Sometimes it takes a traumatic event to crystallize public resolve. And often that event involves a child. Nationally, one remembers young students being blocked from entering Central High School in Little Rock. The Amber Alert was spawned by concerned parents after a child was lost.
Now, the unthinkable shooting of a 7-year-old Glendale girl by gangbangers has again summoned citizens to action. The life of Maria Del Carmen Menchaca was brief and ended tragically, but her death is prompting new resolve in the war against gang violence. And her death coupled with the startling and senseless shooting at a Salt Lake hair salon have pushed the temperature of decent people to the boiling point.
The U.S. attorney for Utah, Brett Tolman, can feel that anger bubbling and has called on federal law enforcement officers to help snuff the festering gang problem in Utah. Operation Community Shield begun before the Glendale girl was shot recently nabbed 50 Mexican nationals involved in gangland activities in Utah County and Ogden.
As if describing an ongoing newspaper series, Tolman says the arrests are just the "first installment."
The leap into action is commendable and much-needed. But the key will be commitment. Citizens and law enforcement must keep the pressure on and not lose patience. Sweeping the city of gang members will take time, money and ingenuity. And once the gangs are gone, police and private citizens must redouble their efforts to monitor neighborhoods.
There's no room for vigilantes in the push to curb gang activity.
But there is plenty of room for vigilance.
Gangs, like nests of cockroaches, crop up when people stop sweeping and stop shining lights into dark corners.
Making a good beginning is a must. That has been done. Now, the important thing will be staying power, a willingness to commit to the project for the long haul.
We applaud Tolman and others who have shown determination and courage in tackling a daunting task.
We ask the public to support their efforts, but more, to continue them on a perpetual basis.