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Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Nearly 10,000 gang members fight for control of these streets. The result: A war zone with a murder every three days

Posted On 10:55 0 comments

“Oakland, California,” intoned the narrator as the images flickered across the screen. “Nearly 10,000 gang members fight for control of these streets. The result: A war zone with a murder every three days.”The program was the second installment of a two-part documentary that aired in September. The first part had focused on African-American gangs in Oakland; this one explored Latino gangs and their territories by following the Oakland Police Department’s gang unit and the 9400 Boys, a small group in East Oakland. The conclusion of the show was the revelation that one of the 9400 Boys had been murdered; their leader, Javier, made a decision to kill whoever was responsible.“The cycle of violence continues,” the narrator said. “In Oakland, revenge is a promise all the time.” The credits rolled.
Park turned off the TV and looked up at the 15 guests seated in a cozy circle of chairs and couches: There was the man who lived downstairs, the older woman who moved from Atlanta last year, the baby-faced ex-gang member who grew up in Oakland, and the middle-aged mom who had raised her family here. Earlier, during the introductions, this mom had told the group, “Sometimes I love and hate Oakland at the same time,” and in the silence that came over the room after the TV went off, this contradiction seem to hang in the air.“As I drive around, I don’t feel the sense that I get from this documentary,” said Damond Moodie, who owns the preschool Park’s daughter attends. “I just feel that it has to be said that Oakland is not the seedy underbelly with 10,000 gang members that they make it out to be.”
“That’s true, but it’s getting worse,” said a young man named Ambrose. “Kids are getting crazier.”“I think it’s the United States is going though a recession and there’s all kinds of intangibles,” Moodie replied.Gangs are a complicated reality in Oakland, a city haunted by violence and the negative reputation that comes with it. But this fall, the nationwide broadcast of “Gang Wars: Oakland” added a new layer of complexity to many viewers’ already complicated feelings about what that violence means and how outsiders perceive it.The shows have prompted discussion on message boards and analysis by Chip Johnson in the Chronicle. There is even an after-school group of East Oakland high school students called the Raza History Through Film Club who watched the programs together and are working on their own student documentary to set the record straight.Back in Andrew Park’s living room, no one debated the seriousness of gang violence in Oakland, but the tone of the programs—particularly narration that called Oakland a “war zone” and compared the city to Iraq—struck many as sensational. Some felt the program made it look like violence was everywhere and could strike any part of the city at any time. Others questioned the assertion that the city had “10,000 gang members,” a number the Oakland police department estimates at closer to a few thousand. The Discovery Channel has since changed its figures, re-broadcasting the program with an updated number of 2,000.The small group of people who were interviewed for this article all watched “Gang Wars: Oakland” with the kind of curiosity one would expect them to have about a show that purports to hold up a mirror to their city. But these viewers—all of whom had some personal or professional connection to the show—felt different layers of emotion: disappointment, cynicism, sadness or recognition. If “Gang Wars: Oakland” held up a mirror, then it was a mirror with cracks and missing pieces. But looking in to it, they could still see fragments of their own experiences reflecting back at them.

17 percent increase in total gun crimes this year, and a doubling of punishment or "respect" shootings where the intent is not to kill.

Posted On 10:50 0 comments

17 percent increase in total gun crimes this year, and a doubling of punishment or "respect" shootings where the intent is not to kill. Nationally, 87 percent of people here believe gun crime is on the rise, with an even greater margin - 93 percent - who believe knife crime is increasing, perhaps fueled by a spate of youth stabbings last year that had parents purchasing body armor for their children.
Officials have pushed back, noting that this year's bump in crime still represents the second-lowest figure in the past five years. Though "respect" shootings doubled, that was from an original total of just 33. Total homicides are down for the year, following a 20-year low last year."We have a very, very low murder rate for a reason," said London Deputy Mayor Kit Malthouse, who along with his boss, Mayor Boris Johnson, has angled to seize unprecedented control over the Metropolitan Police Department. "And the reason is that we take it very, very seriously."
In Britain, obtaining guns remains a challenge for criminals, and just 20 percent of firearms seized by police are working guns. Instead, criminals reconfigure starter pistols and replica guns, or smuggle weapons from Eastern European and Asian countries. If guns are hard to come by, officers say, ammunition is even more rare. Many shootings avoid a fatal result because the bullets are of such poor quality - spent shell casings repacked and recycled.

"At the end of the day, it's not the gun that's going to kill you - it's the ammunition. But they struggle knowing where to get the ammunition from," said Police Constable Matthew Broome. "So they have to get creative, and refilling a shell of a bullet means a bullet isn't as potent when it's fired from the gun."

