Skip to comments.Thug Life in a Rural Town(MS-13 is coming to your town.)
Posted on 04/09/2007 9:09:00 PM PDT by kellynla
MOUNT PLEASANT Drive down a country lane here, with horses grazing and tomato plants blossoming just off the blacktop, and a rural mailbox appears on the side of the road.
It is spray-painted, in blue, with the number "13."
A bit farther down that trail, under trees where birds sing and a tractor just passed, is another mailbox "tagged" in the same fashion.
The number and color are the insignia of a local youth gang here, Southside 13, whose members either are affiliated with the violent national gang Sur 13, or at least want to be.
"Yeah, we're part of that," brags Carlos, 15, a student at West Gadsden High School in Greensboro, a town of about 600 people and many more pine trees.
Carlos, which is not his real name, holds out his fists. On his knuckles are tattooed the words "THUG LIFE." A "13" is tattooed on one wrist and, near his thumb, a triangle of three dots. They stand for "la vida loca" - the crazy life - the national motto of Latin gangs.
"People who think that gangs are just a city thing, they don't get it," says Gadsden County sheriff's deputy Janice McPhaul, her department's gang expert, who speaks with a North Florida drawl. "They are here and there are more of them all the time. There is increasing potential for violence."
Rusty Keeble, of the Orange County Corrections Department and president of the Florida Gang Investigators Association, says rural areas are ripe for gang recruiters.
"They show up in Sleepy Hollow and start talking to kids about the kinds of gangs they see on TV or hear about in rap music," Keeble says. "Those kids have little or nothing to do and they get interested real fast."
No one living in this rural county of about 47,000 people claims that gang life here is anywhere as perilous as in Palm Beach County, where young men sometimes empty automatic weapons at each other and gang members have shot to death at least 10 people in the past 15 months.
About 75 miles west of Gadsden in the Panhandle, in more urban Panama City, a gang member visiting from Milwaukee during spring break in 2005 shot to death a city police officer during a routine traffic stop. That city and Tallahassee, about 10 miles south of Gadsden, have seen drive-by shootings by local gangs, although no one has been killed.
Meanwhile, Gadsden Sheriff Morris Young says he is investigating some past shootings to make sure there was no gang involvement. So far not one killing has been definitely attributed to gangs.
"But given what we're seeing, it's just a matter of time," says McPhaul.
What McPhaul has seen during the past year is gang graffiti all over her territory, from the county seat of Quincy which has a population of about 7,000, to the even smaller towns of Chattahoochee, Havana and Greensboro.
Escalation of violence feared
The gang "tags" include those of large, violent, national gangs such as the Bloods, Crips, Insane Gangster Disciples, Sur 13 and Mara Salvatrucha - or MS 13.
Gadsden has long had local street gangs: the Chat Boys from Chattahoochee, 773 gang from Quincy, the Killer Hard Boys from the Hardaway neighborhood, who have little history of violence.
What worries Gadsden authorities is that these local "wannabes" have come in contact with representatives of larger, national gangs and that gang activity could quickly become much more serious and bloody.
"I know for a fact there are MS 13 here," says one veteran Quincy social worker who asks that her name not be used. "Some real hoods have shown up here. They say it's because the police in El Salvador have just started shooting gang members down there, so they come here because we have a Salvadoran community here."
MS 13 is the most violent Latin gang in the United States, responsible for murders across the country and the subject of congressional investigations.
Although all gang activity worries Florida gang investigators, it is the growing presence of the Latin gangs that may prove the greatest threat in rural areas. "Gangs are able to move into Florida relatively easily because we have so many people moving here to begin with," says Keeble. "In the rural areas, Latin gangs use the Latin migrant laborers for cover."
Derek Friend, a Tallahassee Police Department investigator who focuses on gang activity, agrees.
"They work in farm labor, construction or whatever the other migrant workers end up doing," says Friend, who has attended briefings by FBI national gang experts. "But eventually, they will go into business for themselves."
By "business," Friend means mostly drug dealing: marijuana, cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine.
"They will take over whatever operation was there before them," Friend says. "In the case of the MS 13, those takeovers tend to be violent."
Interstates key drug routes
Friend says rural areas present obvious attractions for such gangs.
"They have access to a new market where there is usually little competition," he says. "They also tend to find small police forces that are less sophisticated, don't know much about gang activity and won't recognize them."
Major drug smuggling routes in the U.S. run along interstate highways, and gangs benefit from affiliates along those highways to facilitate the moving and storing of drugs, says Friend.
"Those interstates cross a lot of rural territory, and it makes sense for them to have a presence there," he says.
And in rural areas, there are rarely Spanish-speaking investigators.
"That's a problem even in rural areas of Florida," Keeble says . "All they need to say is they don't speak English, and you have extra problems in determining who they are."
Gadsden County has about 4,000 Hispanic residents, local sources say, mostly Mexican and Salvadoran, many of whom work in agriculture and nurseries. Police emphasize that the overwhelming majority of them are hardworking and law abiding, and that gang members are using them as a blind.
