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Corona parents fear gang violence – QNS.com

Corona parents fear gang violence

The first day of the school year is always a nervous time for students and parents.
However, as children throughout the borough loaded their backpacks for their first day of school, Corona parents are increasingly worried that the elements of a chronic gang problem may be on the verge of coming together creating a perfect storm that could result in an explosion of gang violence.
&#8220This storm seems like a golden opportunity to expand their drug and prostitution networks,” said Assemblymember Jose Peralta, who has made curbing gang violence in Corona, Jackson Heights and East Elmhurst a major priority of his administration as well as his current reelection campaign.
&#8220We are afraid to send our kids back to school,” said Maria Lopez, an Ecuadorian mother who has two teenagers who returned to their Corona school this week.
Dr. Arturo Sanchez, an assistant professor of Urban Studies at LaGuardia Community College, said he believes that the large population in a concentrated area like Corona has led to a lack of city resources, including necessary police presence. He believes those factors, coupled with the fact that joining a gang often provides a sense of belonging for young people living in a chaotic environment, could prove dangerous for helping prevent increased gang involvement.
Although community members and politicians may be concerned with a potential increase in the number of gangs in the area, a spokesperson for Queens North, said gang-related crime in the eight precincts that make up Queens North was down 28 percent in 2005 from the previous year.
&#8220Every school is assigned at least one officer from the NYPD whose primary objective is school safety,” said Alicia Maxey Greene, a spokesperson for the City's Department of Education.
However, parents remain concerned.
&#8220My wife wants to go to New Jersey or North Carolina, because we have school kids, and we are afraid of the gangs,” said Juan Garcia, whose family moved to Queens from California 14 years ago to escape the gangs.
Gangs including Mara Salvatrucha (MS 13), Latin Kings, Bloods, Los Pato Locos and others have been reported to have a presence in the area, and local officials believe that area residents are hesitant to come forward with information to authorities.
&#8220Individuals who know somebody or the whereabouts of these gangs must report this information to their local authorities,” Peralta said. &#8220The community needs to play a more active role in eradicating this problem. Turning the other cheek or assuming it is an ethnic issue is not the right approach. The gang issue is real, and it affects all of us regardless of race, gender or creed.”

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