On a mission - Page 3

Two Mission cops decided they'd rather get jobs for gang members than keep arresting them. And it's working.

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Officers hold intervention for families with at-risk kids at the Mission station.
GUARDIAN PHOTO BY AMANDA LOPEZ

In the early days, Cathey and Sands had no resources at all — not even money to get the young workers Muni or BART tickets. Campos helped track down the funding, and worked with the officers on the next group of kids.

"I bring them into my office at City Hall," he said. "I explain that there's a real responsibility here. You are going to change your life."

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I am sitting in the community room at the Mission Police Station, talking to two young men who Cathey and Sands have brought into the program. They've had some problems — missing work, hanging out with their old gangs — and they're at risk of losing their jobs. Cathey is blunt: Keep this up, and you're done. Keep this up, and you're going back to the streets, back to the life you wanted to leave.

I tell the men I'm not going to print their names, and they agree to talk to me. It's a dangerous situation — the gangs don't like members dropping out, and really don't like to see them at the police station working with the cops.

"Just walking in this door is a hard thing to do," Cathey says.

But the two officers make it clear to everyone they meet — on the streets, in the program, and everywhere else: These kids are not snitches. "We don't ask them to tell on their friends," Cathey said. "I don't do that, and I don't want any part of it. This isn't about us finding out information about the gangs, and that's not why people come and see us."

I ask the two young men about what their lives were like before they started working. They're not interested in talking. When I ask straight out if they were gang members, they shrug, and change the subject.

But they're happy to talk about their jobs and what it means to be employed. They're bringing home a paycheck. They can help out their families. They're also up early in the morning and really tired at night; the idea of going out with their old friends isn't that appealing.

The handful of people who are working, and not showing gang colors, hasn't stopped the violence in the e Mission. One of the kids in the program was shot and killed a few months ago. "It was heartbreaking," Campos said. "I went to see the parents, and they told me how proud their son had been, how he was bragging about being the first one in the house up in the morning, how he loved his job."

On the other hand, Campos noted, "There normally would have been retaliation for that shooting, and more killing. But the ones who might have retaliated were in our program, so it didn't happen."

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The tech workers from Google and Apple and Facebook who are flooding into the Mission don't see the signs on the street. Upscale white people who think the neighborhood is cool don't tend to notice what's happening in front of their eyes. There are at least 200 active gang members in the small piece of land bounded by Cesar Chavez, Potrero, Castro and 16th. As Cathey and Sands drive around, they see the colors everywhere.

North of 19th Street, the young men and women wear blue. They're Surenos, southerners; many of them are recent immigrants. Cross 19th and the colors turn red; the Nortenos, who sport the number 14, control the south Mission. They tend to be born in this country.

Back in the 1960s, the two gangs emerged out of the state prison system; Surenos lived south of Bakersfield, Nortenos north. But these days, the geographic lines aren't always as clear. "They're really the same guys on both sides of the line," Cathey explains. "Other than this blind loyalty, they'd probably get along."

The gangs make their money selling drugs, and much of it eventually goes back to a handful of leaders, many serving long prison terms. Since a lot of the members either die or wind up incarcerated before they get out of their 20s, recruiting is constant.

Comments

Extend this program to all the criminals in the city, please

Posted by Guest on Mar. 12, 2013 @ 6:33 pm
Posted by anon on Mar. 13, 2013 @ 7:38 am
Yes

Yes

Posted by Guest on Mar. 13, 2013 @ 8:41 am

I hope these guys get every dollar they need to do what they need to do.

Posted by Joe Fitzgerald on Mar. 12, 2013 @ 8:09 pm

I hope these guys get every dollar they need to do what they need to do.

Posted by Joe Fitzgerald on Mar. 12, 2013 @ 8:09 pm

Aside from the usual snide comments about white tech workers and gentrification- it was actually a very good article about two street cops trying to do some good.

Posted by Whackamole on Mar. 13, 2013 @ 7:48 am

Wait... The nortenos are south and the surenos are north? Weird.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 13, 2013 @ 8:09 am

Because the Nortenos and Surenos are old prison gangs that take their names from northern and southern parts of the state, but as it happens the Nortenos occupy the southern part of the Mission.

Posted by tim on Mar. 13, 2013 @ 10:17 am

This is a good job by the reporter. I don't think the reporter was taking any shots at white tech workers, to me he was stating the obvious. Some people can't see the forest because of the trees. Many people wind up becoming victims, when they walk right into these gang bangers because they are not paying attention!

Posted by Guest Steve on Mar. 13, 2013 @ 9:06 am

off chance that some gangmember has been rerleased from prison due to one of these "hug a thug" programs.

Zero tolerance and tough love first. Then all the fluff.

Posted by anon on Mar. 13, 2013 @ 9:19 am

So I don't want to sound demoralizing or anything, but: I don't know ANY contractors in SF who buy a Lamborghini after a few months in the business (if they are doing it the legal way). Also, don't know if his name was changed as well, but there is no licensed contractor under the name of Mike Bowen in the state of California. You can check here: https://www2.cslb.ca.gov/OnlineServices/CheckLicenseII/CheckLicense.aspx . Sorry if I ruined anyone's hopes. That's just not how things are.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 14, 2013 @ 11:07 am

Excellent piece Tim, thanks. Great work by the officers and David Campos for his ongoing work on our behalf. Grass roots community actions like these are frequently the best solutions to many of our 'social problems'. Unfortunately they are to often underfunded or, if they manage to survive, get bogged down in the bureaucracy, bullshit rules and regulations, and top heavy with middle management.

Posted by Patrick Monk.RN. on Mar. 14, 2013 @ 12:12 pm

Too often solutions don't work because it is up to the gang members to change their lives - no one can do it for them. Just like alcoholics and drug addicts - they have to make the step to change. No programs or even jail will do that - they must do it themselves. And most people with issues like this need to hit bottom before they can get up.

Posted by Richmondman on Mar. 14, 2013 @ 2:16 pm

There are a ton of SFPD cops that work hard and really care, but these two stand out and it's great that they have the support of progressives, politicians, citizens, business leaders, and their supervisors. This is the only way to work together and this is the one time SF actually comes together to show it's best side. Too bad there is so much waste and disagreement in other issues.

Posted by JM on Mar. 14, 2013 @ 9:00 pm

While you're at it, quit hassling innocent people.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 20, 2013 @ 11:37 am