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Identifying Local Neighborhood Gangs

In my forty year law enforcement career I have worked in Illinois, California, and Maryland. While growing up in Chicago, Illinois in the late 1950's to the middle 1960's the gangs that existed were neighborhood based gangs. For instance the Deacons controlled Ida B. Wells public housing, and I grew up around the Dell Vikings and 58th Street Gang. As we moved from 1960 to 1965, I saw the evolution of the Disciples, Blackstone Rangers, and Vice Lords, which have evolved as "Supergangs." It is when I moved to Prince George's County (MD), which is in the Metropolitan Washington, DC area, I was told there were no gangs, but "crews." Growing up in Chicago, and knowing how the "Outfit" or organized crime operated, the money was generated for the mob by "crews," which controlled geographical areas throughout the city. So let's skip this Webster dictionary version, and get right to the point. Whether or not you claim to be a crew, mob, posse, or however you wish to be called, have a name, sign, symbol, and commit criminal acts; Guess what? You are a "GANG!"

I heard and seen politicians in Wahington, DC, Baltimore, MD, and Prince George's County, MD vehemently state they don't have gangs. Let me run this past you!

Gangs in these three jurisdictions are categorized by a street, housing development, parks, and even a Citgo Gas Station (The Gas Station Crew). They are defined by drug dealing and trafficking, robberies, car jacking's, and murder. Sound familiar? I worked investigations on many of these gangs like the Palmer Park Crew (Ran a dog fighting operation and drug dealing), the Creek Boys (Drug dealing and shooting's), Minnesota Avenue Crew, Wahler Place (Heroin), Corrupt Minds (Killed a Police Officer, Auto Theft, Burglaries), Angels of Death and Purple City (Baltimore, MD). There is a common feeling that if someone doesn't claim Bloods, Crips, or one of the national gangs, that you are not a gang! Not true.

I worked a drive-by shooting in Palmer Park (MD) in 2008. There were over 70 shell casing's, two people killed. The weapons used were AK-47's and 9mm handguns. But it was the reason or motive behind the shooting. There had been an altercation earlier in the day one block from the shooting. It was over someone having moved from Palmer Park to a rival neighborhood named Brightseat Road. When apartments were built along Brightseat Road many Palmer Park residents left, and that caused a rivalry between those neighborhoods. I have interviewed numerous gang members who cannot tell me why they have issues with another gang. If you ask the "old heads" they will tell you the history of these rivalries, but actually feel the youngsters today don't pay attention to why they have to stop the killing. Another factor is the local neighborhood gangs are "home grown," and resist the national gangs taking them over. This makes them more violent and unpredictable.

In March, 2010 there was a drive-by shooting in Washington, DC after a funeral. There were five shooters, three dead, six wounded over a bracelet one of the suspects thought had been stolen from a party. Before the drive-by shooting there had been another murder committed as a result of the bracelet. Oh by the way the driver of the suspect vehicle was fourteen years old. The D.C. councilman who represents the area, former Mayor Marion Barry, said a dispute between "crews" neighborhood groups that are not as organized as gangs led to the shooting. Let me see five suspects, AK-47's; a retaliation that was planned sounds pretty organized to me!

All I am saying is this. We live in a world of definitions and opinions. The reality is clear. Gang violence is out of control no matter where or who it is!

Tony Avendorph retired in 2009 after 40 in law enforcement, serving with the Illinois Department of Corrections, Los Angeles (CA) County Sheriff's Department, and Prince George's County Police Department (Md.)

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