|The Bloods, Crips, And Kids:
Gangs Stake Out Queens Turf
By LIZ GOFF
Peddling the chance to belong and be
accepted while they tempt with the forbidden thrill of graffiti, New York City gangs are
moving in on Queens intermediate and high schools in search of new life.
Gangs like the Bloods, Latin Kings, Crips,
Los Vatos Locos, El Esquadron, the Mexican Boys, the Netas and the Zulu Nation are 2,500
members strong in Queens, according to police estimates.
Queens gang-busting cops
told the Tribune that many young gang members are recruited while they are behind
Board of Education officials have identified IS 61 in
Corona, (bottom, left) Newtown High School in Elmhurst (Tribune cover) and Forest Hills
High School (above) as three of the Queens schools hardest hit by gangs seeking to recruit
Tribune Photos By Ira Cohen
New gang members are often affiliated
with "graffiti gangs" and have been arrested for "tagging" and quality
of life offenses, police said. The teen recruits are often spotted by hardened gang
members on Rikers Island who prey on youths that come from unstable family
situations, police said.
Eager to fit in, the teens are easily
educated by older gang members. Once back on the street, the recruits head back to school
not to get an education but to give other teens an education in the life of
Gangland, Queens, police said.
Authorities point out that it makes no
difference where your kids go to school. Shockingly, the gang recruits infiltrate schools
in the best Queens neighborhoods not just schools with notorious reputations.
And if you think the gangs recruit only in
high schools, think again, police said. Gang "recruiters" are just as prevalent
in junior high.
According to recent U.S.
Department of Justice statistics, children 12 and up make up the group who often find it
easiest to get a gun.
"Pre-teens and teenagers are very
vulnerable to suggestion," said Justice Department spokesman Robert Hubert. "It
leads them into problems, into taking risks," Hubert said.
More than one-third of New York City
students were threatened with physical violence by other students during the 1998-99
school year, according to a recent federal and city study. About 21 percent of students
asked admitted they carry a weapon into school and on their way to and from school.
On Wednesday, March 8, two students at
Franklin K. Lane High School were repeatedly stabbed by reputed gang members during a
melee on a Jamaica subway platform. Investigators at the NYPD Intelligence Unit said that
only one of four suspects arrested in the attack attended the Woodhaven school and
he is a former student.
The school was one of dozens listed by
Schools Investigator Edward Stancik in a 1997 report as a "hot spot" of gang
activity. Since that time, aggressive policing and improved security have greatly reduced
the amount of gang activity at the school, officials said.
Police are utilizing a number of techniques
to reach students and make them aware of the dangers of gang involvement.
One such method is a visit by police at the
NYPD "GREAT" Unit (Gang Resistance, Education And Training).
The GREAT Program is similar to NYPD drug
prevention programs. Members of the unit visit schools over a 10-week period, talking with
students and offering them help with ways to say "no" to gang recruiters, police
Police cadets have also been joining
classes at some city schools, posing as students to weed-out gang recruiters, sources
Queens police are
continually infiltrating gang meetings in public spaces, often rounding-up dozens of
In one recent incident, police in Elmhurst
broke up a membership meeting at a local playground, where members of the "Zulu
Nation" were actively recruiting, speaking to a crowd of about 40 people while
handing out gang membership applications and literature, police said.
As early as intermediate school, Queens kids are being
recruited into gangs.
The sweep netted 59 arrests
including the gang leader and "recording secretary." Twelve of the 59 people
arrested were 15-years-old, police said.
The NYPD launched an all-out war on
drug-peddling street gangs in May 1999, sending teams of NYPD "gang busters"
onto the street.
Police officials said that by establishing
the expanded, centralized squads, the department is now able to attack the gangs on all
fronts, using all available resources.
The move took cops from gang units who
formerly worked undercover independently and assigned them to one unit a single
"umbrella division" that operates within the NYPD Organized Crime Control
Each borough (in Queens, Patrol Borough
North and South) has a narcotics module, a detective squad and a unit of plain clothes
cops who concentrate only on gang busting, police said. Each has at least two supervisors
to oversee the unit.
