Insert Dead Body Here
Let's face it, this blogger writes about murder a lot.
I believe in a journalistic principal which can be summarized "if it bleeds it leads." If people are literally dying in the street, coverage of that story must be prioritized. Society would be in an even worse situation if people were dying in a distinct geographic area and nobody in the press reported it. By word of mouth, however, the word would get out:
Don't go into The Zone. People get shot dead in the Zone and nobody is quite sure why, so nobody who can afford to stay out of The Zone goes there.
So before I write about anything else, I write about murder.
Which means I write about murder a lot because there's a lot of murder in North Minneapolis. It's unfortunate, but it has also depressed property values to the point bargains can be had, opportunistically, in a real estate market that is warming up.
Those who dare will reap the economical...
Well, I'll leave that aside for a moment. The real estate market doesn't bleed or lead.
Let's get back to murder.
When you examine the details of something all the time, broad patterns start to emerge from what seems like senseless chaos...
Normal And Routine Murders
There are, from where I'm standing, two kinds of murders in North Minneapolis. There are senseless killings that arise from "arguments ending in gun violence," which Minneapolis police have actually declared is a pattern they're seeing on the streets, click here.
So, let's accept that's ONE pattern we're seeing and set that category aside for a moment. Sometimes people just get into verbal spats and kill each other over, for example and IT IS RUMORED, a haircut.
Fine. Take all those murders and set them aside over HERE, like so.
Murder On Behalf Of A Distinct Group
THAT doesn't account for the whole pattern. Over the course of the last few years, upon careful digging, the names of two groups keep coming up in the course of murders and non-fatal shootings.
Almighty Black P-Stones, which call themselves "Moes."
And the traditional enemy of the Moes, which is the GDN, the Gangster Disciples Nation.
Yes, there are splinter groups such as the Skitz Squad, but these groups (and the violence associated with these groups) seem to form in response to the issues and violence propagated by the main groups. So what are they fighting about?
Why, Why And Sometimes Why
Turf. Self-image. Control of a lucrative drug trade. There are distinct sub issues associated with all these categories, i.e., "I was dissed on Facebook," but I think the issues can be summarized by these three main categories.
The "two main groups" have history with other groups that have formed over the years, and one sees some of the same surnames coming into the mix, over and over. Even if broadly labeling these groups as affiliated with Moes and GDN is incorrect, even if another label would be more socially accurate, the fact remains there seem to be (outside of the "normal chaos murders" associated with routine arguments that end in violence) TWO MAIN GROUPS WHO ARE KILLING EACH OTHER.
Here's Our Next Contestants On The Family Feud
Kind of like the Hatfields and the McCoys.
When I was finishing up my deployment to Afghanistan and I was stateside again, there came a point when I had leisure time each evening and I could actually watch television. I started watching a History Channel miniseries about the Hatfield and McCoy blood feud. This was incredibly interesting because I'd lived in Appalachia for a period of time right after college, and the topic of family feuds became an area of fascination.
Everybody knows about the Hatfield and McCoy family blood feud. But how many have heard of the violence between the Goodes and the Cubbages? With the Smeltzers throwing in, strategically, upon one side or the other from time to time? The feud started, so it is said, over the death of a bunch of chickens.
I'm not making this up. This is for real. There was another blood feud in the hills of Appalachia, extending right into that late 1980s, which involved families with these surnames in and around Page County, Virginia. There is, however, no television miniseries associated with it, no annual festival which attracts tourists with their discretionary income, no lasting fame and romance.
Looking For A Thug Longfellow
Some events only become famous because somebody tells a good story. Take, for example, the Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald. This shipwreck is only famous and well known because Gordon Lightfoot wrote a song about it.
And Paul Revere would have languished in obscurity had it not been for a poem by Longfellow.
So, first of all, I find myself wishing aloud for a compelling historian who could write a book and explain the details of this blood feud. There might be somebody who is incarcerated right now, or will die young if he or she doesn't run away from this violence, somebody who knows all the details and could write a compelling historic account. Such a book might even create long-lasting fame for the author.
I smell money. Don't YOU smell money, dear reader?
Somebody...write the book. Tell us all the nitty gritty details of this blood feud. I'll commit, here and now, to publishing Chapter One to help create "buzz" for your book.
An accurate historical account of the gang violence is not going to end the violence.
UNDERSTANDING the violence starts to get us somewhere, but doesn't END the violence right away.
So here's my second idea...
The Hill Street Blues Model Of A Gang Summit
The political powers-that-be should sponsor a political summit between the two sides.
I'm sure some of my readers are familiar with a 1980s television series called Hill Street Blues. Nowadays the series seems quite dated, but at the time of its release it was the most gritty and realistic cop show seen on television. The story rose from the messy, grinding routine of police work punctuated by colorful episodes and returning characters.
One of these characters was a hispanic gang leader at war with another gang. At some point, the police chief had a revolutionary idea.
Let's hold a political summit. Let's get these two sides talking.
The two sides began saying stuff like, "This is our territory, and if only the other side would stay out of our territory, we wouldn't be shooting them." Agreements and treaties and truces were worked out, which would hold, sometimes, and other times would break down.