But those who get their hands on guns and ammunition adhere to the same shoot-first mentality that afflicts many of America's urban streets, and the crimes that hit the news are often just as shocking and senseless.
In March, a shopkeeper was locking up his grocery store when a shooter on a motorbike zipped by and killed him in a case of mistaken identity. In October, a prominent gang member was shot while sitting in his Range Rover at a traffic light with his 5-year-old stepson beside him. In a killing that police believe was retaliatory, a 21-year-old man was fatally shot three days later as he played snooker at a social hall. With residents pleading for help, police initiated an armed patrol in North London - the kind that later would be condemned.
Police said they are concerned about the gun violence, but do not see a situation that begs breaking with the country's centuries-old tradition of unarmed police. An announcement in October by Scotland Yard that armed patrol units would "take to the streets of London" set off a flurry of anxiety among police advisers, politicians and commentators. One critic expressed "deep shock and horror," while others denounced the move as "totally unacceptable."Within days, police said the announcement had been made in error and reasserted their commitment to an unarmed agency that polices through consent rather than force.
"We just don't like the idea of carrying firearms on the streets of the United Kingdom," Police Commissioner Paul Stephenson said in a rare one-on-one interview. "We don't like it, the public don't like it, I don't like it, and actually the vast majority of cops don't want it."
That attitude toward guns is what fueled national fear about Manchester, an area of 2.5 million that is about 200 miles north. Neighborhood gangs' turf wars and retaliatory violence led the national press to dub it "Gunchester," and prompted formation of a task force called X-Calibre that targets efforts on intelligence-gathering and intervention in gang activity.X-Calibre's second-floor office sits in Manchester's traditionally highest crime area, the Moss Side, in a police station that has otherwise been closed for renovations. On the walls are mugshots of gang members, labeled with their nicknames. Red and blue bandanas hang over each group's section signaling their affiliation.Two of the major gangs have begun calling themselves Bloods and Crips, a nod of admiration for American gang culture; another is made up predominantly of Somalian immigrants. All are racially diverse.The beefs here are entrenched, passed down through generations, said Detective Sgt. Rob Cousen."Many of these gangs are family members - it's almost as if you're born into that family, you're under that umbrella," Cousen said. "It's difficult for lads to get out of that."Jerome Braithwaite, 20, is among those who know that violence is still a problem on Moss Side. His younger brother, Louis, was killed in January outside a betting hall in a drive-by shooting. Police say the incident elevated Jerome in the Fallowfield gang, with many wearing T-shirts memorializing Louis and urging retribution. The officers say Jerome, however, is conflicted.
"All this gun stuff, it's just rubbish, really. I want to get out of it," Jerome told a reporter while standing outside his home. Of the violence and retribution, he said, "It's just one big circle that keeps going round."
Police are trying to change those attitudes, and there are signs that X-Calibre's intervention is working. Until earlier this year, the city had a 16-month stretch without a killing and went the entire month of August without a "discharging," one of the ways police track crime here. Officials believed that was a first, at least in recent memory.

‘apprentice’ for the Hells Angels gang.

Posted On 10:46 0 comments

Police have arrested a third suspect in connection with the brutal attack on Alan Vestergaard, IT Factory chief executive Stein Bagger’s former business partner.
Bagger and another unnamed man have already been charged in relation to the attack on Vestergaard, who was severely beaten with a hammer in November 2008 at his home in the northern Zealand town of Farum. The third person charged is according to public broadcaster DR, an ‘apprentice’ for the Hells Angels gang.Police say DNA evidence from cigarette butts found at the scene led to the arrest earlier today.
The case of Bagger and IT Factory’s bankruptcy is one of the most spectacular corporate scandals in Denmark in modern times. Bagger admitted to fraud and forgery of 831 million dollars and in June he was sentenced to seven years imprisonment for the crime.But Bagger has denied any involvement in the assault on Vestergaard. The incident took place just two days before Bagger left the country for Dubai, where he caught a flight to the US. He finally turned himself into police in Los Angeles after an extensive manhunt.Bagger was known to have connections to the Hells Angels, as leading member Brian Sandberg was once employed as his bodyguard.