Police officials said the "one
quarterback, one coordinator" units have successfully uncovered new information on
gangs, led to better information-sharing and an "all around smoother operation."
There are approximately 300 police officers
in the centralized squad but police officials said its not the number of cops
that counts, its the results they achieve.
Narcotics cops assigned to the units focus
on snaring gang members through buy-and-bust operations. The plainclothes cops target gang
hangouts and street locations, officials said.
Police gangbusters are working with the FBI
to buy drugs and guns from gang members a move designed to allow police to arrest
gang members on RICO (racketeering) charges and other tough federal statutes.
The cops are also working with precinct
detectives in gang-related cases, officials said.
BANNED FROM QUEENS PLAZA
In a precedent-setting move,
police in western Queens recently requested a Queens Supreme Court Judge permanently bar
21 suspected members of the Bloods gang from a 14-block area near the Queensborough Bridge
in Long Island City.
Justice Arthur Lonschein granted the
permanent 24-hour injunction on Friday, March 3, barring 15 women and six men from the
specified area, police said.
The injunction marks the first time a New
York State police department has utilized the courts to keep alleged gang members from
even setting foot in a community.
The targeted area has long suffered from a
plague of street prostitution. Police routinely arrest the scantily-clad hookers who line
the streets, only to find them back on the street within hours.
Police made the move to prevent gang
members from completely taking over street prostitution in the targeted area. Alarmed by a
condition in Brooklyns 75th Precinct (on the Queens border), police in northern
Queens decided to take steps to prevent gang members from moving-in on local pimps and
taking over their "girls."
According to the NYPD,
whether you call it a family, nation or association; whether you wear blue, red or green;
whether you joined for protection, excitement or money, all gangs have one thing in common
Gang members are at an estimated 88 percent
greater risk for injury, prison, and early death that other juveniles.
A youth gang is an organized
group of adolescents and young adults who participate in social, criminal and violent
Street gangs have long been considered
loosely organized thugs, engaged in petty thefts and drugs on a local level. But
todays street gangs are very different.
Gangs use children as young as 10-years-old
because they know children under 13 receive a lesser penalty for convicted crime.
Teens become gang members
through a variety of "rites" or an initiation process that may include
participation in criminal activity, studying (and learning) the "Book of
Knowledge" a gang "bible," or by filing an "application"
and paying dues.
There are also blood rituals and sexual
rituals that recruits must pass to qualify for membership, police said.
ARE THE WARNING SIGNS?
According to police, parents
should watch for:
Changes in clothing
Use of hand signs and signals usually as an alternate form of communication
Tattoos or branding of the body with distinctive designs, logos or names
Withdrawal from family involvement
Unexplained cash, material items, wearing a lot of jewelry or medallions
Abrupt changes in personality and behavior
Prefers to use a nickname or street name
Decline in grades at school
Truancy change of friends
Police recommend that
parents and educators take the following steps with teens:
Talk to your child or teenager.
Discuss the consequences of being in a gang.
Be a good listener to your child and help them develop their self esteem.
Watch for negative influences, meet and greet friends and parents of friends.
Communicate with them about their hopes and dreams as well as their fears and
Be a role model.
Discuss the importance of school and good grades. Emphasize good study habits.
Establish rules and set limits. Be consistent and fair in punishment.
Volunteer at your childs school.
Demand accountability for time spent, money and clothes.
Spend quality time with your children.
Show respect for your childs feelings.
Many youths join gangs because they do not
receive adequate family attention, police said. Many teens feel that gangs provide love,
identity and status, and in turn, the teens develop loyalty to the gang.
Youths hanging out at a specific location. They may be loosely structured or highly
Members depend on one another to carry out planned activities and to provide help if
Organized to obtain emotional gratification that violent activity can bring. Leaders tend
to be emotionally unstable have a need to control and direct others.
Structure is constantly changing. Allies one day can become
enemies the next day.