Either they didn’t realize that the police could see what they were saying online, or they simply didn’t care if they got caught -- but either way, I’m going to call them morons.
I’m referring to the 49 members of two gangs from East New York -- the Rockstarz, whom I will also judge for their lack of creativity in naming themselves, and their rivals the Very Crispy Gangsters, who may be guilty of many things, but not lack of creativity -- who earlier this week were indicted by the NYPD for a series of ten shootings, including three fatalities, over a period of three years.
According to a report in the New York Times, the vendetta between the gangs erupted with the killing of a VCG member, Taquan Crandall, in September 2009. Gang members boasted about the shootings on Facebook and also used the social network to intimidate each other, for example by requesting to be “friends” with members of the other gang and posting photos of themselves in front of their houses. One defendant posted a picture of himself with trophies (a belt and watch) from someone he shot, with the caption: “I can’t give it back. You can’t walk no more.”
At a press conference NYPD commission Raymond W. Kelly summed up their collective idiocy: “Because of these individuals’ insatiable desire to brag about what they did, these investigators were able to draw a virtual map of their activities and bring them to justice.” Avon Barksdale would not be impressed.
This isn’t the first major gang bust facilitated by online boasting. In January of this year the NYPD busted two other groups of well-armed morons from the Brownsville section of Brooklyn, the “Wavegang” and “Hoodstarz,” for a series of shootings that killed three and injured more. Social media played a key role in nabbing 43 gang members from both gangs, according to Kelly, who said police investigators “followed gang members on Twitter, on Facebook and on YouTube. By linking their boastings and postings on social media to active cases and other crime, these officers were able to build this case.”
Last week I wrote about the NYPD’s new guidelines for officers using social media as part of criminal investigations, set out in a five-page memo from commissioner Kelly. Police officers using social media can adopt aliases for their online work, as long as those aliases are registered with the department, and can also protect their anonymity by using NYPD laptops with untraceable Internet cards, according to the new guidelines.