26 June 2012

Gangs Not Out Of North Denver Yet

A couple of weeks ago, a young man was shot to death in plain sight in the middle of the day on a busy North Denver commercial street.  Two men were arrested and gang warfare is suspected.

On June 24, 2012, a twenty-one year old man (who is a reputed drug dealer) shot and killed a female cop in uniform at one of Denver's City Park Jazz Festival events as she was breaking up an apparently gang related fight.  The twenty-one year old man was arrested and said he was "a member of the Park Hill Bloods street gang" when he was booked by the police.  His claim is consistent with social media posting (Twitter, Facebook) that he has apparently made under his street name of Boogie.

Many North Denver neighborhoods have gentrified, as Stapleton has sprung up, North Capital Hill has been renamed "Uptown", and developments further West have brought us neighborhoods dubbed LoDo, the Ballpark Neighborhood, and LoHi.  The zoo and Denver Museum of Nature and Science have renovated their facilities.  A hang out for vagrants at Colfax and York was razed and turned into a dog park (although not the promised new recreation center). 

The historically African American neighborhood in Denver (50% of the African American population of the State of Colorado lived within a few miles of MLK Boulevard and Colorado Boulevard as of the 1990 Census) has seen an influx of Hispanics spilling over from the West Side, mostly white gentrifiers seeking out real estate deals close to downtown, and a flux of of African Americans out of the neighborhood to affordable suburban developments towards the Denver International Airport (e.g. Gateway and Green Valley Ranch), Aurora (not just Old Town anymore), and elsewhere, as racial boundaries has faded in a world where the President and mostly white Denver's Mayor are both black, and whites are returning the the Denver Public Schools in droves after decades of white flight.

In 1990, Park Hill was the only the only middle class black neighborhood in the Rocky Mountain West, and one of only a handful in the American West at all.  It launched the near miss Mayoral campaign of Penfield Tate, an African American Denver lawyer.  Park Hills has gentrified and has become more wildly known as the respectable old neighborhood where Governor Hickenlooper chooses to live, and where one of Denver's Reform Synagogues (Temple Micah) is located.

But, in echoes of the "summer of violence" that gangs seem to be back in force again in North Denver.  Some of what we are seeing now may be the fallout from one of the largest ever gang busts in Colorado history earlier this year that removed huge numbers of gang members from the streets, but also left vacancies in gang leadership posts, heightened the apparent stakes in turf wars rendered unsettled as the arbiters of those turf boundaries disappeared, and may now be spawning the gang related killing that we've seen in the last few very hot weeks of June.

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