids at McIlvaigh interact so well together. And also at Lincoln . If I'm going to work in a school, I need to learn about the community, I need to be honest with myself about how the world has worked, about how America has come about.
Stone: That's what Pastor Ron would say. Look where I come from. When the world would turn me back, Pastor Ron would say, I don't understand, but I'll be there. And Pat [Erwin] has never questioned my experience.
Talbert: I don't want to infer that race doesn't play an issue here, I'm not that naïve. I don't think we should automatically assume that kids see each other differently.
Peterson: One other barrier… I see a barrier of communication in connecting the resources here.
Erwin: I encourage people to look at the work of Jeffrey Canada in New York City. He has essentially taken on responsibility for raising the children in Harlem. If you are a pregnant mother, you are informed of the resources available to you. When you have a baby or toddler you have dance classes, martial arts classes….
We have a new superintendent coming in. I hope he understands that the City of Tacoma raises kids, not just the schools. We have a lot of assets on the East Side, but how they work together is tough. … At times that runs counter to what another group is doing in terms of duplicating services and we have to be adults about that.
McAlpine: We've identified a steering committee. You come together at a monthly meeting. We leave today, what do we do. The door is opening. What do we do to keep things going? You set these goals and say, our goals are whatever, you bring your resources and knowledge.
Stone: I just want to say in all honesty, since I turned my life around, I've been going to meetings for six years. To me this is great that there is nobody in here looking for funding, they just are here with the public good. This is to me the most hopeful meeting that I've ever been in.
Erwin: Whatever entity exists citywide, on the East Side they need more resources. They're resources we have to produce. As a high school principal, I wanted to come to this meeting. But pretty soon everyone is stretched so thin. We should have more for the police here. I know there's some breakdowns of funding. We've got to be equitable as opposed to equal.
Briggs: Are there specific barriers to information? Is there information out there that you know exists but that doesn't get to people or that you wish you had? Crime incidents. Online information. I saw comments on Sean's story that the shootings he wrote about, people didn't know about. What kind of information can we provide to be an information clearinghouse and bring people together?
Hoy: The Eastside team, the ECAT, is to bring the stakeholders together. It was formed two years ago when the gang problem started happening. … We came up with this concept to bring all the stakeholders together to share strategies. Currently Kathy McAlpine brings information to those meetings.
Miles: You almost need a syndicate. Some of the folks you're trying to reach don't read your newspaper. They're not buying off on it until there's a leader in their community that endorses it.
In the park district, we had a successful park program for years, but the majority of the participants were Asian. It became apparent that the Asian community had adopted us but the other groups thought that was the situation. We worked with Laura [Rodriguez] and now the Latino community is involved. … you have to go in and form those relationships, talk to the groups. Build relationships.
Talbert: It already does exist, ECAT does exist, its sole reason for existence is to bring those groups together. We already knew there were 85-90 groups on the East Side but they weren't communicating. We're only a couple of years into it, and Edwina's here, she's the president. It's a resource thing. They're working on a public safety summit on gang safety. The News Tribune could do a good job of working with folks like Edwina so people know where they can go.
Peterson: Who's not at the table?
Talbert: PTAs, residents. We just need bodies.
Rodriguez. There's a lot of networking on the East Side. There's East Side Networking that's been meeting for 15 years now, there's ECAT. but there's not enough residents. And sometimes there are, but not enough.
Erwin: And kids.
Evans: I have 200 of them.
Capt. Mike Miller: I think you don't see a lot of people at these meetings because of what LaTasha said – people are in survival mode. They don't see how to get beyond today. And also what Lawrence said – they don't see leaders there. They don't realize that they can become leaders.
Edwina Magrum: Yes.
Robinson (to Evans): You're the youngest person here, you almost represent a solution. Why did you not crash and burn?
Evans: My motivation was, I felt like there weren't many black female leaders and I wanted to be one. It's the whole reason I work at the Boys and Girls club is because I wanted to be that example. I grew up in this club, I grew up in survival mode like you….
I had a lot of competition. My friends wanted the same thing. It was mentors. A lot of teachers from Lincoln took me in and showed me what I could have. It's about people in the community taking people in and saying there's so much out there, there's more out there than Tacoma. I was amazed when I found out there's so much out there than Tacoma. It's breaking the generational curses of things, and showing them they can step outside of the box. Through school, through programs. There are a lot of programs out there that people don't know about.
