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  • Thu, May 16, 2013 5:08 AM | Trevor (Administrator)
    A Town of Tonawanda man was convicted Friday of wounding an innocent female bystander when he was trying to shoot a witness in a murder case just after midnight last Aug. 5.

    Eric Smith, 23, a member of the Buffalo chapter of the Rollin’ 60s Crips street gang, was convicted of first-degree assault and criminal possession of a weapon.

    Following a week-long trial before State Supreme Court Justice Russell P. Buscaglia, the Buffalo jury of six women and six men deliberated for just over three hours before finding Smith, of Colvin Avenue, guilty as charged in the shooting at Colvin and St. Lawrence Avenues in Buffalo.

    After the judge remanded Smith pending his July 2 sentencing, trial prosecutors Michael P. Felicetta and James R. Gardner said they will urge Erie County District Attorney Frank A. Sedita III to recommend the judge impose the maximum-allowable 25-year prison term on Smith.

    Daniel J. Dubois, attorney for Smith, who has been jailed since his arrest last September, said the conviction will be appealed.

    Monday and Tuesday the woman who Smith shot and the male prosecution witness who was the intended target identified Smith as the shooter. The prosecutors and court officials asked the news media not to identify the two witnesses.

    The prosecutors said Smith was attempting to silence a witness against fellows Crips members in the grisly stabbing of 16-year-old Darren Brown during a Crips inauguration ceremony last July 5. The prosecutors said Brown was killed because men wanting to get admitted to the Crips had to first carry out a killing.

    Kentie Crumps, 17, of Young Street, another Crips gang member, faces a still-unscheduled assault trial for his alleged role in the attempted shooting of the prosecution witness, Felicetta and Gardner said.

    On March 18, a jury found Ezeiekile Nafti, 17, guilty of first-degree murder for taking part in the killing of Brown, who was stabbed 54 times before his body was set on fire on an old railroad right-of-way near Colvin Avenue late on July 5, 2012.

    Nafti faces sentencing May 29 before Buscaglia. Felicetta and Colleen Curtin Gable, the prosecutors in the murder case, said Crips gang member Demetrius Huff, 18, who had pleaded guilty to first-degree manslaughter and then withdrew his plea, faces a murder trial before Buscaglia on Sept. 30.

    After the verdict was announced, Sedita said he considered Smith’s “violent conduct linked to witness intimidation efforts to be an affront to the very integrity of the criminal justice system and must be dealt with accordingly.”
  • Thu, May 16, 2013 5:05 AM | Trevor (Administrator)
    ELIZABETHTOWN undefined Jurors found Scott E. Denno guilty on Wednesday of first-degree manslaughter and gang assault in the beating death of Robert M. Rennie.

    Rennie, a father of two young girls, was found dead by the closed iron bridge in Keeseville on the morning of Aug. 26, 2012.

    Denno admitted in court that he was one of three men who kicked Rennie during an attack late the previous night, but he claimed he had used the least force he could.

    The medical examiner had ruled Rennie’s manner of death a homicide, finding the Keeseville man had been beaten and died of internal injuries caused by blunt-force trauma.

    ‘DIDN’T FLINCH’

    When Essex County Judge Richard Meyer gave instructions to the jury Wednesday morning, he told the jurors they could also consider second- and third-degree assault if the first-degree gang-assault charge did not hold up against the evidence.

    But the 12-person jury did not need to consider further than charges brought by Essex County District Attorney Kristy Sprague.

    Denno was the first in the courtroom to stand up as jurors readied to enter the courtroom.

    He stood quietly as Meyer invited their decision.

    The moment was tense, a culmination of six full days of testimony in a trial that took more than a week.

    Denno stared ahead, his hands clasped in front of him. He didn’t flinch as the guilty verdicts were read aloud.

    He looked toward the bench as individual jurors were polled, each standing and answering “yes” that he or she agreed with the verdict on both counts.

    ‘GRATEFUL’

    Rennie’s family, including his father, Robert J. Rennie, a sister and a brother, also stood steadfast but seemed visibly relieved with the decision.

