New approach needed to dismantle street gangs

00-haroldalfordDuring my research on street gangs, one thing became clear: They are the primary source for drug distribution.  The crimes conducted by these street gangs on a daily basis also include murder, bribery, extortion, robbery, carjacking, prostitution, human trafficking, and money laundering.

Some gangs concentrate on some of these crimes but all of them have drug trafficking as their number one activity. This makes them truly a menace to our society. Yet, we ignore them. We tend to be blind to their destruction and terror.  There are 1.4 million street gang members (2011) and we act like they don’t exist.

There are more than 2.1 million men and women incarcerated. The majority are there for drug-related crimes. Approximately 650,000 persons are released from our jails/prisons each year but at least 52 percent will return within three years for parole violation or a criminal act.

Social disgrace
It is a social disgrace to have that many human beings incarcerated and then they get into a “revolving door.” The cost of housing a state prisoner can be as high as $45,000 per year.

Dealing is a very big “business” for many drug dealers and unlike many other sectors in the U.S., business is booming. The gang leaders don’t have a recruiting program; they “draft” top prospects.

The Peoria, Ill.  Chamber of Commerce once did a job study for Black youth (18 to 30). The number one employer was the city government; number two was the local utility company and number three was the illegal drug activity.

Extreme problem
My brothers and sisters we have an extreme problem that needs urgent fixing. I would like to see Black elected officials become more active about addressing this problem. It is my firm belief withdrawal programs are not the end solution. We need to come together and do something radically progressive. Nothing that has been tried in the past has improved this “illness.”

The time has come for bold, Americana style action. The first thing we should do is legalize drugs. Treat it like liquor and cigarettes by taxing it to the limit and regulate it wisely.

The next thing we need to do is to write new legislation. Organized street gangs are already being broadly prosecuted as racketeering enterprises.

The Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act (RICO) should be amended to explicitly include street gangs with certain, severe prosecution of their leadership.

Task force needed
Let’s form a task force like the old “Untouchables.” Make them forfeit their assets, bust up their leadership and strongly police our banking system that plays along with some of the vast money laundering that is taking place.

If we follow the money and clean up the inside corruption, we will begin to turn the tide.

It is not something so great that we cannot manage.  Some common sense, a lot of courage and a taste of vision could change it around.  God bless us.

Harry C.  Alford is the co-founder, president/CEO of the National Black Chamber of Commerce. Website: Email:



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