On a mission - Page 4

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

"They have recruiters outside the middle schools," Cathey tells me. "Last night we arrested a 15-year-old for possession of a handgun. They older guys made him hold it. Now his life is about to be ruined."

The two cops are opposites: Cathey is ebullient, outgoing, a former tech worker who is constantly talking, texting and emailing. Sands is quiet, more taciturn, a martial artist who walks the streets with the look of serious business.

But they're fast friends and partners who can communicate with a quick nod or shake of the head, and nothing in the Mission gets by them.

We pull up at 16th and Mission. "Just watch, the block will clear," Cathey says. And yes, the minute the gang car is spotted, a guy in a blue hoodie ducks down into the BART station.

There's a girl who can't be 16 yet sitting on the bench. Sands hangs back while Cathey approaches her. He asks what she's doing, what's going on; she shrugs and ignores him. Not interested.

Cathey speaks with a bit of resignation as we walk back to the car. "She's already jumped in" — initiated into the gang — he says. It's going to be hard to reach the girl; the gang members she hangs out with are violent, armed, "and will come down on you in a second."

It's hard not to feel the frustration that comes with the territory: Violent and dangerous, maybe — but still, she's still just a little girl.

We head up to 24th Street, Norteno turf. Here, when you look for it, red is everywhere. "A lot of these kids are living in crowded situations, in relatives houses," Cathey says. "The gangs tell the young ones that they shouldn't trust their families, that the gang is their new family. That's what we're up against."

Two young men duck into a jewelry store. Cathey throws the car into park and the officers get out, walking slowly toward the entrance. The men with the red jackets and red highlights on their shoes know the drill. A quick warrant check and they know they're free to go — but not without listening to Cathey for a few minutes.

This time, "The Speech" is falling on deaf ears.

Later, Cathey shows me a video he's captured off YouTube. It's hard to find, hidden under gang names that only insiders would know. It shows some of the guys we've seen on the street, beating the living shit out of people. In one scene, a handful of gang members approach a man, punch him in until he falls to the ground, then kick his head until he's unconscious.

"This is what they do," Cathey says. "They terrorize the neighborhood."

********

I am back in the community room at Mission Station. Cathey and Sands have invited me to an "intervention." A boy and a girl, both of them in eighth grade, are coming in, with their parents, to talk about their flirtations with gang life.

A counselor at James Lick Middle School contacted the officers after seeing signs that the kids were showing gang colors and drifting away from their schoolwork and their families. Cathey and Sands were at Lick a few months earlier, running an assembly and talking about the dangers of gangs; the counselor got their phone numbers.

I have agreed to use no names or in any way identify the participants in the intervention. So I sit and watch as Cathey runs the show.

The boy appears painfully young, small and shy; it's hard to believe he's even in eighth grade. He wears a hoodie and makes little eye contact with anyone else in the room. The girl is taller, more self-assured.

I can't fathom that kids this young – the age of my own son, who is still shedding the soft edge of youth, sliding slowly into adolescence — are already prey to the gang recruiters. But the evidence is clear.

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