By YANG WANG HOUSTON CHRONICLE
Hugo Gallardo is paralyzed, shot four times by a suspected Houston gang member on the day he was supposed to be celebrating his brother's 19th birthday.
His brother Uvaldo was shot dead - one of more than 100 people killed in gang attacks in Houston since 2007, according to a Houston Chronicle analysis of Houston police data.
Every week, on average, suspected gang members also rob four people and break into four homes or businesses, records show. Most of the crimes, according to police, are not gang-on-gang, but random bad luck - people in the wrong place, at the wrong time.
"Unfortunately it's the innocent general public impacted by gang crimes," said Capt. Dale Brown, commander of the Houston Police Department Gang Division.
Not surprisingly, the most common haunts of local gangs are schools, strip malls and apartment complexes. Of the 10 addresses with the most criminal activity, four were middle or high schools, according to the Chronicle's analysis.
The review shows Cesar E. Chavez High School, on Howard in southeast Houston, had 40 gang-related criminal incidents over the three-year period, more than any other school in the city. Other heavily gang-affected schools include Furr Senior High School, Madison High School and Louie Welch Middle School.
The most frequently reported incidents at schools involved public fighting; one 17-year-old girl broke her thumb, wrist, face and hands after being kicked and punched by another student. Other reports included drug use, graffiti on school walls, weapon possession and class disruptions. Some reports say students were "smoking the blunt and passing it back and forth," displaying gang colors, or calling on a rival gang to come to a fight during a class.
Houston Independent School District Police Chief Jimmy Dotson said the volume of incidents is likely the result of school staff aggressively reporting the problems.
"The number could be elevated due to the population (enrolled) or the administration practices zero tolerance when it comes to student violations of the law and Code of Student Conduct," Dotson said in an e-mail.
The Chronicle analysis found more than 11,000 criminal activities were identified by Houston police as gang-related from 2007 to September 2010.
More than 1,400 people were assaulted, and more than 2,000 families and businesses were ripped off by thugs in the city.
The cost in property loss: $29 million, according to the data.
For 19-year-old Uvaldo Gallardo, the price was his life.
Two brothers shot
According to police, Uvaldo and Hugo Gallardo, 25, were shot by a suspected gang member, Leandro Lozano-Jiminez, who has since disappeared. The brothers got involved in an argument with Lozano when they went to invite their neighbors to Uvaldo's birthday party. Lozano pulled a .40-caliber handgun and shot them both.
Uvaldo died instantly. Hugo suffered a severe spinal cord injury, leaving him paralyzed.
"We didn't tell him about his brother's death until a week later. My husband has gone through depression really hard," said Jacqueline Morales, Hugo's wife.
Overall, gang-related criminal activity decreased by 13 percent in 2010. The decrease reflects crime trends in general across Houston. But law enforcement operations also have accelerated.
Just last week, a Houston judge issued a civil injunction banning 47 gang members from the crime-infested Haverstock Hills Apartments in northeast Harris County, a place long notorious for drug dealing, robberies and burglaries. In a statement about the injunction, Harris County District Attorney Pay Lykos said, "This is a notice to the Bloods and the Crips and all the other gangs that we are going after them."
225 gangs identified
A task force of local and federal law enforcement authorities also has created a website, stophoustongangs.org, to educate the public and solicit tips. More than 20 men are listed as "Houston's most wanted gang members."
A report by the Houston High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area last year noted: "Gangs now have a younger, more violent membership. . Gang recruitment is at an all-time high." It added that the Texas Department of Public Safety has warned parents that Mexican drug cartels and transnational gangs are recruiting in Texas schools.
The same report noted there are some 225 documented gangs in Houston.
By far, the Chronicle analysis shows, most gang crimes involve drugs.
"Gangs have gradually taken over the street-level retail of drug businesses and increasingly moved into wholesale drug dealings," said HPD's Brown.
The Chronicle analysis showed more than 3,300 arrests for drug possessions or deliveries worth more than $910,000.
Gang experts say the drug business is fueled in part by Houston's proximity to the U.S.-Mexico border, the region's stature as a hub for international drug trafficking and the ever-present dealings of Mexican cartels and cartel cells.
"You will see overlaps between embedded gang members here and the drug businesses that are thriving as a result of the location close to Mexico," said Tomson Nguyen, a professor of criminology at the University of Houston, who was a gang member in his teenage years.
Most of the gang crimes were concentrated in southwest Houston on Hillcroft between Bellaire and Gulfton, which accounts for 194 incidents over the three-year span.
Another 133 incidents occurred in the area north of Texas Southern University and the University of Houston, between McGowen and Elgin. That same area was the site of a shooting spree between two street gangs in July 2009 during a rap music festival on the TSU campus. Eight people were wounded, including a teenage girl in the crowd who was shot in the leg.
Albert Mondane, who claimed to be with a street criminal gang called Mash Mode, pulled the gun and started shooting at members of the other gang. Mondane pleaded guilty to engaging in organized crime and deadly conduct and was sentenced to two years of community supervision.
Police say gang crime concentrations correspond to historical high crime rates in both those areas.
800 given counseling
Huyen Le was robbed in front of her mother's house near Wilcrest, one of the crime hot spots in southwest Houston. As she grabbed for something in her truck, she heard someone talking to her. When she looked up, a gun was pointed at her and a man demanded her purse. Two suspected gang members were arrested.
Here, as well as across the country, anti-gang groups continue to focus on intervention efforts. In Houston, the Mayor's Anti-Gang Office served about 800 youths involved with gangs last year by providing counseling programs.
"They need to know how to phase out hanging out with gangs, how to make transitions, going back to schools, where to get drug treatment," said Patricia Harrington, the director of the office. "A lot of it is to give the kids the support they need so they understand they don't have to take that route."