In Overpopulated California, Few Places to Escape Poverty, Gang Activity

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By Joe Guzzardi

Joe is a CAPS Senior Writing Fellow whose commentaries about California's social issues have run in newspapers throughout California and the country for nearly 30 years. Contact Joe at joeguzzardi@capsweb.org, or find him on Twitter @joeguzzardi19.

The writer's views are his own.

August 30, 2016

The Southern California public radio station KPCC posted an interesting story titled Pacific Islanders Looking to Inland Empire for Affordable Housing, Escape from Gangs that underlined the state’s ever-growing population crisis.

In California, it’s hard to escape gang violence.

Reporting from Lennox, Calif., KPCC noted that Pacific Islanders have embarked on a tremendous population shift from the South Bay to the already overcrowded Riverside, Pomona and Moreno Valley. According to the latest census statistics, the Native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islander populations of Riverside and San Bernardino counties more than tripled between 2000 and 2015, increasing from 9,012 to 34,938. During the same period, San Bernardino County’s population rose 225 percent.

Indirectly, the story underlined population and immigration-related challenges. Pacific Islanders are among the lowest-earning ethnic groups which by definition means that they add to California’s acute income inequality. And intra-state mobility generates more urban sprawl. As people move into populated areas like Riverside, new houses, roads and schools must be built to accommodate them. Then, the relocated families visit the relatives they left behind in their former neighborhoods, a trip that puts more cars on the highway. One family makes the trek to its old community “two or three times a month,” an hour and a half journey each way.

As for escaping gangs, Riverside isn’t going to offer much relief. Gang activity is rampant in Riverside and adjacent San Bernardino County where last year the largest gang case resulted in the imprisonment of 61 East Side Victoria members involved in robbery, drug trafficking and murder. The East Side Victoria case was the largest but far from the only gang roundup in recent years.

Californians can move about from place to place in the effort to find more welcoming lifestyles. But the fundamental overpopulation problems follow no matter the relocation destination.

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