number one predictor of youth violence is violence in
the youth's home.
Kurt Fischer, Harvard/Brandies University
dire consequences of turning our backs on domestic violence
in the Latino community reach far beyond the prolonged
suffering of the immediate victim. Here, we look at
just one of these consequences; the fueling of youth
gangs with runaways, resentments, and rage.
if, instead of routinely turning their backs on non English-speaking
victims, officials would prioritize them. With this one
remedy, we would foster well being and social health in
the homes, schools, and streets of the Latino community,
instead of the current disaster of discrimination and
the last decade, youth gangs have become an epicenter
of Sonoma County consternation. Santa Rosa officials have
targeted youth gangs as a law enforcement priority; a
ranking, they say, that reflects concerns as revealed
in formal community surveys. And Sheriff Cogbill, in a
Press Democrat interview, has said that gangs are going
to be "one of the most significant issues" for
law enforcement and the community for years to come.
a series of meetings last fall, Santa Rosa officials convened
"a hundred prominent community leaders" to brainstorm
gang prevention solutions. The group churned out the time
worn clichés; more youth activities outside school,
involving more youths, parents, and schools, and early
intervention and prevention education But for all the
hand wringing, calls to committee, and consternation,
how is it that so many local leaders fail to mention the
on the list was there a call for law enforcement to stop
turning their backs on violence in the home, especially
on Latina victims of domestic violence.
social facts are as well established in study after study,
or through simple common sense. The number one predictor
of youth violence is violence in the youth's home.
domestic violence should be at the top of the gang prevention
list. And especially in the Latino community where the
language barrier is so often used to bar the door.
the Latino community? Make no mistake. Spoken or unspoken,
the understood color of gang focus in Sonoma county is
Latino. In December 2002, of 3,200 gang members listed
on Sonoma County's secret list of named gang members,
fully 80% were Latino males between 16 and 25 years of
be sure, a lot of questions need answering as to how these
gang member designations are made. The indicators used
by local police are so over broad and so association dependent,
it's hard to imagine how any young Latino male living
in a Latino neighborhood could escape the label. Our law
enforcement's secret gang lists are rightfully a serious
civil rights concerns.
whatever the real numbers, it's the community response
to gang prevention we question here.
If local officials truly want to prevent gang violence,
they can't keep dodging an examination of their own role
in creating it. When police refuse to bridge the language
barrier for Latina victims of domestic violence, they
condemn both the Latina mothers and children to stew interminably
in the pressure cooker of a violence at home. There's
no more potent recipe for promoting gang violence. The
mother's control of her children is extinguished. And
the child is steeped in a cauldron of terror and fear.
Can there be any surprise when that child becomes the
adolescent who seeks refuge and expression of rage in
is the conscience of our community? We use immigrants
to generate the abundant wealth in our community, then
refuse to give them a translator when they have emergencies,
and then act like we can't figure out why the kids turn
angry in the street.