Northfield, Mn., 40 miles south of St. Paul, is dealing with an entrenched gang threat, says the St. Paul Pioneer Press. “It concerns me greatly because I’ve talked to a lot of people around the country, and if you get behind, you don’t really catch up,” said police chief Gary Smith. “In Nebraska, they denied gangs for years,” said Smith, who was chief in Grand Island, Ne., before coming to Northfield nearly seven years ago. “By the time elected officials decided there were gangs, it was too late; they are going to be catching up forever there.” Two years ago, a nationwide sweep targeting members of the notorious MS-13 gang bagged 24 in Minnesota; 11 of them were from the Northfield area. Those who were undocumented residents were ultimately deported.
The city of 18,000-plus “has largely been a homogenous population, but in recent years it has become diverse enough for people to come here and sort of blend in and hide,” Smith said. The most active ethnic gangs are the Norteños and Sureños, rivals and offshoots of mostly Chicano and Mexican prison gangs established decades ago in California and the Southwest. The town’s 20-member police force has remained stagnant for six years. Federal money to hire cops dried up, diverted mostly toward the war on terrorism.