There are more than 300 of them in New York — violent crews of dozens of 12- to 20-year-olds with names such as Very Crispy Gangsters, True Money Gang and Cash Bama Bullies.
Police say these groups, clustered around a particular block or housing project, are responsible for about 40 percent of the city's shootings, with most of that violence stemming from the smallest of disses on the street, Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.
"It's like belonging to an evil fraternity," said Inspector Kevin Catalina, commander of the New York Police Department's gang division. "A lot of it is driven by nothing: A dispute over a girl or a wrong look or a perceived slight."
The trend of smaller, younger crews has also been seen in Chicago and Northeast cities over the last few years as police have cracked down on bigger, more traditional gangs, experts said. While the Bloods, Crips and Latin Kings still exist, operating such money-making schemes as drug dealing, their members are usually older and understand the timeworn mantra of organized crime: violence is bad for business.
For years police in New York City and other cities in the Northeast and around the country have specifically targeted organized, or "traditional," gangs like the Bloods and Crips. It shouldn't be surprising that those efforts have led to the replacement of these gangs by even more violent successors. Law enforcement also understands violence is bad for business. It's axiomatic for the drug war, where drug use is combatted, literally, by introducing violence into the otherwise non-violent acts of buying, selling, and using certain substances.
Meanwhile, a research study out of Yale University follows up on previous research about the small homicidal social networks in Chicago by extending it to non-fatal shootings. Chicago Magazine explains:
Papachristos constructs a social network—not a virtual one in the Facebook sense, but a real one of social connections between people—by looking at arrestees who have been arrested together. That turns out to be a lot of people in raw numbers, almost 170,000 people with a "co-offending tie" to one another, with an average age of 25.7 years, 78.6 percent male and 69.5 percent black. It's also a large percentage of all the individuals arrested: 40 percent of all the individuals arrested during that period.
Within the entire group, the largest component of that whole co-offender group has 107,740 people.
Within the timeframe—from 2006 to 2010—70 percent of all shootings in Chicago, or about 7,500 out of over 10,000, are contained within all the co-offending networks. And 89 percent of those shootings are within the largest component.
The study's results would suggest that assaulting the gun rights of the broader communities in Chicago, New York City, or the rest of the country is a nonsensical non-solution to gun violence. And by the NYPD's own assertions, neither is "stop and frisk" a solution. The numbers of "crews" the NYPD estimates works out to between 7,000 and 14,000 youths (depending on how many dozen are in any crew) responsible for 40 percent of shootings. It's a tiny subset not only of the total population of New York City but of any demographic group the NYPD might decide to profile.
Neither of those rights-violating approaches, anti-gun legislation or stop and frisk, make sense to curb violence, but they are easier than the kind of police work (like walking beats) or community work (like wider access to gun rights) that could actually put a damp on gun violence.