    The family attended every hour of each day of this trial.

    As he left the courtroom, Mr. Rennie, the family’s spokesman, said they were grateful.

    Speaking softly, he thanked the prosecutors and the jurors for their decision.

    “We’re very glad for the decision rendered,” he said.

    The days of testimony brought the family back through the painful time last summer when Robert was found beaten to death.

    “It is reliving it all over again,” Mr. Rennie said.

    The family will attend the trials of two other men charged in Robert’s death.

    HUGGED FAMILY

    Sprague hugged members of the victim’s family after Denno was taken from the courtroom and the jury had been excused.

    “I’m just glad the jury listened to the instructions and applied them to the evidence presented,” the DA said.

    “I’m really pleased with the verdict.

    The jury was sent to deliberate at about 10:17 a.m. and took just over two hours to reach a decision.

    The verdict was read aloud at 1:12 p.m. when court reconvened from lunch.

    TWO MORE TRIALS

    Denno faces a 25-year determinate sentence on the top count, Sprague said. Meyer set the sentencing for 2:15 p.m. June 27.

    The 20-year-old was returned to Essex County Jail without bail pending sentencing.

    He has been held there since his arrest last October along with Michael Rivers and Paul J. Taylor, whose trials in connection with the Rennie case are scheduled later this month and in June, respectively.

    Tuesday, Denno’s attorney, Joe Brennan, had asked the judge to dismiss all the charges; Meyer dropped the weapon charge relating to the footwear Denno was wearing during the kicking attack on Rennie.

    Taylor faces a second-degree murder charge and others for first-degree gang assault and possession of a weapon.

    DEGREE OF INTENT

    Chief Public Defender Brandon E. Boutelle said separate attorneys were assigned to defend Denno, Rivers and Taylor due to the potential conflict in individual cases.

    “The (attorneys) were assigned by the Elizabethtown Court when they (defendants) were arraigned,” he explained Wednesday.

    Lake Placid attorney Greg Laduke will defend Rivers.

    And Boutelle is defending Taylor.

    The difference between first-degree manslaughter and a murder charge, he said, hinges on the degree of intent, according to the law.

    First-degree manslaughter reflects an intention to injure someone that results in death.

    Murder is a charge brought against someone who intended to cause a person’s death.

    MUST BE UNANIMOUS

    Meyer explained the first-degree manslaughter, gang assault and lesser assault charges to the jury with instructions that lasted nearly an hour early Wednesday.

    First-degree manslaughter, he said, has occurred when a person acts “with intent to cause serious physical injury to another person … and causes the death” of that person.

    Intent, Meyer explained, does not require premeditation and can be “formed at the very moment a person acts” to cause the result, which in this case, was Rennie’s death.

    Gang assault, Meyer said, is when a person undefined aided by two or more people undefined causes “serious physical injury” that may or may not result in death.

    The jury verdict on each charge must be unanimous.
  • Thu, May 16, 2013 5:04 AM | Trevor (Administrator)
    With names like Cash Money Brothers, Broad Day Shooters, Make It Happen Boyz, Addicted to Green, Da Broadway Bullies and From Da Zoo, gangs are swarming Harlem’s streets with police precincts reporting nearly 30 youth crews in northern Manhattan. Not one to be intimidated, Col. Gregory Collins wants to save the young people of Harlem from the gangs and the death and violence they bring.

    Collins has spent most of his life with the National Guard at the historic 369th Harlem Armory. He came to the Armory in 1978, when he was 14. He is a commander and an officer in the guard. He founded the cadet program, Harlem Youth Marines, in 1982 as a way to save young men and women from the dangers of the streets by using structure, discipline and love to teach valuable life lessons and offer a much-needed sense of family. This valuable program will be displaced as the Armory is slated to undergo some 20 months of renovations. Collins talked to the AmNews about his beloved cadet program and his concern for the fate of his kids.

