Volume 2: Spring 2010
Did you hear that gang initiation last year was to rape a University of Northern Colorado student? That’s false.
Did you also hear that flashing your headlights at a gang member on the road will get you stabbed or shot? Yeah, that’s false too.
Gang violence, while it is dangerous to gang members, has little effect on the students and other members of the Greeley community. Advice given to students to be fearful of gang interaction is both over exaggerated and unwarranted.
Greeley is notorious for the number of gang members the city is home to. Seeing a crowd of people decorated in brilliant blue or flashy red walking down a busy street is a daily occurrence. Greeley has roughly one gang member for every 175 people. A number like that sounds incomparable. Yet Denver’s ratio is one for every 63 people, according to the 2007 article, “Gangs: Small-Town America's Big-City Battle,” in the Rocky Mountain News. For its population, Greeley gang membership is fairly low.
Nevertheless, Greeley’s reputation sticks as being a precarious city and many times, this is blamed on local gangs. How much do students have to worry about being a victim of random gang violence?
Roy Smith, sergeant of the Greeley gang intervention unit, says not much.
“I was a gang detective for five years before I became the sergeant of the gang unit,” Smith said. “I can think of only one case where a college student found himself in some things leading to one of our gang members pulling out a shotgun and menacing him. Things that he said definitely initiated the contact with that particular group. College students are more likely to get their cars broken into than being victimized by gang violence.”
If this is the case, then why do onlookers believe our town to be so unsafe? The majority of homicides in Greeley are gang-related. It’s true. But most of those crimes are perpetrated between rival gangs, which the figures seem to obscure.
“Most of our gang crime is perpetrated on other gangs,” Smith said. “There is no satisfaction in beating up a kid that goes to college or a high school kid walking home. There is no bravado there.”
So how much is any given Greeley resident in danger of violent crime? According to a 2008 study in Money magazine of the “Best Places to Live,” Greeley’s personal crime risk is only five per every 1,000 people. That even includes those who are more likely to get involved with gang crime. The typical student or resident has little to worry about personal crime, even from gangs.
Think about it: When was the last time you heard that a gang member shot a student? What about a random person minding his own business on the street? Gang members do not gain satisfaction from firing into a random crowd on a random day. Gangs would not warn of a crime they would eventually commit. Gang members have no reason or audacity to do such a thing. So the next time a mass text graces your phone warning of an imminent drive-by at the Wal-Mart on 23rd Avenue, laugh at the absurdity of it. And make sure to make fun of the sender.
Natalie Cutter is a senior journalism and mass communications major at the University of Northern Colorado.