Our philosophy is that we're not serving at risk kids, we're serving at hope kids. We're showing them things that they wouldn't be introduced to.
Peterson: People do want to be asked.
Miles: To get the residents and folks on board, when they are in that survival mode, usually you're pulling your resources from in that community to find your role models. Who is that strong black woman, that strong Asian male?
When those people are so absorbed in trying to survive, that's not who they say. When you pull them in, you get to see something stronger.
We have a Sparks Middle School. We've been able to pull people in. One of the things that was started at Jason Lee is called “In The Corner.” They're strong leaders, at lunch they're in the corner and kids can ask any question. It really took off. It sets that example that you can succeed in here.
PARENTS – TALKING AND LISTENING
Peterson: How do you get kids past that immediacy? That they want to be part of that gang today. How do you crack that?
Hoy: I think one of the biggest failures we have in school right now is that there is this culture, that the gang culture is a cool culture. We see it in music and movies. There's a lot of peer pressure out there on these kids and on youth to become one of them. What we need to do is to overcome that image. To be stronger than that pop culture or gang culture image. We need to make a stronger presence than the negative people making this presence.
Erwin: I think also when we connect with the schools, the young man I was describing earlier. Lawrence worked with him in part because this is a kid that other kids watch. So it's identifying those leaders, or kids that have a reputation or cachet that other kids watch. They have a profound effect on the kids in their neighborhood or school.
Evans: I always think about, what do you do if you're not a great athlete or musician. What do you do? At my club there are kids that are excellent athletes and the rest of the kids that sit on the bleachers and wonder, what am I good at? They're the ones that are going to join gangs. You ask any kid in my club what they're going to be when they grow up, they say they want to be a basketball player. Well honey, you can't shoot a basket, what are you going to do?
Peterson: What should parents do?
McAlpine: Get involved. … They don't have any [legal] expectation of privacy. You go into their rooms and you check, you check MySpace. … you cannot turn your back. And calling them on it, because they're going to deny it. The more you understand that culture the better prepared you are to handle it.
Rodriguez: Just talking to them. Parents don't talk to their kids any more. Kids are lucky if they get an hour a week. I was lucky, I didn't fall through the cracks, we weren't rich, but [my mother] asked me every day, ‘How was your day?' And if I didn't want to answer, she kept asking, and she sat me down. I think it's important for parents to talk to their kids. We have a tutoring program for our kids where they get one-on-one attention for an hour and a half, and that's huge for them.
Robinson: Dennis over here has been bending my ear about how… parents are not paying much attention to it and getting into their kids' heads. There's a therapeutic element to that.
Dennis Turner: The advice I give is, as parents, we want to tell our kids everything because we're adults, we know everything. When do we let our kids say what they want to say? We never sit back and listen to what they have to say. I didn't sit there, I came from a background that had money, [my parents] were educated – but what I didn't have with my parents was an ability to communicate with them. So when I was in trouble, I didn't go to my parents. I went to my friends, and they solved my problems for me.
Miles: It takes a village to raise a child, and it takes a village to raise a parent. I have been a parent for 13 years, but I've never been a parent of a 14-year-old. We all need help. … What should you need to know to help them be successful? And that's more across the board for people from other cultures who don't know what kids need to know to succeed in this culture.
Erwin: I think one of the things parents need to do is find what their kids are good at and celebrate that. One of the things we know is that we do what we're good at and not what we're bad at. You'll never see me sing or dance because I'm not good at it. I became a history major in college because I got an A, not because I liked it. Let's create that positive self image out there so kids realize there's something out there for me.
Goodsell: Schools need to be doing that too. … school is where the majority of our kids spend the majority of their lives.
NOT CALLING THE COPS
Peterson: How do you overcome the barrier of [people not calling police]?
McAlpine: You need to educate yourself, encourage people to come to community meetings, find out what we need to know, what's appropriate to tell us. Apart from that, find out that there are different modes of communication – you can call the hotline. You can let your neighbor know if you don't feel comfortable talking to us.
A very simple concept: just have a notepad by your phone or by the window. When you see something out of place, you don't know what it is, write down the license plate and the time. Maybe it'll come to nothing. You don't always report something. You have knowledge and you're aware. I do that in my car, I jot plates down. And I don't run them later [laughter].