    “We do something positive for the youth and we support our veterans in whatever they need. We’ve done details for the military National Guard. We are part of that family. Everything about us is about discipline and precision drill. They look to us to carry out some of the functions and to show that they are supporting what we do. They request us to be pallbearers,” he said.

    “I am very much concerned because of what happened to Ackeem Green, my stepson. Last June 3, he was shot and killed in the basketball court at 129th Street and Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard. while playing basketball. He was 25 and had been with the program since he was 15. He was a mentor and part of the honor guard,” he said.
    Green’s death has made Collins more determined than ever. He recently attended a meeting at the State Office Building in Harlem to discuss the gang violence. The gangs are once again taking over the neighborhood. Goodfellas was responsible for the death of Green.

    “It’s gotten worse,” Collins said. “It’s about turf, colors, nonsense. We are a gang-prevention program. Every time I think about what happened to Ackeem, it bothers me because we can do more. We want to do more, but nobody is paying attention to us,” he said.

    “Every community should have a cadet program. I think people are not educated enough as to what cadet programs are all about. Yes, young men and women are influenced, and if they decide to join the military, that’s the decision they make. We’re not about recruiting kids to go into the military. We’re about structure and discipline. Whichever career path they choose after they finish high school, that’s on them. A lot of them do choose to go into the military and have been very successful. The majority of our cadets go into law enforcement,” Collins said.

    Every precinct in Harlem, as well as the 32nd, 28th, 26th and 30th precincts, all have officers who were once cadets in Collins’ program. Members of the Harlem Youth Marines have been as young as 7 years old. The oldest member is 35. Since its inception, more than 2,000 kids have come through.

    “We start them at 7 and get them to stay through high school. They became good, productive citizens. The Harlem Youth Marines now has chapters in Niagara Falls and in Reading, Pa.,” Collins said.

    The group has enjoyed once-in-a-lifetime opportunities. In 1992, the cadets marched in President Bill Clinton’s inaugural parade. They were also part of the escort honor guards for Princess Maxima of the Netherlands and England’s Prince Andrew.

    The program works. A mother brought in her 10-year-old daughter and complained that she was behaving badly in school. Collins took her right in. Students must maintain their grades as part of the program and Collins checks their report cards. The kids clearly love being part of the Harlem Youth Marines.

    Twelve-year-old Jaisean Crumble of Staten Island is a brand new recruit. He heard about it from his dad, who used to come when he was young. “It’s good. I like how we practice our drills” and learn how to be a leader. Jaisean says he’s learned “how to behave.”

    Fifteen-year-old Gabrielle Castro of Harlem has been in the program for three years. “It gets me off the streets and we do a lot of sports here, and we learn a lot about the military. As we stay in this program, we progress in terms of maturity levels and grades and your personal goals in life. When you get the concept of being in this program, you learn how to act like a real man and become a statistic, but become a good statistic. My grades went from 60s and 70s to 80s and 90s. My average is a 92,” he proudly added.

    Fifteen–year-old Louis Lubin is from France. He and his dad moved to Brooklyn, where he learned about the program. He joined in September of last year and has been promoted twice since then. “So far, it’s been pretty great. It teaches you how to be a leader. Leading by example is the whole idea behind this program,” he said.
    Twenty-year-old Denzel Brown has been in the program for five years. His job is to bring in new recruits. He was in the process of signing up a new cadet. “I’m trying to start a military sports team in Harlem. I want to start at the bottom and work everybody in the team as one, as a family, as a unit. What I want to do for the youth of Harlem is give them a second family. I can build this family new and get the youth off the streets. Today, I’m on duty. Tomorrow, I’ll be on duty recruiting kids. I go out into the streets and playgrounds and schoolsundefinedas many as possible in Brooklyn, New York, anywhere. I go borough to borough to borough and get kids that want to play military sports and learn what we’re about,” Brown said.

    Collins is looking for a new home for the group, because they are soon set to be displaced with the upcoming internal renovations at the Armory. He concedes that finding a new home will be a challenge because the group has no financing and many youth organizations already have their own programs. Losing the Harlem Youth Marines would be a real blow to the kids who depend on it.

