Monday, November 15, 2010

Gangs and CSI: NY

There was an episode recently of CSI:NY about gangs in Spanish Harlem. I was thinking about it after we talked about Latino culture. I feel like the show played up popular stereotypes that people have about gangs. In the episode, one of the head bosses, Panthro Torres, of the biggest Spanish Harlem gang, El Puno, was murdered and they were trying to figure out who killed him. They went into the details of the gang and noted that in recent years the gang had been associated with acts of extreme violence and had come to be the most feared gang in New York. They said that the gang was a "one stop shop for all things bad"(Detective Flack). The gang's leader and founder, Luther Navarro, had been released from prison the day that Torres was murdered. Within the gang, they show three major leaders that took up all the operations while the founder was in jail, Torres (the one murdered) was described as the face of the crew, a woman, Lisa Brigosa, was described as the brains, and Rick Navarro, Luther's brother, was described as the street muscle. Luther Navarro was described as "more of an advisor at this stage in his 'career'" (Detective Taylor). (7:47 - 8:19).
As the episode progresses, each of the heads: Torres, Brigosa and Rick Navarro, are all murdered and the detectives think that Luther Navarro will be next and that the murders are being committed by someone lower in the organization who is looking to gain power. At one point, a woman, implied to be a prostitute for the gang, was with Torres the night he died and the day the police are headed over to question her, a violent attack happens against her and the detectives in the middle of the street. The attack was discovered to be committed by El Puno because they carve their initials on their bullets. She wouldn't talk to the police because she said that in her neighborhood if you talked about El Puno, you died. When all the leaders are murdered, you eventually find out that Luther Navarro was the one who killed all of them. He previously had stated that he didn't believe in using guns, however that had changed while he was in prison. He said that "there was a time when crimes against the neighborhood were not allowed" (37:55) and that he "never intended to create something violent, it was never about drugs and guns, money and power". When they put him away "all that changed" and Torres, Lisa and his brother, took what he created, "just a group of guys trying to watch each other's back, taking care of their neighborhood and they turned it into some criminal enterprise. He said he sat in his cell and would hear about "how El Puno was the most feared and violent gang" and inmates would come up to him and pay him respect (39:27-40:36). Someone had to be accountable for breaking the same promise he made, the "promise to protect the neighborhood, not eat it alive and to defend it, not to become to worst threat that it had ever known (41:35 - 41:46).
After seeing this episode, I started thinking about the image that is usually thought of when thinking about gangs and how gangs are portrayed in the media. I'm not saying that gangs are a good thing, but I have read some literature that suggests that they originally started as a way of creating a sort of pseudo family for people that didn't have anyone else. That they were started to protect their neighborhood and help it. And I have in other classes read some stuff that says some gangs today, even though they might not be getting their funds in conventional ways, use a portion of their funds on their community to keep it a safe place for the residents and to try and protect it from the outside. This episode I thought showed the typical image conveyed about gangs, that they are increasingly violent and have come to be feared by all members of the community. However, I liked that they had Luther Navarro say that the leaders underneath him turned it into an enterprise that went against everything he had planned for the gang. I thought it was interesting that CSI:NY showed the gang how gangs might be perceived today but that showed that there were other intentions behind its creation and that people would like the gangs to go back to being about protecting the neighborhood rather than harming it.

What are your thoughts?

My computer wouldn't let me save the video and then add it into the post, so I've just posted the link. It is CSI:NY Season 7, Episode 4.

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