Into The Abyss:
A Personal Journey into the World of Street Gangs

by Mike Carlie, Ph.D.        
Copyright
2002
Michael K. Carlie
Continually updated.

~ Table of Contents ~
Home | Foreword | Preface | Orientation

What I Learned | Conclusions
End Note |
Solutions
Resources
| Appendix
Site Map / Contents
| New Research

Up-To-Date Gang-Related News


Opening Remarks

It was a sunny afternoon in 1954 and I was only 10 years old, but I remember the day as though it were yesterday. My mother told me to put on my suit and best shoes so she could take me shopping downtown. She took me by my hand and led me down the sidewalk through our back yard, down the stairs by the ash pit, across the alley and out to Delmar - a major boulevard which ran through University City (a suburb of St. Louis, MO, and where we lived), through the inner-city of St. Louis to the banks of the Mississippi River.  

We crossed one lane of traffic with little doubt that the passing cars would stop for us - even without a pedestrian crossing sign. As we waited in the painted safety zone in the middle of the street, we had no fear of being struck by a car or yelled at. Then along would came the electric streetcar and we were whisked to our next adventure.

The streetcar's bell clanged and soon I could hear the hum of steel wheels on metal track and, over a distance of about six miles, we passed our neighborhood grocery store, the music store where mom and dad bought our first piano, and the pet shop that supplied all the supplies we needed for our pet dog, Queenie.

Further along, as we rode through the west end of the city, we passed the ice-skating rink where my friends and I gathered each Saturday for a day of merriment on the rink.

Then, as we closed in on the store my mother had chosen for the day's shopping, the buildings got bigger and bigger and, in their midst, we emerged into a world where the sun reflected brightly off the windows of dozens of buildings. The streets were filled with people, all rushing to get from one place to another. Everyone seemed to have a place to go, something to do, and there was excitement in the air.

That was then, and this is now, and things have certainly changed. Now it's August, 1998, and it's six o'clock on a hot and humid August evening. I'm driving my car down Delmar from University City to the downtown headquarters of the St. Louis Police Department for my first night with the gang unit.

The stores along the way that I once knew so well have been boarded up - closed due to a lack of business, vandalism, and an increasingly high crime rate. The old music store now is a flea market, the grocery store now a liquor store - its parking lot filled with broken bottles and people selling drugs. The streetcar tracks were buried under asphalt years ago, a relic of times past. The vitality is gone and in its place are crime, gangs, derelict cars and trash. Lots of trash.

(The introduction above was written in 2002. Since that time, thankfully, there has been a gentrification of the area described [by 2005, the time of this writing]. While gangs are still present in the area, the street front along Delmar has greatly approved in appearance.)

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2002 Michael K. Carlie
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means without permission in writing from the author and copyright holder - Michael K. Carlie.