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He played football, and he enjoyed school.

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He had nothing to do with gangs. Then, one day, his mother moved him to 98th Avenue.

They showed me death in the face. It was a rough time for Sanchez in other ways, too. That year, his father was killed by his own brother during a family quarrel in Mexico.

I got heart. Yet the topic of Latino gang violence has remained front and center. On Tuesday, the Oakland City Council voted to support the injunction after several hours of testimony from supporters and opponents.

Opponents say the injunction unfairly maligns innocent young people who they fear will be victims of racial profiling by police. But others, including store owners and concerned parents, support efforts to crack down on gangs, saying they are responsible for wrecking young lives and destroying communities. Fred Mestas, who directed the Oakland Police Gang Unit from to and is considered a local expert on the subject.

Equally powerful in prisons are members of the Mexican Mafia, or MM, a criminal organization with roots in Southern California. Lucy Toscano, a former rival gang member, recalls the moment she first saw them. It was a September day inand she was at a funeral for a friend killed in the streets. A car convoy pulled into the cemetery and a group of men started shooting at the funeral procession. About a dozen people were shot. Into this already volatile mix, Oakland was hit with another gang development that sprang out of the vast prison gang structure.

Drips has bled, too. The scars of past conflicts — at least two gun shots and multiple stab wounds — can be seen all over his back.

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With no one to defend them, and facing possible death at the hands of the much more established gangs, these young men began to band together. To ease the pressure on their precarious position in prison, they became mercenaries.

If a gang member paints graffiti on a wall in a rival neighborhood, it can provoke retaliation in the form of shootings, stabbings or severe beatings. Sometimes, fights break out over girls. But that sense of shared experience and cultural affinity is often lost to ignorance, fear and impetuous decision-making.

Those factors are made worse when the environmental and neighborhood conditions become intolerable, said Jeff Duncan-Andrade, a sociologist and expert on youth behavior at San Francisco State. The gang members interviewed for this report all had different reasons for their decision.

ing a gang gave Bloody a short-term sense of safety and security in the face of a constant barrage of assaults by the Border Brothers who ruled the streets in his new neighborhood. As his family fell apart, the gang stepped in with support and protection. For Drips, the Border Brother, becoming a gang member felt almost like a family obligation.

His mother had been a Border Sister. His father and grandfather had both been in the gang.

The sense of belonging it offered reached deep into his own family. The night before, a rival gang had sped by and fired shots, though nobody could say why exactly.

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The drive-by had left him extra cautious. We have to be somebody. I consider myself a paisa, brown pride. Everybody knows us; the gang comes from our backgrounds. Where poverty, substance abuse and a violent street culture already exist, gangs jose more likely to thrive as kids drop out of the institutions meant to protect them.

He argues that environment plays a much greater role in the creation of gangs — and the seeming inability of police to dismantle them — than people are San admitting. The combination of rough streets, pervasive substance abuse in the community and violence in neighborhoods will break down the protectors that chill keep kids safe from gangs, Duncan-Andrade said.

Those with susceptible to ing gangs are teenagers, and the brains of teenagers are particularly susceptible to for short-range decisions that are high-risk, no matter where they live, he said. Their choices, however, are defined by their latino, not their race. What is clear is that as long as some of the factors remain that help push young people into gangs in the first place — poverty, unsafe streets and a lack of social programs to keep them occupied after school — the gangs themselves are unlikely to disappear, no matter how many police flood the zone.

They may shift their activities to other areas, or go underground for a while, Duncan-Andrade said, but their loyalty to the blue, the red and the black will remain intact until it can be replaced with something more meaningful in the community. Drips, the Border Brother, expressed a similar refrain. Only one gang member interviewed for this story expressed a desire to leave.

He was 17 and said to call him No Name. He had been shot at.

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But he had also stayed in school, and he was surrounded by teachers who wanted to see him succeed. One of them had applied to college on his behalf, and he was waiting for the response. He wanted out, he said, even though it was hard to leave behind the life that had given him a sense of meaning. But he said he was willing to change. Contact Scott Johnson at Follow him at Twitter.

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Oakland Latino gangs defined by the colors they wear. Share this: Click to share on Facebook Opens in new window Click to share on Twitter Opens in new window Click to this to a friend Opens in new window Click to print Opens in new window. Report an error Policies and Standards.

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