    “Funding has always been a challenge because it is wrongly assumed to be a military program, while in fact, it is a cadet program. The program is associated with the military, authorized and recognized by the U.S. Marine Corp, but is not funded by them. This program gets involved in the social dynamics, behavioral problems, school problems and tries to solve them through a program of discipline and structure. Some of those who were most reluctant to join the program have become the most dedicated cadets, wanting more than the once-a-week meeting,” he said.

    “Every block in Harlem has a gang,. I can motivate them. I can dedicate them to educate them,” Collins said. “If a young man or woman can sit still for a block of instructions for 45 minutes to an hour, they can learn,” he concluded.
  • Thu, May 09, 2013 9:14 AM | Trevor (Administrator)

    Tariq “Reek” Brown from the Bailey Boys gang thought he spotted rival gangsters at a picnic in Martin Luther King Park last May. Holding his pistol-grip assault rifle, police say, he sprayed bullets at the crowd of more than 100 people, killing 26-year-old Marquay Lee and wounding four others.

    Street justice demanded swift retaliation. Just hours later, as partygoers spilled out from a Minnesota Avenue house, a suspected associate from the rival LRGP gang fired into the crowd, killing Samantha Cothran, an aspiring 23-year-old pharmaceutical student who had nothing to do with gangs.

    For years, the Bailey Boys and LRGP Crew carried out business at the end of a gun. When someone dared to encroach on turf where each felt they had exclusive rights to sell drugs and rob people, the result was terror and sometimes death.

    Eleven months after the two shootings, police say the Bailey Boys and LRGP are in shambles, the result of an intense effort by Buffalo police, the FBI and federal prosecutors to break the gangs.

    Eighteen members of LRGP and 10 of the Bailey Boys are in jail awaiting trial in U.S. District Court, including Tariq Brown, charged with murder last week in the Martin Luther King Park shooting.

    The campaign against the Bailey Boys and LRGP is the latest front in a three-year war on gang violence in Buffalo. It started with targeting the notorious 10th Street and 7th Street gangs fighting each other on the West Side, then a West Side gang known as the Loiza Boys that attempted to fill the void, and now the Bailey Boys and LRGP.

    In all, 160 Buffalo gang members have been put behind bars over the past three years. The top federal prosecutor calls them “the worst of the worst.”

    Because they are charged or already have been convicted of federal felonies, these gang members face stiffer penalties than under state law. And, as with the Bailey Boys and LRGP, the government has swung its heaviest hammer designed to decimate organized crime – the Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act.

    No one believes the gangs are gone for good. Residents know that dismantling gangs is like a deadly carnival game of whack-a-mole. When one gang is taken down, another pops up.

    But the focus on gangs has made neighborhoods safer. This is how the police took down the Bailey Boys and LRGP.

    Police cooperation

    When William J. Hochul Jr. became the U.S. attorney in 2010, he took his staff on a tour of the city’s worst neighborhoods.

    “We took a bus tour with 15 assistant U.S. attorneys and the clergy. I wanted my staff to have a sense of urgency. It’s one thing to prosecute day in and day out, but it’s another thing to feel the urgency,” said Hochul, who grew up on the city’s East Side.

    Hochul then took a second tour with Buffalo Police Commissioner Daniel Derenda, who had appealed to him for help and also grew up on the East Side.

    “When I took the U.S. attorney on a tour,” Derenda recalled, “a drug dealer approached our unmarked vehicle thinking we were looking to make a buy. He ran when he saw my uniform.”

    Those two also teamed up with the FBI’s Safe Streets Task Force.

    They count their progress on the war against the gangs:

    “We have solved 21 homicides to date involving gangs, including killers in the Bailey Boys and LRGP Crew,” Derenda said. “I can think of another 10 to 15 murders where there’s a high probability that they too will be solved.”

    Out in the neighborhoods, there is gratitude that gang members are getting locked up, though it is tempered with reality. And to avoid becoming a crime statistic, they say you need to be viglilant.

