Fighting for Freedom from Gang Crime in the Inland Empire

By: Nicholas Ventrone, Community Engagement Director

Happy Memorial Day to all of you. Today is a US federal holiday where we remember the very men and women who sacrificed their lives while serving in the United States Armed Forces. I encourage all of our readers today to visit a cemetery and a Memorial Day service near you to honor those who have died for our country and the freedom of which we enjoy. We citizens enjoy the right of being able to hold our governments and elected officials accountable for their actions. The Transit Coalition and this forum cannot exist without this freedom.

Riverside Transit Agency buses will operate on the Sunday schedule today; Omnitrans buses will be out of service for the holiday. Of course, if you are working today and can't make it to the services, do take the time to remember these heroes on your next day off.

Here in the Inland Empire, we have a unique opportunity to honor these veterans in a very special way. Many good citizens have long been battling an ongoing social injustice which obstructs our mission of getting a first rate-transit system, a robust market economy, and cleaner communities into the region. This obstruction is the grave and violent conflict between law abiding citizens and the criminal gang culture which continues to plague many parts of the Inland region.

Fighting for justice and stopping gang crimes and transit vandalism

The good people have been vigilant on this matter. Our transit agencies have been very protective to deter vandalism aboard the buses and at transit centers.

The men and women in law enforcement and the citizens who assist them--especially the volunteer forces--are our present-day protectors in this battle for justice. Better patrolling troubled neighborhoods, getting criminals off of the streets, and protecting children are all absolutely vital. Politicians need to ensure that law enforcement agencies have the resources necessary to conduct sound enforcement and to ensure agencies have the flexibility to expand both citizen volunteer and Reserve Deputy Sheriff programs so that our communities are better protected against crime.

There are other groups that deserve thanks, but before those are mentioned, we must make it very clear to our readers that law enforcement is not the "bad guy" and our schools should be teaching that very lesson. High school youth should be invited from within their schools to take an active role in explorer programs.

Is there racial profiling in troubled neighborhoods?

Enter in the Labor Community Strategy Center from Los Angeles with a combined support and member base of more than 50,000--roughly the total population of Lake Elsinore. Two of its major campaigns are the Bus Riders Union and Fight For the Soul of the Cities. Last week the group demonstrated at the Patsaouras Transit Plaza area just outside of LA Metro's headquarters at LA Union Station. The protest was the objection to Metro's fare restructuring proposals. The claims were the fare changes were "racist" and "toxic". This blog has already shown those charges hold no truth. Here's why the fare changes are not racist. Here's why raising fares will not make LA's air quality worse.

But here's another serious issue: LCSC has a bold claim that the African American and Latino races are being targeted for crimes by LA law enforcement. LCSC is leading its followers into believing that minorities are being targeted through racial profiling. These are a few stats from LCSC's website: African Americans make up 12% of the US population, but 40% of the total jail/prison population. Factor in Latinos. Latinos and African Americans make up 25% of the US population, but 60% of those incarcerated. In addition, LCSC's Black, Brown, and Over-Policed in L.A. Schools report shows that minority groups have received far more police tickets than Caucasians. The problem is the LCSC and other civil rights groups are failing state why many more minorities are being incarcerated than Caucasians.

Stunning facts from the US Census Bureau show that the issue is not racial profiling, but the absence of the traditional family. According to the data, about 40% percent of all 2012 births were outside of a marriage. But non-Hispanic African Americans had a whopping 72% out of wedlock rate. Native Americans clocked in at 67%, 54% for Hispanics, and about 30% for Caucasians.

This is evidence that there needs to be better messages put out toward better family life planning and to discourage sexual intercourse and pregnancies outside of marriage. Bringing a child into this world without the resources to raise him/her properly absolutely must be discouraged. That should be taught in the school system and the message should be broadcasted in the public forums.  Overwhelming evidence shows that boys growing up without a caring father in the house or in an abusive domestic environment regardless of race generally have a much higher risk of entering into the criminal culture since they generally grow up without the discipline and education necessary to be a selfless adult. I know I'm generalizing and I know that there are certainly many good adults living today who grew up in a single parent or abusive home. But the high out-of-wedlock birth rates with the fatherhood studies certainly explain why incarceration rates are higher for minorities. Does that sound racist to you?

In addition, LCSC calls for 24/7 free public transit throughout LA County, to "Free the U.S. 2.5 Million Prisoners" and to not expand LA law enforcement through "1,000 More Buses, 1,000 Less Police!". I've submitted two questions to the organization last week: Who would exactly pay for the free public transit services and who would be in charge of driving out South LA crime with the released inmates without the expanded law enforcement? As of today, the group never responded.

Because the Coalition disagrees with several LCSC principles, we will likely be branded once again a racist simply because the facts are a threat to the organization's campaigns. The truth is that LCSC is not addressing the problems in South LA in a fair matter and the group's leaders make a lot of money by promoting such racial and class division, money that would be better spent to draw up real and fair solutions to solve South LA's problems.

Non-Profit Groups and the White House are fighting back

One of those proven solutions on top of expanding law enforcement is expanding mentor programs for youth growing up in single parent or abusive homes and allowing non-profit prison ministry and rehabilitation programs to grow. The non-profit sector has been a strong right arm in this field in deterring such youth from entering into the gangs. We owe a big thanks to the supporters and members of the several groups dedicated toward mentoring troubled children and youth of whom lack caring parents. Support groups and prison ministry members that mentor and rehabilitate incarcerated inmates of whom desire to turn away from the criminal life should be thanked as well. To be fair to LCSC, the group does support "1,000 After School Programs", and who shouldn't? Politicians should allow such outreach programs to expand and utilize public school facilities without having to go through all the red tape to do so.

There are several groups out there that are working very hard to solve this issue from its roots and if I tried to list them all, I'd guarantee that I would forget some. However, this blog would like to feature these groups because such work brings about A Better Inland Empire. If you are active in such outreach, we invite you to contact us and we'll feature you in a future blog post.

In addition, the Obama administration has recently announced My Brother's Keeper, a federal program to "Build Ladders of Opportunity For Boys and Young Men of Color." This program looks very promising on the surface for African Americans.

The fact is that there continues to be grave problems in many parts of Southern California that must be solved in order for our transit system and the communities it serves to not be mired in gang crime or vandalism. It will take honesty, courage and sacrifice to do so. That is one way we can honor and remember those who died for our freedom.