The raids that took place last early Friday morning that resulted in 56 indictments certainly should stop for the time being the crime and murders in the neighboring communities of Chelsea, East Boston and Everett that we have witnessed over the last several months. However, these arrests removed only about one-third of the known members of this gang. The arrests also have created a power vacuum that rival gangs will try to fill.
The effort to rid the streets of these criminals by law enforcement officials is not to be minimized. Positive alternative programs are needed quickly both to stop the recruitment of local youths into these gangs and possibly to turn present gang members away from gang life.
A few years back, Fr. Greg Boyle spoke at St. Cecilia’s Parish in the Back Bay about his work with gang members in the Los Angeles Community. Fr. Boyle told of his experiences with confronting the gang menace and trying to turn would-be recruits and gang members into productive and law-abiding citizens.
Fr. Boyle related how the major reason that gangs exist is that members of these gangs seek a family experience. He related how many gang members had an abusive or highly dysfunctional family life that drove them to join the gangs. He also related how after some of these gang members had children, some of the most hardened members hoped that their children would be able to find a life far different than being a gang member. As a result, Fr. Boyle started Homeboy Bakery that employed gang members and started to give them skills for the workplace. Eventually, the Bakery project worked and from this experiment, other industries were started to provide training and work experiences for members of rival gangs who were now working together. This program has been in existence for almost 30 years and the success rate keeps increasing.
Presently, as we mentioned last week, there are programs in these communities that seek to help get members out of the gangs. However, funding is always an issue and there are usually fewer financial resources than are needed.
On a regional program, we urge our elected officials to allocate more resources, both manpower and financial, to start programs to help solve this problem. We do not know if anyone has talked to Fr. Boyle or his staff about their programs and what we can do in our community, but contact with Fr. Boyle might make a good starting point.
All the civic and financial progress that we have seen in these neighboring communities can easily be undone if citizens feel that it is not safe to walk the streets or send their children to local schools.
Law enforcement officials have dealt a major blow to the MS-13 gang, but without positive follow-up, the same problems will quickly reoccur. As mentioned, Fr. Boyle has been working on this problem for almost 30 years, but we need some positive policies in place now.