Mercury News covers Coastside gang war

By on Tue, September 6, 2011

The Mercury News has a good article by Julia Scott on the gang war brewing on the Coastside – or “Idyllic Half Moon Bay” as the headline writer calls it.

Older gang members reach out to younger kids in middle school and offer them acceptance and a seductive feeling of power and belonging in the most vulnerable period in their young lives, according to sheriff’s Deputy Mike Smyser.

“They don’t have much money. You can take a kid into town and buy him a cheeseburger, and you’ve got a friend,” Smyser said.

Meanwhile, their parents (mostly first-generation farmworkers) are often too distracted catch the warning signs before it’s too late. They work long hours and don’t notice changes in their children, Mendez said.

“Latinos, we have to work a lot, but we don’t really pay attention to the kids. We leave them around too much,” she said.

Smyser has spent 10 years tracking gang activity and juvenile crime as a school resource officer on the San Mateo County coast. He said the shooting was a major wake-up call.

“I’ve seen fights with fists and fights with sticks. But I’ve never seen fights with guns,” he said.

Smyser has counted about 50 Norteños and 40 Sureños on the coast, two rival Mexican-American gangs that originated in the California prison system. They go by local names like Media Luna Norteños, Coastside Locos, and neighborhood-specific gangs like Moonridge Outlaws.