Use of Twitter, Facebook Rising Among Gang Members

Thomas Watkins, Washington Post, February 2, 2010

{snip}

Law enforcement officials say gangs are making greater use of Twitter and Facebook, where they sometimes post information that helps agents identify gang associates and learn more about their organizations.

“You find out about people you never would have known about before,” said Dean Johnston with the California Bureau of Narcotics Enforcement, which helps police investigate gangs. “You build this little tree of people.”

{snip}

Tech-savvy gangsters have long been at home in chatrooms and on Web sites like MySpace, but they appear to be gravitating toward Twitter and Facebook, where they can make threats, boast about crimes, share intelligence on rivals and network with people across the country.

“We are seeing a lot more of it,” Johnston said. “They will even go out and brag about doing shootings.”

In another California case involving a different gang, much of the information gathered by investigators came from members’ Facebook accounts. {snip}

{snip}

And gang members sometimes turn the tables, asking contacts across their extended networks for help identifying undercover police officers.

{snip}

Tapping into tweets and status updates can be easy. Agents pose as pretty girls and send flirtatious friend requests. Confidential informants sometimes let police peer into their accounts.

Authorities can also seek help from the Web sites. Representatives from Twitter and Facebook say they regularly cooperate with police and supply information on account holders when presented with a search warrant. Neither company would discuss specifics.

{snip}

The Crips, Bloods, Florencia 13, MS-13 and other gangs have long used MySpace to display potentially incriminating photos and videos of people holding guns and making hand gestures. They also post messages about rivals.

Last week, officials in Riverside County, east of Los Angeles, announced the arrest of 50 people in a crackdown of a Latino gang they say was engaged in drug sales and hate crimes against black residents. Prosecutors say some of the evidence was pulled from MySpace and YouTube, including rap videos taunting police with violent messages.

{snip}

Anguiano tracks the online activity of graffiti vandals–the so-called tagging crews that sometimes morph into gangs. They post tweets saying they are heading out to spray paint and sometimes post links to photographs of their work.

Often, they cannot resist bragging about their handiwork, and the electronic trail they leave is frequently used as evidence.

“They talk about it too much,” Anguiano said. “You want the fame so you’ve got to go out there and talk about it. That’s when your mouth gets you in trouble.”

Topics:

Share This

We welcome comments that add information or perspective, and we encourage polite debate. If you log in with a social media account, your comment should appear immediately. If you prefer to remain anonymous, you may comment as a guest, using a name and an e-mail address of convenience. Your comment will be moderated.

Comments are closed.