Tuesday, June 20, 2006
Carmel on the Case: Gangs Online
It used to be police had to patrol the streets relying on sources to stop gang activity. But now, they have a new tool. Agents are using the internet to not only find out who gangs are targeting but who they're recruiting. Investigative Reporter Carmel Cafiero is - On The Case.
WSVN--Crime Analyst: "This is a guy doing his gang sign here."
The man doing the talking is a gang analyst with the Miami Dade police department who asked we protect his identity.
Just as kids find friends on the internet - he finds gang members.
Crime Analyst: "They're advertising themselves, the lifestyle, you know look at all the perks of gang life - the girls, the guns - you know - the drugs."
One of the sites he checks - Myspace.com.
Crime Analyst: "It's Johnny Five or Hialeah Flaco."
He says gang members put up enough information that he has been able to match street nicknames to wanted suspects. Know when and where a gang fight might happen and tell who's hanging where from pictures.
Crime Analyst: "They might be hanging out at that mall in South Miami or maybe some picture in front of Westland. We've run across pictures where they'll have their arsenal of weapons laid out for us."
And to hear law enforcement tell it - everyone of us needs to be aware of the growth and impact of gangs.
Rev. Mario Forte: "With the internet you have the potential to reach you know, hundreds, thousands, even millions of people."
Mario Forte is a Miami minister.
But he used to be in a gang and says the internet is the newest tool for recruiters.
Rev. Mario Forte: "So definitely the internet is connecting them and making their job or their work a lot easier."
Forte says gang recruiters who might stand out at some schools or playgrounds - can remain anonymous as they cruise the web looking for children to recruit.
Rev. Mario Forte: "We used to target 12 and 13 year olds. But as the years passed by its getting younger and younger. Right now the target age is between eight to twelve."
And that is not an exaggeration.
Deputy Sheriff: "We've seen here in Palm Beach County as young as eight years old."
These Palm Beach County Sheriff's Deputies have asked us to protect their identities.
Deputy Sheriff: "We've really seen an increase in violence - an increase in gun violence - shootings - homicides - everything that pretty much goes along with it."
And they say once a child is drawn in - getting out can be a deadly proposition.
Deputy Sheriff: "There's a couple of gangs out there that'll say blood in by getting beaten - blood out. Some gangs you don't get out. The only way to get out is you get killed."
Internet chat rooms also offer a window into gang life.
Here a gang member says he goes to a funeral every two months.
Another writes he has seen gang members tortured to death.
"This is about being owned, about being possessed."
Sister Rachel Sena runs a catholic ministry for myan immigrants in Lake Worth.
She has seen gangs use the internet to paint a much nicer picture of gang life and use that to trap elementary age children.
Sister Rachel Sena: "You can't get out. There is no freedom of choice. Once you're in the gang, the gang owns you.
Experts say gang members also cruise the internet looking for crime targets.
They'll chat up kids and find out when nobody is home.
And don't think all this happens only in the poor part of town.
Rev. Mario Forte: "Some of the most violent gangs that I've been involved in are not in the urban areas - they're in the suburbs."
Carmel Cafiero: "So for parents - clearly sexual predators aren't the only ones trolling the internet for victims. And when it comes to the gangs - a prime target is a child who is bright - spends time alone and has parents not very involved in his life. Carmel Cafiero 7 News."
If You Have A Story For Carmel:
Call her in Dade at 305-627-CLUE
Or in Broward at 954-921-CLUE