A chilling reminder comes out of Wichita that even in the heart of Kansas, gang activity is growing and becoming more violent.
The recorded statement of a gang member recently convicted of second-degree murder provides an inside look at the gang mentality that he claims led to at least three murders and several drive-by shootings. The string of violence was triggered, he said, by the murder of a rap artist following a Wichita concert last September.
The two gangs involved are the "Insane Crips" and the "Junior Boys." The convicted man, who is a member of the Crips, claims that the Junior Boys blamed his gang for the slaying of rap singer Anthony Jones at the Black Arts Festival on the Wichita State University campus following a Sept. 2 performance. The Crips and the Boys had been allied gangs, but the Jones murder changed all that. The two gangs went to war.
According to witnesses the first two victims were two members of the Crips. Both homicides remain unsolved. The third homicide is the one for which the Wichita gang member was convicted. The victim was a man who had purchased drugs in Crips' territory.
Drug transactions are involved in some of the cases. In some, the motive appears to be pure revenge "You hit my guy; I'm going to hit yours."
It's tempting to say these gang members deserve each other, and when they shoot and kill one another, it's just one less low-life for society to worry about. But the problem goes deeper than that.
Wichita is not a metropolis. Many residents would like to think that Wichita is too small or too Midwestern to have inner-city problems. The violence wrought by gang activity in a city like Wichita only spreads. It endangers not only gang members but innocent bystanders as well. In the Kansas City area, murders of innocent teens reportedly have become part of the initiation rites for some gangs.
It's a dangerous situation and one to which no city is immune. Lawrence residents may not take seriously enough current efforts to learn about gangs and curb gang behavior in the area. But the experiences of Wichita make it clear that it's not too soon to try to stem the tide of violent gangs.