Daily Archives: March 17, 2010

Keep the Juggalos from turning into gangs

This guy knows his stuff about juggalo gangs.


By Pat Wray, columnist | Posted: Friday, March 12, 2010 12:15 am | (4) Comments

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The need to belong is among the most powerful drives in the human psyche. It is rooted in our basic desire for survival, from those early days when a man alone was very soon a dead man. Back then it was all about protection, from beasts, from starvation and from other people.

It still is.

Welcome to gangs. Even here in Corvallis. Corvallis police Detectives Brett Roach and Darin Shimanek roll their eyes when someone expresses disbelief that gangs could exist here in our bucolic city.

“I hear that a lot,” Roach says, “and I don’t understand it. Corvallis had the Icebreaker drug bust … There are gangs in Portland, Salem and Albany. Why do people think we are immune to gangs?”

Perhaps because we’ve never had gangs before. And because a recent assault case, initially reported as being gang-related, significantly shriveled when it was revealed that one of the victims had lied in his accusation.

“Just because we don’t have regular drive-by shootings doesn’t mean we don’t have gangs,” Roach says. “Pay attention to the signs.” Literally.

Tagging, the painting of gang signs and signals on almost anything stationary, is a regular occurrence in Corvallis and is increasing in frequency. Thus far, local taggers are not claiming territory as they might in a larger city. Rather, they are announcing their connection. The connection seen most often in Corvallis is to a group called the Juggalos. Juggalos are more of a group than a gang, a loose association of people who share a fascination with a musical group called Insane Clown Posse. Like the group’s music, the basic tenets of Juggalo identity involve violence and intimidation.

“If you want to know about the Juggalos,” Shimanek says, “you should Google the ‘Insane Clown Posse’ and listen to a few of their songs.”

Very few are necessary. Their presentations are a cry of rage, pain and fear – a recipe, it seems, for gang membership in general.

Gangs like the Surenos and the Nortenos, both now present in the Willamette Valley, were birthed in California prisons as a means of protecting their members from predatory prison influences. As their members were released, the gangs established themselves in Mexican-American neighborhoods and soon dominated a variety of criminal enterprises. Branches have been exported throughout the United States. White, black and hybrid gangs are also on the move.

But where does exportation end and importation begin? Will gangs take hold in healthy communities? Very likely, according to Roach, Shimanek and Ken Fandrem, a school resources officer in Albany. But their foothold will not necessarily be strong. If the community provides a healthy environment in which young people of all persuasions are encouraged and supported; if parents, teachers and business owners help identify, monitor and respond to gang behavior; if police are kept informed about tagging, clothing trends, hand signals and other signs of gang activities, then the presence of gangs in Corvallis will remain like background noise.

Many of these steps already are being taken, according to the officers. Local school districts are active in a Mid-Valley Gang Task Force, where they exchange information and work closely with law enforcement. Businesses are encouraged to report suspicious activity and to quickly remove tagging and graffiti from buildings.

All agree the most important anti-gang effort must occur in the home, where, according to Fandrem, parents need to be persistent in the oversight of their children. “They need to ask why,” Fandrem says. “Why consistent colors in their clothing? Why the new friends? Why changes in behavior and school performance? And they need to not be afraid to work with school officials and law enforcement to break gang-related behavior before it is too late.”

Pat Wray is a freelance writer and longtime local resident. He can be reached at patwray@comcast.net.