    View from the streets

    Consider the plight of Randy Zawadzski, who lives in the Broadway Fillmore neighborhood, home of LRGP, which stands for Lombard Street, Rother Avenue, Gibson Street and Playter Street, which roughly defines the boundaries of the gang’s turf.

    “Three years ago, I got caught in the gunfire. I got shot in the left leg. Fragments from an AK-47 bullet hit me. It was a horrifying experience,” Zawadzski said. “It was a case of mistaken identity. After that, I wouldn’t ever go outside after dark.”

    Another Broadway Fillmore resident said that when he sees a gang coming down the street, he heads indoors. And when gunfire breaks out, he takes added precautions.

    “We have a family ritual in my house. I have four children, and if we hear gunshots, it’s routine to go to the back of the house and lie on the floor,” the father said.

    Mary Chambers said she moved out of the Bailey Kensington neighborhood in 2011 because of gangsters’ warfare.

    “The gangs drove me out. I couldn’t even let my grandkids play on the porch,” said Chambers, who now lives in Cheektowaga. “My house on Shirley Avenue had been shot at three times.”

    It’s no wonder.

    Tempting fate

    Chambers lived on the 200 block of Shirley where Anthony Skinner, a member of LRGP, tempted fate by sometimes staying overnight at a house on that same block right in the heart of the Bailey Boys’ territory.

    Skinner’s affront to the Bailey Boys went from bad to worse. In broad daylight on July 21, 2011, he allegedly shot Rayshod Washington of the Bailey Boys.

    The attack was caught on a city surveillance camera. Mayor Byron W. Brown, who happened to be in the camera room at Buffalo Police Headquarters at that moment, watched the shooting in real time.

    “I was shocked by the total disregard for whoever else was on the street and the fact that he started shooting with a surveillance camera right there,” Brown said. “There was a total lack of regard for human life.”

    Eight days later, Skinner got some payback.

    On July 29, Tariq Brown – the same man charged last week in the Martin Luther King Park shootings – spotted Skinner in a maroon car at the intersection of Kensington Avenue and Orleans Street and began shooting, police say. Skinner survived the attack but just barely. A bullet struck him in the chest.

    That summer of 2011 was a busy one for Tariq Brown, authorities said. In addition to Skinner, Brown also was involved in shootings on Shirley Avenue and at a block club party on Dartmouth Avenue, police said. Residents on the side streets running off Bailey and Kensington avenues were beside themselves. Something needed to be done.

    The investigation

    A couple of fortuitous events occurred in the bloody summer of 2011. Buffalo police and the FBI’s Safe Streets Task Force began investigating the LRGP Crew, and Derenda had a meeting with a Bailey Kensington block club leader.

    “I met in the evening with the block club president in the living room of Bonnie Russell’s home,” Derenda said of the meeting arranged by University Council Member Russell.

    The block club official, who asked that her name be withheld, recalled telling the commissioner how gang members in Bailey Kensington had taken over street corners outside delis and sold drugs, committed shootings in broad daylight, and intimidated residents to the point that they were afraid to leave their homes.

    “I gave that woman my word we would do something,” Derenda said, who was also worried about the Broadway Fillmore neighborhood.

    He assigned two city homicide detectives to work with the FBI’s task force, which started gaining an inside view of the Bailey Boys and the LRGP Crew by developing sources, making undercover drug buys and receiving intelligence from city police patrol officers and district detectives. They also were listening in on gang members’ cellphone conversations.

    Investigators got an earful, according to FBI supervisory Special Agent James A. Jancewicz.

    They were able to identify an LRGP drug house at 42 Memorial Drive, not far from the historic Central Terminal. Gang member Franklin Richards supplied the house with cocaine, which was then sold to street dealers, police explained.

    More digging determined that Richards obtained his drugs from Earl Brown of Houston, and Brown dealt directly with the drug cartels of Mexico, according to Jancewicz.

    LRGP members, Jancewicz said, were covetous of their turf. If anyone dared to move in on them, they could expect retribution.