So far in Gadsden, gangs are thought to have at most a few dozen members each, not hundreds or thousands as in urban settings. But, to a degree, they work the same way.
Carlos, the tattooed member of Southside 13, says older gang members, who belong to Sur 13, often use him to deliver drugs. This is common practice in urban gangs, because a juvenile faces much less severe penalties if arrested.
The high school student says he delivers a half-ounce of marijuana and collects $40 or $50, which he takes back to a gang leader. How many times has he done it?
"I lost count," he says.
Some downplay threat
Delivering drugs is not all young "gangsters" do. Police say "jump outs," gang members leaping from vehicles, beating up victims and escaping, are on the increase. In at least two recent incidents, one gang member was seen taping the beating on a video camera.
Alberto, 15, was beaten up about two weeks ago after getting off a school bus in Quincy.
"I know this kid who belongs to that group, and he said he saw the tape at a gang meeting," says Alberto, which is not his real name. "He said to me, 'Boy they really beat you up.''"
His parents have since taken him and his 14-year-old brother out of school, afraid they might get hurt.
The incident is very "small potatoes," compared with Palm Beach County gang violence. But gang investigators insist that "small potatoes" can become big trouble rapidly in the world of gangs, teenage testosterone and easily available guns.
Some locals say the authorities are hyping the issue, trying to get grants for programs being made available by the state and federal governments.
Says one doubter: "Most of our kids can't afford a car. How big a drug dealer can you be riding a bicycle? How much violence are you going to do to another gang, if you have to ride your bike 10 miles or walk that far in order to beat them up?"
McPhaul, Keeble, and Friend are accustomed to being "voices in the desert."
"There is denial about the gang issue at every level of government," Keeble says. "I had an official in Orlando tell me once, 'There will never be gangs in Orlando. This is the land of Mickey Mouse.' Well, at last count, there were about 2,500 gang members in Orange County."
Gangs inevitably turn to violence, Keeble says. Just as a serious juvenile delinquent goes from stealing a bike to stealing a car to more serious crimes, so do gangs, he says.
"If there is another gang in their area, they just push each other to be bigger and badder," he says.
Keeble insists it doesn't matter whether gang kids live in Miami, Palm Beach County or under the pecan trees and Spanish moss of North Florida.
"Someday, someone is going to get shot," he says. "You can't wait until the bullets are flying to admit you have a problem."
But, but, but...... doesn’t our strength lie in our diversity? That’s what they told us.
I live in Rural Southwest VA, and some of their ‘artwork’ started showing up in a small town here last year in various places. I saw it for myself, and it was pretty shocking to see it here.
Nothing would put a stop to this quicker than "tagging" a couple of these upstanding youths with a .30-06.
and if anyone heard Bush today, according to him, we “can’t deport all of the illegals”...yet it was Bush himself who had said months ago that “we have deported six million illegals”...
so if they can deport six million, they can double their efforts and deport 12 million!
but of course, we are going to have to wait til 2008 to elect someone with the cojones to do what Bush took an oath to do but has failed miserably to do!!!
Yep, we are a melting pot.
Only, the melting pot is stoked by the fire which burns in the Statue of Liberty, not the Rio Grande.
Let those that seek a better life be melded in the crucible of America, it’s history and culture.
If not, remember, Santa Anna got his ass whacked, ultimately.
Remember the Alamo.
That is all.
Just doing the jobs that Americans don't want to!
They say it’s because the police in El Salvador have just started shooting gang members down there”
WHAT A GREAT IDEA!
This makes it even more attractive to have a heavy weapon in your house (AR-15, AK-47 knockoff, ect), with the shotgun and the concealed handgun.
MS-13 break into homes frequently and have a reputation of being violent with those living in them, sometimes murdering them.
“Nothing would put a stop to this quicker than “tagging” a couple of these upstanding youths with a .30-06”
and you could look forward to some ACLU type representing the illegal suing you for every dime you have...
You forgot the Brady bunch saying that the gun was unnessary to stop the tagging, saying that you should instead call 911 and wait for an underarmed cop to get there and save you.
Mara Salvatrucha Ping...
Looks like a good place to drop a napalm.
Much the the same as the social security lock box. But hey, professional politicians never lie.
Yeah. "Ain't diversity grand?" /savage
Not for you, certainly, but for anyone reading along: our strength lies with our individual liberties (where they still exist) and the 2nd ammendment. Rights are never priviledges and liberty will confront tyranny in a death match.
"America, love it or leave it" seems to have been replaced with "America, change it- deal with it".
As per your tagline: What does it say about us as a country when the 'other' party plans to run a marxist hag up the flagpole as their standard bearer? Have we sunk this low?
Driving the back roads a few weeks ago from Valdosta thru Havana and Quincy, I’ll vouch for a huge illegal infestation in the small farming communities from Valdosta to Tallahassee.
And they wonder why MS13 is gaining a foothold?
Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.