Barrio Van Nuys street gang has been claiming a version of the New York Yankees’ interlocked NY logo

Posted On 10:25 0 comments

Barrio Van Nuys street gang has been claiming a version of the New York Yankees’ interlocked NY logo as its own.By trimming the tail off the ‘Y,’ the famous Major League Baseball trademark is turned into an interwoven VN, standing for Van Nuys. The gang is touting its Yankee-esque symbol on social networking Web sites and YouTube.It’s just one example of what law enforcement say is an increasing trend among gangs to use cyberspace to broaden their appeal, boast of illegal exploits, pose threats and recruit new members.And more than ever, prosecutors are scouring sites like MySpace, Facebook and Twitter for potential evidence in gang-related criminal cases.“Five years ago we would find evidence in a gang case on the Internet and say, ‘Wow.’ Well, there’s no more ‘Wow’ any more. Sadly, it’s much more routine,” said Bruce Riordan, director of anti-gang operations for the Los Angeles City Attorney’s office.Cyberbanging, as authorities call it, can provide prosecutors with the proof they need in criminal cases to demonstrate affiliation in a street gang – something typically denied by defendants at trial.“When the gang member has basically put his or her admission of gang membership up on the Internet, it can not only help prosecutors prove a case, it can also help us disprove a false defense,” said Riordan.George W. Knox, director of the National Gang Crime Research Center, said, however, that proving gang affiliation through cyberspace can be an arduous task. That is one reason he trains law enforcement officials how to cull intelligence on gang membership, rivalries, territory and lingo from their Internet posts.“Gangs are going to use any form of communication they can, including Twitter, including Facebook,” Knox said.“We don’t have any laws that prohibit them from doing this, and I don’t think we’re ready to bar them from the Internet.”
Attempts to contact numerous San Fernando Valley gang members for comment via e-mails through networking sites they use were unsuccessful.Los Angeles gang expert Alex Alonso said gang members are using networking sites more than before, but not necessarily to further criminal enterprises.“From my extensive experience, they use the Internet like any other person does – they’re just representing their neighborhoods and not trying to recruit,” said Alonso.

But law enforcement officials and youth counselors insist that young people who visit social networking sites to download music and pictures glorifying criminal street gangs can unwittingly set themselves up to be recruited by gangs.

Impressionable young people, say authorities, can sometimes be influenced by the secret handshakes, clothing and slang of gang cultures that are commonly found on Web sites created by or heavily used by gangs.

And it’s not just MySpace, Facebook and Twitter that parents should be concerned about, warned Douglas Semark, executive director of the Gang Alternatives Program, in San Pedro.“You can go into special areas of AOL, special areas of Yahoo or special areas of some of the other large Internet presences where (gang members) will go in and they’ll target specific topics and specific groups,” said Semark. “And kids may be in those areas with their parents’ blessing because the parents think they’re safe.
“And someone who is looking to victimize a specific individual will track them to those places and create false identities and false accounts.”
Two of the Valley’s fiercest gangs – Barrio Van Nuys and Canoga Park Alabama – have also used social networking sites to get around court injunctions secured by the Los Angeles City Attorney’s office that forbid members from meeting in public, law enforcement officials say.
For many Valley gangs, MySpace – though passe in the era of Twitter and Facebook – appears to be the Internet social network of choice to glorify their lifestyle. Alonso said he believes gangs prefer MySpace because it is easier to search for and find other gang members on the site than others.
Representatives for MySpace and other popular networking Internet sites, which have come under criticism for their availability to gangs, did not return calls.
On MySpace, the 818 Gangland Musik Page offers free-streaming MP3s and song downloads that authorities say attract young Web surfers.
Among photographs posted by gang members are pictures of assault weapons and bullet-proof vests over a white T-shirt with the impression “Pacoima 818″ and of San Fernando gangbangers wearing San Francisco Giants garb with the famous interlocked SF logo of that team, which they have adopted as their own.Spokespersons for both the Giants and the Yankees said logos and trademark issues are handled by Major League Baseball, Inc., and that they have alerted officials at the league.A Yankee spokeswoman said that organization is especially concerned about seeing gang Web sites showing the lookalike NY trademark with guns sticking out of the logo.
Given the anonymous nature of the Internet, though, authorities say it is almost impossible to determine whether a posting has come from actual gang members or wannabes.Law enforcement officials say gangs’ use of the Internet has forced authorities to become skilled at reading between the lines of gang postings, looking for clues and hidden meanings of words and symbols.“To understand any subculture – Al-Qaida, cults, devil worshippers or gangs – you have to be able to know their own language and what they are saying,” said Knox of the National Gang Crime Research Center. “It takes time to study gang (Web) sites and blogs and pick up on subtle word choices, but that’s important.
“These are holy words to these gangs.”