Most of the times people aren't going to tell you what happened, yet there's a victim. Maybe somebody saw this white SUV that didn't belong in the neighborhood and they had that plate. You've kind of connected the dots. We've got five, six officers on a shift in this big geographic area, if you've got 100,000 people who are the eyes and ears for each other, you know better what's out of place than we do. If you start reporting and paying attention and reporting a little bit more, that's going to help us. The more information we have, the better we are at solving this issue.
Robinson: I want to ask Roxanne and Rick: if you're walking around a neighborhood and
you see a pile of glass and it's there the next day and the next, it leads to neglect. Maintenance in the parks and city.
Talbert: It's the broken window syndrome. Your neighbor has a broken window and pretty soon you have a broken window. And there's the reverse, where if your neighbor paints his house, you start to think about it. So with the broken window, we've got to reverse that.
Our new city manager has a new program. … We have four areas this year, we've got Tacoma CARES, we have four pilot programs this year. If you can get in front of those problems, get that dilapidated car out of the yard before it feeds into the next yard. I think people feel how their environment feels.
It's a matter of, we have plenty of laws, we just need to enforce them. More resources, prioritizing. It's a community thing too, though. Community involvement. We had a group here last year that took on half of the zip code of 98404 [and collected enormous amounts of garbage]. The city provided resources, a Dumpster. That was TEAM.
It's that kind of stuff. Little things like that can make a huge difference. Things a community can do that the city can't. As a community, if you have those 100,000 eyes that Kathy was talking about, you can take on things the city can't do.
Peterson: How do you do that?
Hoy: It's not an easy thing. A lot of times what we find is that residents care about the neighborhood. They don't want to go to meetings outside the neighborhood. That's why people won't come to the ECAT meeting, it's outside the neighborhood, it's a big area. We also have working families, they work 8-5, they're tired, they don't want to go to another meeting.
Peterson: What if there was a meeting closer to home?
Hoy: Doing this 15, 20 years now, we find that neighborhood groups have greater participation. They care about the neighborhood, and it's hard to get them beyond that.
LESSONS FROM THE HILLTOP
Peterson: What worked on the Hilltop? What made a difference?
Stone: Genocide. It was a breed that died. Now you've got our sons and daughters out there. I've got a son that's 18 now, I'm a grandfather. I'm from out there.
This is a good meeting, but it's removed from the reality of why we -- even though I'm a professional, I'm still one of them -- why we do what we do? What makes me look at someone like me and gun him down, why do we do that all over the United States? And now I'm in a masters program at Seattle University
They don't know why until they start reading about gentrification, property values going up, once you understand life in a gang. I was just in Guatemala doing an international gang summit. These kids have been in the dump for 6 years. The garbageman dumps the
garbage, then he takes out what's in there….
The church used to be a refuge for us. It's no longer that for us, our churches are in bondage right now. We have a turmoil problem and a bondage problem. It is a generational curse.
Hoy: What made the Hilltop work, getting rid of gangs? I think it all goes back to the community making a presence. They went out there, they report everything they see, suspicious activity, they do walkabouts.
I don't know if there's a history of the Hilltop, but Safe Streets got started because of the situation on the Hilltop. We had a group of leaders from the Hilltop, the city, the county, United Way . The strategy was to get neighbors to take action, to report what they see, to get rid of the problems on the Hilltop, and I think that's what worked.
Erwin: I think the community presence is key. You have to get out there and know your community. These are great kids, they've got so much that's good about them, but at the same time we've got to be smart about the problem. For a lot of our kids it's pride. It's fear that they're going to be looked down upon.
If I go to Moni, and Lawrence is in his gangsrer set, I have to be careful of Lawrence because he's going to look out for Moni. In Boston, I read about a program, where, if Kelly is going to do something wrong, she has to understand that her three friends go with her. … maybe there are ways we can tap into it. I don't understand it but Boston had success in doing that.
Rodriguez. I'm from LA where there's no controlling it any more. For me coming up here, this is nothing, because I've seen it all. What is great about the Hilltop is that they got a hold of it when they did. They took control and that's some of the things that we need to have happen here. This is not that bad, but it could get worse.
