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|Trouble brewing in town: Law enforcement officials|
want to nip the problem in the bud
|Sunday, November 7, 2004|
|Norman Miller||Metrowest Daily News|
FRAMINGHAM -- The arrests of six reputed members of a Kendall Street gang
this week after a vicious attack on three men downtown is not the first time
members of the gang have been in trouble with the law.
And, it probably will not be the last, authorities have said, as the presence of the KST -- another name for the Kendall Street gang -- and the Southsiders grows.
"It is true there is an increased presence of gangs in the Framingham area, particularly in the past five years," said Middlesex District Attorney Martha Coakley. "It's not to the level of other parts of the county, but when we see it spike up, we like to get to it early rather than let it fester."
The latest incident attributed to the gang was the attack last Sunday by six teen members on three men.
The KST members allegedly beat the three men with baseball bats, a tire iron and a golf club. One victim was left with smashed teeth and a ripped lip, and all three victims were sent to the hospital.
Two 17-year-old Framingham High School students, Emmanuel Osamwonyi and Joshua D. Averett, have been charged with assault with intent to kill and three counts of assault and battery with a dangerous weapons. Four 16-year-olds face the same charges in juvenile court.
The Framingham Police Department did not provide much information about gang activity in town, saying it was "an issue."
"It's just a group of individuals who hang out together who commit crimes," said FPD spokesman Vincent Alfano. "We're dealing with them."
Although gang activity was noticeable for about five years, the past 18 months has seen increased crime attributed to various gang members, Coakley said.
"There are a clear number of incidents that we are concerned about," said Coakley. "They are property crimes and crimes against people. There's a clear awareness of the existence of these gangs, but we only see what comes through the court systems. There are a lot of crimes where no one is arrested."
Gangs are something that are also watched in the schools, Framingham High School Principal Ralph Olsen said.
"We discuss it," said Olsen. "Unfortunately, some of the kids who are involved are what I would consider pretty good kids that have made bad decisions by putting themselves in a bad situation. There are also some who are potentially lifelong criminals."
Although Olsen said the problems in school are "minimal," he said they do occasionally pop up. Most of the problems occur outside of the school.
"Unfortunately, most of the residue happens out in the community, and we have to put out the emotions when they're here," said Olsen. "You'll see the gang's tags every once in awhile, but typically not at the school. We don't have to deal with it on a day-to-day basis, but we know it's there."
Wayside Youth & Family Support Network counselor Percy Andreazi said he has not had much contact with gang members, but is concerned about what the Kendall Street gang and the Southsiders could mean to the town.
"It is easy to motivate another gang to get together -- that's my concern," said Andreazi. "We can motivate a Spanish gang to get together or we can spark a Brazilian gang to get together and to fight back. We have to be careful not to motivate them."
Andreazi said he came to Framingham four years ago because he knew of violence in other large communities with significant Brazilian populations such as Somerville and Lowell, but not here.
Gangs, Andreazi said, are usually racially based and drug related. The attacks last weekend were on three Brazilian men. The two 17-year-olds arrested were African-Americans. The names and races of the four 16-year-olds were unavailable.
"I think we have problems on both sides," said Andreazi. "There are some Brazilians who tend to be more aggressive, who tend to be very closed to integration.
"They meet up with this group of African-Americans who are very aggressive also. In the high school, they tend to abuse the whites and the immigrants. They tend to abuse because they are very strong, and they're always together."
Wayside is working with those out on the street, with constant presence in the neighborhoods where gangs are known to populate, according to Bonny Saulnier, vice president of family-based services for the human services agency.
"We have a street outreach program for kids who are involved in dangerous behavior," said Saulnier. "We have people out handing out fliers, letting kids know they can get help."
Saulnier said she does not think gang problems have increased, but rather have become more visible because of the murder of Joseph McDaniel in October 2003 on Kendall Street.
McDaniel's alleged killer, Eric Murray, is scheduled for trial next month. He admits to killing McDaniel, but said it was in self-defense.
Many point to that murder as the impetus for the Kendall Street gang forming.
"The murder last year really created some deep rifts in the community," said Saulnier. "People were hurt. People had strong feelings about it, and it didn't always come out the best way."
Working with those on the street looks to avoid stereotypes, Saulnier said.
"We try to really pay attention to what they do well, to expand on those things, and give them opportunities to work on them," said Saulnier. "We have a strong presence in the neighborhood where there's gang-related activities, but we don't ask if they're in the gangs. We're reaching out in a positive way and refrain from judging."
Violence in downtown has sparked violence prevention round tables, attended by members of the Framingham Coalition to Prevent Drug Abuse, the police, the District Attorney's office and youth organizations, said Margo Deane, executive director of the Framingham Coalition to Prevent Drug Abuse.
One such meeting will be Tuesday at 11:30 a.m. at the Framingham Police Department, she said.
As far as law enforcement, Coakley said the main thing police have to do is collect information about the gangs. The police currently have a binder with photos of known members and associates of KST.
"They have to get the information on who the players are, who is frequently coming through the system," said Coakley. "The more information police have is for the better. It's an issue of intelligence."
Coakley said just because there are one or two gangs in Framingham, does not mean it will turn into a gang-infested combat zone.
"If you have a particular dominant gang, such as MS13 in Somerville, does not mean it will lead to rival gangs forming," said Coakley. "It doesn't have the history or the violence as the gangs up in Lowell have. It's seems to be not as large or cause as many problems."
Wayside's Andreazi said he is concerned about the path in which these gangs may lead the downtown's youth.
"This type of thing tends to grow when you have different ethnic populations living in the area," said Andreazi. "This is bad for Framingham."
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