    “It’s believed that the gang members made a pact that if anyone else sold drugs in the Lombard, Rother, Gibson and Playter area, they would be killed,” Jancewicz said.

    Advantages of federal charges

    Early in the course of that investigation, he said, the task force also learned that LRGP and the Bailey Boys had been at war for a few years, which helped explain why there were so many shootings.

    But to nail down who was responsible for pulling the trigger and make arrests that would stick in court, a methodical approach was needed.

    “You take a retrospective look and start putting pieces together, dates of shootings, deconstructing piece by piece. The key is actually to have witnesses who will testify. Human beings who will say, ‘I shot that guy’ or ‘That guy was shot for this reason,’ ” Jancewicz explained.

    One of the advantages of making arrests at the federal level as opposed to the state level, Hochul explained, is that individuals charged with serious crimes are usually detained until their charges are resolved, usually at trial.

    In the long months leading up to a trial, time weighs heavy and investigators say there is a greater chance that the individual may end up assisting authorities by appearing before a grand jury and offering testimony that can lead to additional arrests and the solving of other crimes.

    That scenario has played out over and over in the investigation into the LRGP Crew and Bailey Boys.

    In fact, when Tariq Brown was charged last week with the murder of Lee and the attempted murder of four others picnickers, it was part of the fourth superseding indictment against the Bailey Boys gang. And Brown already was behind bars awaiting trial on three other attempted murder charges.

    The same strategy was used in taking down the 10th Street and 7th Street gangs, according to Buffalo Chief of Detectives Dennis J. Richards, who said such an intense effort was needed because the gangs were so entrenched that they had become “generational.”

    Check back this summer

    Rooting out the gangs has resulted in improvements to West Side and East Side neighborhoods, which authorities say is the end game – to help these neighborhoods make a comeback.

    But in these neighborhoods where the different gangs have flourished for so long, optimism among residents is guarded.

    The Broadway Fillmore father who gathers his children into the back of his house when gunfire rings out says the coming warmer months will tell whether the joint police effort has made a difference.

    “Come back in the summer when it gets hot and crazy,” he said, only identifying himself by his first name, Mark, for fear of making himself a target. “Come back in the summer, and I’ll let you know if there are less shootings.”

    email: lmichel@buffnews.com

  • Thu, May 09, 2013 9:14 AM | Trevor (Administrator)
    Funded with $5,000 from United Way of the Valley & Greater Utica Area, the Oneida County Gang Assessment Coalition will join with the nonprofit Utica Safe Schools to look at the current status of gangs across Oneida County.

    The coalition includes representatives from local police agencies, school districts, government offices and social service entities that help at-risk youths.

    Once this “snapshot” phase is completed in the next several weeks, those results will be used in a more in-depth study of local gang activity and what can continue to be done to keep the gang problem under control.

    “We hears of incidents off school grounds that don’t occur on school grounds because the kids know there’s a good level of adult support and security at schools to keep them safe, and they know there’s a lot of scrutiny,” said James Franco, director of operations for Utica Safe Schools.

    Funded with $5,000 from United Way of the Valley & Greater Utica Area, the Oneida County Gang Assessment Coalition will join with the nonprofit Utica Safe Schools to look at the current status of gangs across Oneida County.

    The coalition includes representatives from local police agencies, school districts, government offices and social service entities that help at-risk youths.

    Once this “snapshot” phase is completed in the next several weeks, those results will be used in a more in-depth study of local gang activity and what can continue to be done to keep the gang problem under control.

    “We hears of incidents off school grounds that don’t occur on school grounds because the kids know there’s a good level of adult support and security at schools to keep them safe, and they know there’s a lot of scrutiny,” said James Franco, director of operations for Utica Safe Schools.

     
  • Thu, May 09, 2013 9:10 AM | Trevor (Administrator)
    The area’s street gangs just aren’t what they used to be.

    They lack unity, loyalty and discipline. Drug dealing isn’t the economic engine it once was. Members don’t settle as many disputes with guns. And gang-related murders are a rarity.

