Changing demographics and rising gang violence have brought a dramatic increase in the number of homicides among Latinos in Oakland and San Francisco as the number of African American victims has fallen, reports the San Francisco Chronicle. Oakland saw twice as many Latinos slain last year as in 2004, while San Francisco saw an increase of 50 percent. Authorities say the problem sneaked up on them because they were focused on the larger and more prevalent problem of African Americans killing others of their own race.
Latinos are moving into neighborhoods once composed largely of African Americans. “We have seen a spike in crime in our neighborhood over the past couple of years and it has gotten progressively worse,” said Lillian Lopez of Oakland Community Organizations. The trend shows no signs of abating. Two of the four homicides in Oakland so far this year have involved Latino victims. What troubles police and community leaders is the rising number of slayings stemming from gang rivalries or cases where the victim was mistaken for a gang member or an innocent bystander. “These Hispanic gangs call it checking,” Oakland homicide Sgt. Brian Medeiros said. “They walk up or drive up and want to know what gang you’re in. If you don’t answer, they sometimes open fire. Or sometimes they don’t bother to ask.”