THE FUTURE AND NEXT STEPS
McAlpine: From the police department's standpoint, all the way to the top, the chief has committed the resources. He has said, ‘Identify what you need in terms of resources.' The formation of a gang unit, which is a collateral duty, not a full time duty. Not just from an enforcement standpoint but also to have that effective communication. You need individuals who can see that opportunity and share the cause.
Again the key point in this is the partnerships. When I leave today there are some new people here we've established. If I understand where Lawrence is coming from and I come across a mother that needs a card I can give her that, I can give her Brother Rico's. And we have a highly visible substation. And now all of you know the police department and that we're committed to this and were committed to enforcement. And we can identify those hard core people and get them off the streets.
Talbert: From the city's standpoint, I've asked the chief and his staff to put together and reenact the PROACT teams that were successful in the 90s. It's proactive, getting in front of the problem, not reacting to the situation but being in front.
McAlpine: These [teams] are officers that are non-call responders, going into areas and identifying what the problem is. If you have a gang problem, or if you have a sex crime problem and you want to knock and talk on every sex offender's door. [The teams have] the ability to go in plainclothes, unmarked or high profile. We can go identify any problem. We have a “proact” team on the East Side and work on that problem until we're comfortable.
Talbert: [Funding for the teams is] overtime or extra-time, so it's only when you can find the officers that have the time. That time wears on the officers as well.
Getting that time is key. I've asked the chief to put together the proposal, the city manager is aware of it. I believe I have the support, I believe we can do it just by getting up to full staff, because we are still understaffed in terms of budgeted officers.
It's a minor cost compared to what we get on the back side. That's the first part. The other part, in terms of next steps, I think is more of this type of stuff [the roundtable]. It's not letting the problem get away from us, as Laura indicated. She's seen much worse. To us, this is bad. There's worse, but it's intolerable to us here. We have to have that mindset. We have to use resources like Lawrence and the schools.
We have worked to put together a community forum that will be early in 2007. The schools are involved, the park district is involved. The theme is community education but it goes much deeper than ABCs. It's making sure we have something to look forward to when they're grown. … It's going to be community wide. We have to educate our kids to fill the jobs that are being created.
Goodsell: Once again, I see it from different eyes, I see the kids who have struggled a lot and have not made it over and over again, and most do claim to gang activity, they don't see school as safe – there's no connectors for them. Connecting with mentors and people who can bring them down that path is key. School is so isolated, and it needs to be community oriented. It sounds like Lincoln is doing great things. I'm not sure how to get connected.
Erwin: We are doing some interesting things. We have internships…. It's also important that we have the right people working in the right schools. We have to have the right people in the right places. That's my responsibility as an educator, to make sure we have the right people. But we also need to support the kids. It's an adult world, we need to see things from the kids' point of view.
McAlpine: There's also a pilot project in the East Side schools with Kate Frasier [and Tacoma police] … the project is to train the trainers ot recognize gang signs. Training educators what to look for… We're also going to try to do the GREAT program [a school-based gang resistance program] again on the East Side.
Erwin: We recognize as educators we've got to do a better job communicating. I need the information so I can work with these kids. With Kate Frasier and Missy Porter, who are the family engagement liaisons for the district… coming to meet on pretty much a monthly basis at the coffee shop at 38th and McKinley.
Talbert: Investments are happening, the values are getting people to finally look to our area and saying how can I get involved? Other folks with ECAT and ENAC have been working with me to come together with a vision of how we're going to grow as a community, commercially and residentially but especially commercially.
On Portland Avenue , part of the problem is communicating with the tribe because so much of the East Side of that property is owned by the tribe. I was so happy when Albertsons finally came in, but it does nothing because it doesn't serve the east bound people. I don't want to force people out, I want the people who live here and who are invested here to feel like they are a part of it.
Erwin: Maybe the city should subsidize a grocery store on Portland Avenue. They go to the Minimart to get their cup of noodles and their chips. If we have young children, they're not getting the nutrients they need for brain development, and then we have problems with obesity …
Moni: We need to continue working together as a community, not as a subgroup, and we need to reach out to other community members and other community groups –the Latino, Asian, African-American groups, we all need to reach out to each other and come together as a community to address this gang issue.