    Yet, the gangs aren’t gone, authorities say.

    Instead, the hardcore gangs of the 1990s have been replaced with more loosely organized “cliques” of youths that join together for any number of reasons, and local authorities fear what will happen if these groups grow into something worse if everyone lets down their guard.

    “A lot of gangs from 10 years ago, they would start up as hybrid gangs to impress people, to try to intimidate people and show status, but then they’d fall down,” said Utica police Investigator Bill Williams, the department’s gang intelligence officer. “But now we’re seeing that they’re not falling, and they’re actually structuring themselves.

    “We’re very low key with the gangs right now, but they’re here.”

    At the Oneida County jail, every new inmate is asked if he or she is part of a gang. The number of inmates who acknowledge their gang affiliation has dropped in recent years from 80 in 2010 to 71 last year.

    So, as the Oneida County Gang Assessment Coalition prepares to announce in the weeks ahead the results from its countywide study, local police officials and community leaders hope to learn how serious the gang problem really is.

    ‘Not all it’s cracked up to be’

    “Dee,” who did not want to be identified by his real name, said he joined the Bloods in Rome back in 2003 because he wanted to unleash the angry violence that he felt. While the Bloods gave Dee that chance, his gang experience also made him recognize what he was and wasn’t capable of and taught him how to control that raw power.

    But after serving time in prison for selling crack cocaine, Dee, now 26, said he grew tired of always looking over his shoulder, and he said he no longer is an active member of the Bloods. He also became disenchanted by the current gang mentality that is plagued by too much disloyalty, backbiting and power trips.

    Now, many youths who join gangs seem to do it because they want money, women and “the swag” – they want to be cool, Dee said. That’s not what being in a gang is all about, he said.

    “You really need to know what you’re getting into before you take it to a different level,” Dee warned. “Ask yourself what you’re lacking in life. Just don’t join a gang because it’s cool and you see everybody doing it. The gang lifestyle is not all it’s cracked up to be anymore, and you can get women and be cool without joining a gang.”

    The handful of Utica gangs isn’t as ruthless as those in Syracuse, Albany and Rochester, but they still pose a threat to the community and to the people they target, officials agree.

    A gang-related knife fight at the Parkway Recreation Center earlier this year showed how violent the Corn Hill Soldiers and 2 High Klass rivals were willing to get, police said.

    Plus, gang-tagging graffiti across the inner city and the occasional street fights also offer clues on what groups don’t get along, and what territory belongs to whom.

    The Crips-affiliated Asian Boyz, for instance, don’t like the Lower East Side gang, as reflected by the many “ABZ” symbols that are spray-painted over crossed-out rival “LES” tagging.

    Feeling accepted

    Ever since several of the Asian Boyz went to prison in 2006 for killing a 15-year-old Thomas R. Proctor High School student during a gang initiation, police know what that gang is capable of.

    The fact that some of the same juveniles who were involved in that deadly beat-in still are members of the Asian Boyz only makes matters worse, police said.

    One reason the Asian Boyz might be getting its grip in the inner city, Williams believes, is because it’s preying upon the fears of younger immigrant teens who feel isolated and bullied.

    With nowhere else to turn, these youth refugees find security in a group that promises them protection. In the long run, police fear that unique motive in such a refugee-populated city might prove to foster a more lasting gang foundation that hasn’t existed in Utica for years.

    That lack of purpose and belonging in a troubled teen’s life can then make them vulnerable to the appeal of a gang.

    “Just because somebody is in a gang doesn’t mean they’re always cold-hearted, so don’t be so quick to judge somebody just because he is in a gang,” said Dee, who noted the structured way of life his experience gave him. “You have very good individuals that are involved in gangs because those might be the only people who accepted him for who he was.”

    Combating the issue

    The gradual choking of the gangs in Utica and Oneida County began after the 1990s when local and federal police agencies joined forces to dismantle their far-reaching drug operations, officials said. More guns were taken off the street. And community leaders stepped up in later years to try and resolve disputes between feuding neighborhood rivals before they boiled over into violence.

