How So-Called Gang Violence Starts in S.F.

Categories: Crime
The cause of much of the violence goes deeper than colors and sets.
This week's feature story, "Menace to Society," explores the way police and prosecutors classify crimes as "gang-related." A young man on one of the city's gang injunctions lists explained to SF Weekly that violence in his Visitacion Valley neighborhood often stems from personal beefs that escalate. These beefs may involve different sets, but don't often rise to the level of organized gang activity. During one discussion, he had some help making his point.

As the validated gang member sat in the parked car on Divisadero Street with this reporter on a recent July evening, he heard shouting. Across the street, two young men stood chest to chest, one screaming into the other's face.

"Go 'head and fuck with that bitch-ass hoe!" said the one in a brown baseball cap and red sweatshirt.

"Ain't like that, man, ain't like that," said the one in a red long-sleeved shirt and black shorts, turning to walk away. The man in the hat followed him, and bumped him with his shoulder.

"You wanna fuck with that bitch-ass hoe 'steada ya boy, go ahead," said the youngster in the cap. "I better never see yo' ass come downtown!"

This wasn't the validated gang member's neighborhood, and he didn't know these guys. But the scene was familiar.

"That's how that shit starts," he said. "Doesn't have anything to do with sets. Or colors. Just little shit like this."

The man in the cap continued screaming, stomping the pavement now, as the man in the shorts looked off to the side, avoiding eye contact, and not saying much. People walking down the block hustled across the street to avoid the spectacle.

Then the man in the cap put his hand on the other guy's shoulder. The shoulder briskly shrugged it off. The validated gang member in the car shook his head.

"They're gon' see each other at the club, drinks in their system, homies with 'em eggin' 'em on, and then the punches start flying," he said. "Somebody gets their ass kicked, embarrassed in front of their people. And you already know what happens after that."

He knows what happens after that. About a year ago, he and his friend were sitting on his front stoop when a handful of guys turned the corner, ran up on them, bullets flying. He and the friend ran. He escaped; his friend didn't.

"You feel that pain, man," he said. "And all you care about is getting the guys that did this back."

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Thanks for this  - it's very easy for potential jurors to stay in their bubbles and just lap up what the gov't tells them to believe - this is a community that is deeply damaged and instead of addressing pressing economic and mental health needs we just pour money into law enforcement.  You are actually taking the time to understand the problem and that does us all a service.

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