It's not going to be resolved overnight, it needs to be addressed in the long term. I also think we need more programs like Big Homie program and Brother Rico program. We also need to support our parents, they need as much support as the youth do I think. We need to get a handle on this gang situation, the city isn't going to be able to solve it on their own, residents aren't going to be able to solve it on their own, parents aren't going to be able to solve it on their own.
I think the next step is we need to continue to support groups like ECAT, we need support from Rick Talbert, from the police department, from the school, from the various stakeholders in the community, in being able to engage the community on this issue.
Evans: I was thinking about grad school. My professor was saying that everything works in a system. In the long term, nothing is going to be solved, you can't solve everything, it's about what is going to be the best solution to the problem and making everything more bearable and easier. It's just communicating to people what we know and how to make it better.
It's relationships, communicating, letting people know the support is there. At the clubs, letting parents know the resources are there. If they don't do it, I should do it, tell the parents, your child had a hard day at school because of this. Or maybe whatever programs you have at school, taking a piece of it and doing it at the club.
Erwin: If kids know that we're talking about them, they really care about that. It's like, oh, you see me, you care enough about me to talk about this. Like, what's going on in your history class? Do you need any help? We're trying at Lincoln to have more people who know the kids well,
Evans: When we started showing up in the schools, the kids started getting better. Because they knew we were talking.
McAlpine: What I need is a resource list. If I say, Lawrence, tell me about Big Homie, the phone number, the information. Tell me about the Boys and Girls Club, what do you do, what's the phone number. People who aren't here today, give us the information, we can pass that on.
When we leave here, by next week, I need that resource list. If I can understand what everybody's role is, I'm a vehicle to get that information. You put gang elimination on the East Side, that's a resource list. TPD might be part of that list.
Miles: Some of it is having the resources and getting the right kids to them. In Metro Parks we've been doing this program, we need to make sure we're getting the right kids referred.
We already have probation officers referring us kids. We're going to have a mentorship program at Big Brothers/Big Sisters. A lot of doing that is tapping into the diverse leaders in that community. Also we want them to know that we're coming to them, we're speaking their language, we're learning their culture, they don't have to come to us. We can have 50 students coming after school, but if they're the A and B students, we're not reaching the right people.
Stone: In the gang culture, we're not looking for a big brother or sister, we're looking for the big pimp, the big homie. The one with the gold rims. If you're stressed about somebody, I'll put on a mask and jump in the bushes and take care of it for you.
I'm just saying that not to knock it, but to bring the reality of it. How do you invest in the community but not invest in Big Homie, not invest in Brother Rico? When you talk to somebody that graduated from PLU, graduated from any other university, when you're saying that ‘I read this in a book,' you talk to me at Starbucks, ‘I want to follow you around and see what you do,' [To really understand,] you need to get shot at, you need to go to prison.
Peterson: We've got to find the right people to connect with these kids and get where they are.
Erwin: This has been a real rich experience. It's not just, here's what we think. I would like to have people come together just to address this issue, and say, how are we going to solve it, and it's not that Kathy has the solution or Lawrence has the solution, they both have part of it. We can work on it.
McAlpine: I'd like to know how I can help Lawrence . I don't want to say, it's your problem, you've been there, you do that, let me know when you've fixed it. I want to know, how can I help. What is the police departments' role in doing what I do best?
Erwin: From a systems point of view, what can we do to deter kids from going that way, and also how do we work with the kids that have already gone that way. … we can create a solution that may not solve everything but it's going to be the best that we can do.
David Zeeck: Does ECAT do this?
McAlpine: It's a contact group.
Zeeck: So you'd like a group specializing in this topic?
Edwina: I think ECAT has the ability to work on this problem, if that's what the community wants us to do, we are community driven. We need to see the community present at times other than when you run a news story that's got people galvanized.
I want to sit down and pick Lawrence's brain and Rico's brain and Dennis' brain, because I'm thinking, what do we need to do as a community that's going to be effective at prevention? I don't really know those answers. …What we all need is very active involvement from a lot of people, not just when there's a crisis.
Erwin: ECAT [could] have it as a mission that every elementary school, middle school and high school principal is there
Edwina: That would be fantastic. I would like to get all the educators on board. I am glad to see you here tonight, I have been wanting to meet you. Another group I want to see actively involved is our churches.
Peterson: I think the next step is up to you all. This was a really important conversation and a very rich one. I want to thank you all for participating. It's very obvious how much you care and how much you want to solve this problem.