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Richmond's Burning

Ten people have been shot on the Richmond Strip since May. And this is where we want to send thousands of Super Bowl fans?

Martin says the killings could just be a statistical anomaly. "Sometimes the law of averages stacks up -- it doesn't always even out," he says. Racket then told Martin that all the shootings have taken place since May, when our summer arrived in force about a month early. It's not anomaly but fact, he says, that murder rates skyrocket in the summer months and in summerlike regions.

"One of the reasons that the Southern and Southwestern states have higher murder rates is that we don't get the benefit of low winter rates," he says.

Two Hispanic men were arrested in the September 2002 shooting, and police are seeking Hispanic suspects in the Rivas and Gonzalez-Antu shootings. Ethnicities for most of the suspects were not known or given to the press, but all of the victims in the summer shooting wave have Spanish surnames. Motives, where they can be gleaned, are either of the road rage or some other perceived act of disrespect categories. Could the stereotype of Hispanic machismo play a role?

"The stereotypes often have a basis in fact," Martin says. "Anytime you have a people -- white, black or Hispanic -- whose culture calls upon them not to take slights against their manhood, well, you're not gonna get away with that. If you have guns, cars, alcohol and people who don't respond well to perceived slights, that's a very volatile combination."

All of this mayhem is making violence-blighted Spy look as peaceful as the butterfly house at the Museum of Natural Science. And yet city planners are touting the Richmond Strip as a place to funnel tourists during the Super Bowl. Under the headline "Super Bowl XXXVIII / Downtown shaking off the dirt / Club owners say Super Bowl can mend city's image," the Chronicle reported that, and I quote, the "Houston Super Bowl XXXVIII Host Committee will steer the expected influx of 130,000 tourists to downtown and the Richmond strip/Uptown areas during game week."

Then there's the Greater Houston Convention Center and Visitors Bureau Web site, which touts the Richmond Strip's "exciting nightlife," where the clubs "will keep you moving and shaking into the wee hours." Exciting indeed. And maybe they mean "dodging bullets and convulsing on a stretcher."

Yeah, well, no one likes those pesky tourists anyway. Always hollering, "Houston, we've got a problem," and thinking we haven't heard it a thousand times before, always wanting to know where Bud and Sissy live and where Gilley's is, teasing us about having smoggy air and being the fattest city in America…Expecting to see steers chewing their cud on Westheimer…Who needs 'em? Just tell 'em to rent a car and drive it to the Richmond Strip and indulge in the charming local custom of cheerily waving a raised middle finger at all the other cars. We locals can hide behind bulletproof glass, drink beer and make bets on who eats it first. It'll be like a combination of a hockey game and Roman-style gladiatorial combat.

But seriously, folks, let's see what a couple of Bonnie and Clyde-style bullet- riddled cars full of dead tourists does for our image. So until we get a real entertainment district (we can dream, can't we) we'd better watch where we steer all those tourists.

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