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Copenhagen scene of a full-blown gang war that the government admits it is powerless to end.

Posted On 15:12 0 comments

Copenhagen, renowned for its fairytale palaces and Little Mermaid, has for more than a year been the scene of a full-blown gang war that the government admits it is powerless to end.Daily police patrols, raids and harsher sentences for gang-related crimes have failed to quell the wave of drive-by shootings, execution-style killings, and grenade attacks that have rocked the Danish capital and its suburbs since August 2008.Although Denmark is no stranger to gang wars after dealing with clashes between rival biker gangs Hells Angels and Bandidos in the 1990s, this upsurge of violence - pitting biker gangs against youths of immigrant origin - has spiralled out of the authorities' control."I am asking everyone for help and good advice," Justice Minister Brian Mikkelsen implored, talking directly to citizens his plea for ideas to bring a halt to the bloody conflict.Copenhagen's spiral of violence started in August 2008 when an armed man of Turkish origin was executed on the street, his body riddled with 25 bullets by a member of Hells Angels spin-off AK81.At times played out in broad daylight, the conflict has claimed seven lives and wounded 60 people since then, some of the dead and wounded being innocent bystanders.
In October alone, nine attacks shook the ordinarily calm, seaside capital, including its posh and residential areas.Authorities say the conflict originally stemmed from the desire to control territory for the sale of both hard and soft drugs but that it is increasingly fuelled by vengeance, with each clan avenging its own losses.
This war is much deadlier than the 1990s biker feuds, and Mikkelsen said it "could only be stopped by society."More than 300 Danes have sent tips on how to stop the conflict to Mikkelsen by email, the minister said, while even the United States has offered help."We have some expertise in the area of gangs ... And if we can offer some assistance or training that would be beneficial, we would be happy to do that," US Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano told reporters after talks with Mikkelsen in Copenhagen.The minister announced a series of meetings where his country, a normally peaceful country of 5,5 million inhabitants, hopes to learn from the United States how to deal with urban violence.So far, Mikkelsen's hardline anti-gang plan seems nowhere near putting an end to the bloodshed."We cannot control this absurd and infernal cycle of an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth," chief police inspector Per Larsen admitted.He says it is a "miracle" that the conflict has not claimed more victims, but insists that police have not surrendered and that Copenhagen still "isn't Chicago in the 1930s."But a Gallup poll has suggested more than eight of 10 people in Denmark do not believe police will be able to stop the conflict, with many Danes, consistently ranked among the happiest people on earth, fearing for their own safety.
"Those gangs should face-off and kill each other once and for all so we can finally live in peace," says Inger, a woman in her 70s.A founding Hells Angels member was injured by two youths of immigrant origin in an attack in broad daylight in the suburb where she lives.
"The Hells will avenge the attack, and the spiral of violence will continue," said Yavuz Ilmaz, a 28-year-old Dane of Turkish descent, of the incident.
Despite the authorities' best intentions and promises, Ilmaz judged "insane" how easy it was to obtain illegal weapons in Copenhagen, and suggested stronger measures to stop the gang war."Putting cameras up everywhere like in London and legalising hash like in the Netherlands" could halt the drug trade and the violence, giving Copenhagen a chance to return to calm, Ilmaz proposed. - AFP

Staten Island gang war that has claimed the lives of four men

Posted On 00:03 0 comments

Staten Island gang war that has claimed the lives of four men so far this month has gotten so intense that members of the Bloods are apparently skipping town to stay safe. According to the Daily News, the internal squabble between Bloods members from New Brighton and those from Port Richmond and Mariners Harbor turned deadly on Nov. 7, when an argument over a girl lead to the shooting of Jermaine "Big Den" Dickerson in an Arlington housing development. The next week, Earl Mangin — who allegedly drove the getaway car in Dickerson's shooting — was gunned down in front of his home. Those murders might be linked to the Nov. 16 drive-by shooting of Kameek Sears, who was found dead in a white Lexus in Arlington. Two days later, 18-year-old Kyre Henderson — who is suspected of being a passenger in the car during the Sears drive-by — was found dead in South Beach.The Daily News reports that at least two Bloods have fled the city in fear that they would be the next targets. Police are trying to round up parolees and make more "quality-of-life" arrests to gain information about the gangs. "Right now we're dealing with bad guys, but we still don't want bad guys to get shot," said NYPD Asst. Chief Stephen Paragallo, Staten Island's borough commander. "And the last thing we want is good people, innocent people, to get shot — especially children." Let's hope the cops are checking Twitter regularly.

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