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  • Brian D. Hinson

Albuquerque Gangs in the Uber


Last weekend I met a few people involved in Albuquerque gangs. Their association seems to be in the past, but the effects of that lifestyle obviously linger.


The first was on Friday night. Two guys hop in and start chatting diet and diabetes. Both were overweight, and the larger fellow seemed quite knowledgeable about the science of health. But the conversation turned to drugs, and for some reason I got involved in the conversation. The man in question I’ll call David. I don’t even remember the name he gave me.


David grew up in the War Zone, a poor east side Albuquerque neighborhood known for all manner of crime. A few details came to light as we conversed. His father wasn’t around, his mother was a prostitute, and he ran about freely in the neighborhood. He became a drug runner for a gang, soon enmeshed in the lifestyle. In one bit of trouble, he was shot five times. After he recovered, he ran into the shooter randomly, took the opportunity and shot him. David did some time. He isn’t directly involved anymore, except for the selling of street drugs, but he keeps a full time day job to set an example for his children.


The next guys were obvious with their face tattoos. One had a facial scar but I didn’t think much of it. When the other guy goes into the Circle K for some party supplies, the face scar guy confesses that they’re both on shrooms. I honestly couldn’t tell, they certainly seemed straight enough. I didn’t ask about that scar but he told me he was shot in the face when he was involved in the gang life. Him and his friend now work together at a day job, and I didn’t get the feeling that they were still involved in the old life.


Thing is, all of these guys were personable, polite, and respectful. In my four years driving for Uber late nights in Albuquerque I’ve encountered a few more of these guys and that’s been the same. There’s a lot of baggage that goes along with the face tattoos, but growing up poor doesn’t mean that you have a killer’s heart. Hooking up with a gang when you’re young gives directionless kids a family, and protection from the street’s predators. It’s a shit environment, and of course the life turns some into killers.


As with a lot of this country’s ills, the root of the problem is poverty. The worst ghettos and gangs are in third world countries. And the United States looks a lot more like them than Western Europe. Perhaps we should take a few ideas from our European friends.

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