"Even if I go back to jail, I'm going to kick it with my friends," said
Mario, who was arrested for selling cocaine.
GAME OF CAT AND MOUSE
In spite of the department's successful suppression program, the gang
unit officers admit they don't expect to eliminate South Side.
"It's a cat-and-mouse game," Faust said.
"We can contain them, but not eliminate them," he said.
Garcia cited the early 1990s, before the Oak View foot patrols, when
South Side was "out of control" as an example of what can happen if
enforcement becomes lax. Gang Unit supervisor Sgt. Mike Reynolds said
South Side was even courted by the powerful Mexican Mafia prison gang at
one point during this time.
But officers agree that today, South Side is a shadow of its former self.
Only the continuing influx of poor immigrants, coupled with inhumane
living conditions, keep it going at all, they said.
"Some of these apartments have 15 people living in them," Faust said. "If
you live there, you're not going to want to be with your family all the
time. Kids end up spending time on the streets and creating a new
And, Garcia said, many of the youths come from broken homes.
Faust said that traditionally, immigrants have formed gangs to protect
themselves against a hostile society.
"They view themselves as soldiers protecting the neighborhood," Faust
said. "But unfortunately, South Side preys mostly on its own community."
And Faust said the gang enjoys little community support.
"The average citizen welcomes our presence in the community," said Faust,
adding that the department has an anonymous tip line so residents can let
officers know what the South Side gang is up to.
BELONGING MEANS YOU'RE SOMEBODY
Gang graffiti is another headache for the neighborhood.
Faust and Garcia pointed out sites throughout the area where South Side
had tagged a building, trash bin or sidewalk.
"The city comes in and paints over it," Faust said. "But they just tag it
Despite the paltry neighborhood support for South Side, several of the
young men detained Friday night said they feel a sense of belonging and
pride. And they said that's why they joined South Side.