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GANGS SHOOT HOOPS - NOT EACH OTHER

SHARE GANGS SHOOT HOOPS - NOT EACH OTHER

When members of three Salt Lake gangs Diamond Street, Park Village Crips and Posse - faced off Friday night, there was a lot of shooting and stealing.

Then they all got together for pizza.The gangs met for a game of basketball, organized by drug and alcohol coordinator Carlos Jimenez.

"I did this on my own time," Jimenez said, "The whole idea was to get them to interact with each other and stop killing each other."

Raton, 18, a member of the Diamond Street gang, thinks the basketball game is a good idea.

"The problem with gangs is lack of communication," he said. "We already get together with the west side and play football."

Raton criticized "Mean Streets," a recent KTVX documentary on Salt Lake gangs.

"Programs like that where you have gangs saying things like `Nortenos (north-enders) keep dying and Surenos (south-enders) keep living' just cause more problems," he said.

He pointed to the basketball game where members of different gangs played together, not against each other.

"You've got Hispanics, Blacks, Tongans and Samoans from three different gangs playing together. `Means Streets' was just guys talking bad about each other, and half of them don't even know each other," Raton said.

"This gets guys together so they can talk face to face."

The game not only served as a detente between separate gangs, but between the gangs and the police as well. Kevin Crane, a detective with the Salt Lake gang unit, also showed up to shoot some hoops.

"There is nothing wrong with being in a gang. If guys want to hang out together, that's great. It's when they become involved in criminal activities that we become concerned," he said.

"I'm here tonight to say that I'm not always a cop. If they want to talk, or if there is anything we can do to help them, I'm here."

Athletes from the University of Utah were invited to play with the gangs, but no one showed up.

"Maybe we scared them off," Raton said. "I mean, maybe they heard about my killer outside shot."

"The coaches didn't want team members to come because they are getting ready for the basketball season and didn't want any of the players to get hurt," Jimenez said. "I told them we Hispanics don't grow over five feet tall."

Utes or no Utes, the gangs played anyway, then sat down to pizza and drinks.

Raton said he hopes to see similar get-togethers between local gangs.

"We're just guys hanging out together. Everything we do (with other gangs) will be competitive," he said. "It might as well be positive competitiveness, rather than fighting or negative competitiveness."