Gangs make presence known on the Internet
SAN FRANCISCO – We know them better for their presence on the streets – gang members roaming their turf, causing trouble for their enemies with an often violent lifestyle.
Now some gangs are expanding their turf to cyberspace, creating a network of high-tech hoodlums boasting about their dirty deeds in an online environment that law enforcement agencies would like to see shut down.
Some experts say most of the message board postings and Web sites are run by ”wannabes,” people infatuated with the gang way of life.
”There are thousands of gang-related Web sites,” said Chuck Zeglin, a Los Angeles Police Department detective who has kept an eye on the Internet gang presence. ”Only about 20 to 30 percent of them now – it is increasing – are run by active hard-core gang members.”
Others who monitor the phenomenon argue the growing online gang presence is akin to graffiti tagging of buildings and bus stops. Young people interested in gangs and active gang members are crying for attention.
”Many of them have a bruised ego,” Francine Garcia-Hallcom told the San Francisco Chronicle. She is professor at California State University at Northridge who teaches about Latino gangs.
”Publicity, more attention – that’s the kind of purpose behind the whole (gang thing),” Garcia-Hallcom said.
A Daly City gang Web site contains pictures of pit bulls, fancy cars and scantily clad women. The Web site goes on to detail how gang members can turn household items into fighting weapons. It can help gangs do bad things, but it can also tip off law enforcement to their activities.
”Oh neat!” said Kevin McGee, the deputy district attorney in San Mateo County who is all too familiar with the Daly City gang.
The page verified for him theories that he held for years about the gang, including nicknames for the ringleaders.
”It gives us a window into the gang to see how it works and how they think,” McGee said.
Message boards and Web rings, affiliated sites for like-minded interests, link geographically separated gangs closer together via the Internet.
One Web site called GangStyle.com offers an extensive message board used to detail the experiences on how gang members gravitate toward the gang life, and how they get out.
One member who went by the name Boink posted this message about his ”beat in,” a ritualized initiation ceremony where new gang members are physically beaten by other members:
”I was stab’d in leg an chest hit with bat bottles. In end thou they took me to hospital.”
GangStyle is run by volunteers and also includes a poetry section.
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