As reported last week by the Chronicle's Dane Schiller, the Houston area is home to far more gang members than anywhere else in Texas. That, in itself, is not so surprising: All big cities have gangs, and the greater Houston area, with roughly 6 million people, is no exception.
But what is of great current concern is that these gangs' activities have become "alarming even to law enforcement," according to a report by the Houston High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area, a coalition of law enforcement agencies in Harris and surrounding counties, which notes that gang recruitment, with a younger, more violent membership, is at a record high.
Currently, according to the National Gang Threat Assessment, there are 225 gangs in the region, and their influence is spreading into the suburbs and surrounding areas as they become more international, interacting with enormous, well-financed Mexican cartels. The largest of these is the Houstones, with more than 2,230 members, as tallied by police. (That's about 40 percent of the number of Houston Police Department officers, currently about 5,500.)
Many Houstonians, especially those who see little, if any, evidence of gang activity in their daily lives, choose to ignore the issue or at least assign it a low priority. And even for those who do want to be involved, it is a complex problem, one with many causes and no easy answers.