Monday, July 16, 2007

How Gang Silence Prevents Justice

Karl Ross wanted to have a taco before a jam session at his home. Instead, the young man, who was studying auto mechanics at Riverside City College, in Riverside, Calif., was shot dead by a 12-gauge shotgun. His mother, Marilyn Holley-Ross, called to him as his lifeless body lay on the street.

The Press-Enterprise, a daily newspaper in Riverside, recently did a great feature on gang violence that threatens the area and the surrounding towns.

The feature article focuses on battling gangs, many coming from Los Angeles, as well as combative measures by police and anti-gang programs, which teach troubled youths that there are alternative ways of making something of themselves without succumbing to the dangers associated with gangs.

The feature also highlights the tools that have benefited the street gangs, especially the G-Code, a code of silence that many residents and gang members live by. Those who live by the G-Code, either known as gangster or ghetto code, refuse to report crimes or knowledge of criminal activity to the police. It is because of this code that prevented Marilyn Holley-Ross from discovering her son’s killer, despite a reward of $15,000 for the capture and conviction of the person responsible.

It’s understandable why people are silent about reporting murders and other gang activities. By keeping quiet and turning a blind eye to the increasing problem, they are ensuring the safety of their loved ones and themselves.

But it also denies people who have lost family or friends, like Ms. Holley-Ross, the justice and peace of mind they seek. Being deprived of that knowledge creates a torturous nightmare of never knowing why a son, brother or father died; an unknowing nightmare that can be taken to the grave.

Denying anyone of that type of information is cruel, but there are ways around the code of silence without endangering the safety of loved ones. Most police departments’ Web sites have an anonymous tip section where crimes can be reported. The one at the Riverside Police Department is a good example of this. If your local police department does not have this feature, you can easily create a new Yahoo account under a false name.

An anonymous message, either by e-mail, letter or voice mail, should have information about the crime, such as the time, date, location and who was there and what happened. With that amount of information, there should be enough for an investigation, and hopefully, justice will be done.

If someone showed that type of courage to report what they knew about Karl Ross’ murder, then maybe his mother would have known the truth and found some type of peace before she died last month.