Online Gangbangin’: Flaunt It, Boast About It, Busted

Gang members are using the Internet to show off guns, flash wads of cash and threaten rivals. And the police are watching.

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Recently, some Chicago gangstas took to YouTube to create a music video of sorts. The bare-chested young men spouted expletive-laced lyrics and warned rival gangs not to play with them, all the while pointing assault weapons directly at the camera. They flashed gang signs while making it clear to everyone listening that they weren’t afraid to shoot.

Also watching their warnings was the Chicago Police Department, which recognized the two young men as felons who were prohibited from being around guns.

Both were later taken into custody.

Along with traditional investigative techniques, police can even communicate with gang members using aliases while tracking their activities and rivalries, looking for ways to cut short potential flare-ups, AP reports.

But one of the biggest obstacles that police face is the ever-evolving language of the streets, since police often have to decipher street talk, which varies according to gang and city. A gun in Chicago may be called a thumper or a cannon. In Houston it’s a burner, chopper, pump or gat, while New Yorkers refer to a flamingo, drum set, clickety, biscuit, shotty, rachet or ratty.

Deciphering that slang was a significant factor last year for New York police and prosecutors as they pursued a digital trail of messages on Facebook and Twitter, along with jailhouse phone calls, to crack down on three notorious East Harlem gangs tied to gun trafficking, more than 30 shootings and at least three murders, according to AP.

Authorities collected hundreds of social media postings to help build their case. Some messages, according to an indictment seen by AP, were vengeful: “God forgives, I don’t … somebodie gotta die,” one suspect posted on his Facebook page.

“I don’t wanna talk. I want action n real guns,” another said on Twitter. Others were boastful: “My team not top 2 most wanted youth gangs in Manhatten for nothin we got guns for dayss,” a third posted on Facebook.

In total, 63 gang members were indicted.

“These Facebook and Instagram postings are sometimes our most reliable evidence, and they become our most reliable informants in identifying who’s in the gang,” says Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. “Gang members are Instagramming pictures of themselves with guns and cash. They are communicating about where to meet before they do something related to gang activities. They brag about what they’ve done after the fact. We see that again and again and again in these cases.”

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