The downside of such a summit was the risk of giving credibility and, therefore, political power to gang leadership. Of course, well...
Individuals with gang ties already strive for political power in Minneapolis.
Another risk of a summit...
Self-Interested Individuals Thriving On The Chaos
Self-interested, self-declared neighborhood leadership trying to stick their nose into the process and act as intermediaries. Oh, my word, I can already smell the Kenya McKnights, the Don Allens, and somewhere out there is Jerry Moore, looking for his chance to get back in power.
Suffice to say, one of the PROBLEMS we have in North Minneapolis is that every time a body hits the sidewalk, long before that corpse achieves a core temperature of 85 degrees there are already self-declared leaders organizing a march to "stop the violence," which is apparently synonymous with getting their faces on television, getting quoted in the newspapers, and then suggesting, pointedly, somebody should give them money or elect them to office and (by god!) they'll do something about the violence because they GREW UP WITH IT and UNDERSTAND it.
These are the LAST people who should be involved. These people are PART OF THE PROBLEM. I'm sure SOMETIMES they mean well, but their self-appointed role as intermediary is only preventing the actual gang leadership from talking directly to the REAL political power in our city; elected leaders and the police leadership appointed by these leaders.
Creative Solutions To Gang Violence?
There might be some VERY SIMPLE SOLUTIONS to some of this violence. For example, a formal agreement that gang members will not diss or talk about members of rival gangs on Facebook. If this does happen, both sides will agree to bring the matter to a "minister mediator" or a counsel of local ministers.
How about an agreement as to where there are corridors of safe passage between territory claimed by another side or a formal agreement NOT TO GO THERE?
How about an actual reckoning of "the score?" How many have been lost on this side, how many on that side? If there's a way to rationally calculate that the score is even, can the violence stop? If the score is clearly NOT even, what can be done to make the score even OTHER THAN KILLING EACH OTHER?
Suppose, hypothetically, forms of amnesty are granted for unsolved murders that are the source of the blood feud? The two sides both agree to turn state's witness against each other, and the district attorney agrees to relatively light sentences for a select number of individuals on each side? Maybe no actual jail time at all, just A WHOLE LOT of community service? Like, years and years. With some form of paycheck involved, or vocational training or...
SOMETHING. I'm spitballing, here. Anybody should feel free to contribute ideas.
The murders get solved, the violence stops (except for the routine violence in Category One) and everybody gets on with their lives and (please, God!) goes to (expletive) college for music and graphic arts.
The Role, If Any, Of JNS Blog
I am worried. I am worried because I see my readership numbers spiking dramatically. This blog is pushing "high 3,000s" on page views DAILY. I have racked my brain to account for it, and I believe what is happening is I'm attracting "thug readership" who are actually looking for details (like criminal complaints that I publish) about the violence in their world and who is involved.
Sometimes I see actual back-and-forth discussions about murders and shootings. The discussion lowers itself to a "dissing match," where terms like "skank" and "hoe bag" are thrown around freely. I usually approve these comments because I believe clicking away on a keyboard is a way to vent, emotionally, and is better than, well, rat-a-tat-tat.
But for the past several years, this blog has been documenting this feud. At one point I had information compelling enough that the word "subpoena" was thrown my way.
In the absence of any historian in the warring camps, this blog has stepped in to document the Northside gang warfare and who is involved. I find myself reading Facebook posts that make my head hurt from the bad English, and yet I do my best to investigate. At the end of the day, the gangs are not my world and it's a struggle to understand them. It would be better if they made an effort to explain themselves, in detail, to a city desperately wanting to understand how to stop the gang violence.
Well, if not a city then a neighborhood. How much does the CITY care? Not much, apparently, or we'd have mainstream media telling the story accurately instead of calling predictable violence "shocking" and not even following up when plain indicators of gang involvement are documented in the wake of inaccurate mainstream media coverage.
I hope if the two sides in this war have something to say to the authorities or to the residents caught in their crossfire, they will consider this blog a relatively open forum. Or, hell, go to the comment threads of FOX9 or KARE-11 or WHEREVER, but society is interested in why you're shooting at each other and hitting babies and YOU JUST KEEP DOING IT.
My role, as far as I can see it, involves approving comments and, if the comments contain interesting facts, going in that direction with my blogging if it seems productive. I take no side in this war. Both camps are, as far as I can see, equally bad and equally responsible for the murder of each other and innocent babies caught in the middle.
Alternatives To A Summit, For Example, Hunting Them All Down Like Mad Dogs With An Army Of Flying Robots
I suggest a summit as a creative solution but I am equally enthusiastic about other solutions, including a camera on every street corner (with some in the middle of the block, too) and predator drones in the skies. I do believe opening fire with a predator drone should involve the approval of a precinct-level commander.
I am a bleeding heart that way.
This much I know. We have a new police chief who is innovative as all-get-out. The city is excitedly looking for progress, for creative solutions. And the chief of police seems to be saying to the people, "Give me your ideas. I want them."
In Summary, Let's Go With Hunting Them Down Like Mad Dogs
My ideas, in order:
Cameras, cameras, cameras.
Some kind of summit between gang leaders and city leadership, without meddlers in the middle.