Our gangs



A year or so back, when I was living in Hawaii, one of the local TV stations reported on a "drive-by shooting" at a bike shop. Scenes from any number of TV shows and movies came to mind when I heard the news. You know the images I'm talking about: scowling gang bangers cruising the streets in a lowrider, bandanas on and Glocks in hand; a little girl playing hopscotch about to be caught in the crossfire; a hardworking single mom setting the table, unaware that her world was about to change.

Well, in this case, the only thing that changed was the very definition of a drive-by shooting. In this case, no one died, no one was wounded, and absolutely no bullets were fired. Instead, all that happened was a car drove by and some kids fired an air-powered pellet gun at the store's glass front window. While a car technically drove by and shots, albeit air-powered ones, were fired, this wasn't a drive-by shooting; it was an act of vandalism, or as some highschoolers might call it, a normal Friday night out on the town.

Which brings up few recent reports on gang activity in Charleston.

While gangs are surely here and they're involved in some pretty nasty stuff, it's important to understand the power of the gang mystique and the impact it has had on pop and youth culture. Simply put: you can't judge a book by its cover. Just as not every Goth kid is a blood-sucking vampire, although they may seriously wish they were swapping red cells with Louis and Lestat, (and yes, I said, "not every"), most kids that dress like gang members are nothing more than youngsters who celebrate Halloween year round.

A recent P&C report ignores this, proclaiming that "the signs are obvious" — "Friends wearing the same colors," "Hand signals," "Coded writing," "Tattoos," "Youths coming in late at night," "Guns," "Expensive jewelry and cell phones.")

However, a WCSC Live 5 report takes a more restrained approach, even though the main source for the TV spot is the same as the P&C article — Charleston City Police Department Crime Analyst Paul Duncil.

News 2 found alleged gang activity online, but Duncil says Charleston City police officers see posers, or people who imitate gang members. He says it's not known whether the people shown in an infamous rap video made in downtown Charleston were gang members or a group of people focused on making a rap video. He says that's why it's important to look at all the evidence.

Duncil added:

Yet, posing as a gang member also has its dangers. He said, "If they're wearing a color or flashing a sign they've seen one of their favorite rappers on tv flashing and they don't know what it means, the people who do know the meaning behind the sign could take it as disrespect."

Speaking of posers, and quite frankly because I'm feeling nostalgic for 2001, ladies and gentlemen, the Icy Hot Stuntaz:


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