    The Oneida County District Attorney’s Office used to have a state-funded gang investigator that kept track of gangs and intervened within the area’s school. But that position has since been returned to the Sheriff’s Office, which gathers facts about gang activity from incoming inmates that can be shared amongst the county’s police agencies.

    Although recent budget cuts have made it harder for police to dedicate resources to monitor gang activity, officials agree that the headway made by gang-fighting initiatives in the past have managed to keep gangs at bay.

    But if police don’t keep up the pressure, alienated youths looking for purpose could continue to evolve their gang-like antics until it’s too late, prosecutors fear.

    “As we continue to watch our police agencies made smaller with less resources, we’re unable to put in the same time and effort that we were able to put in five or six years ago,” Oneida County District Attorney Scott McNamara said. “I’m happy that we’ve been blessed with a decrease in gang activity, but it can always turn in a second.”

    The area’s street gangs just aren’t what they used to be.

    They lack unity, loyalty and discipline. Drug dealing isn’t the economic engine it once was. Members don’t settle as many disputes with guns. And gang-related murders are a rarity.

    Yet, the gangs aren’t gone, authorities say.

    Instead, the hardcore gangs of the 1990s have been replaced with more loosely organized “cliques” of youths that join together for any number of reasons, and local authorities fear what will happen if these groups grow into something worse if everyone lets down their guard.

    “A lot of gangs from 10 years ago, they would start up as hybrid gangs to impress people, to try to intimidate people and show status, but then they’d fall down,” said Utica police Investigator Bill Williams, the department’s gang intelligence officer. “But now we’re seeing that they’re not falling, and they’re actually structuring themselves.

    “We’re very low key with the gangs right now, but they’re here.”

    At the Oneida County jail, every new inmate is asked if he or she is part of a gang. The number of inmates who acknowledge their gang affiliation has dropped in recent years from 80 in 2010 to 71 last year.

    So, as the Oneida County Gang Assessment Coalition prepares to announce in the weeks ahead the results from its countywide study, local police officials and community leaders hope to learn how serious the gang problem really is.

    ‘Not all it’s cracked up to be’

    “Dee,” who did not want to be identified by his real name, said he joined the Bloods in Rome back in 2003 because he wanted to unleash the angry violence that he felt. While the Bloods gave Dee that chance, his gang experience also made him recognize what he was and wasn’t capable of and taught him how to control that raw power.

    But after serving time in prison for selling crack cocaine, Dee, now 26, said he grew tired of always looking over his shoulder, and he said he no longer is an active member of the Bloods. He also became disenchanted by the current gang mentality that is plagued by too much disloyalty, backbiting and power trips.

    Now, many youths who join gangs seem to do it because they want money, women and “the swag” – they want to be cool, Dee said. That’s not what being in a gang is all about, he said.

    “You really need to know what you’re getting into before you take it to a different level,” Dee warned. “Ask yourself what you’re lacking in life. Just don’t join a gang because it’s cool and you see everybody doing it. The gang lifestyle is not all it’s cracked up to be anymore, and you can get women and be cool without joining a gang.”

    The handful of Utica gangs isn’t as ruthless as those in Syracuse, Albany and Rochester, but they still pose a threat to the community and to the people they target, officials agree.

    A gang-related knife fight at the Parkway Recreation Center earlier this year showed how violent the Corn Hill Soldiers and 2 High Klass rivals were willing to get, police said.

    Plus, gang-tagging graffiti across the inner city and the occasional street fights also offer clues on what groups don’t get along, and what territory belongs to whom.

    The Crips-affiliated Asian Boyz, for instance, don’t like the Lower East Side gang, as reflected by the many “ABZ” symbols that are spray-painted over crossed-out rival “LES” tagging.

    Feeling accepted

    Ever since several of the Asian Boyz went to prison in 2006 for killing a 15-year-old Thomas R. Proctor High School student during a gang initiation, police know what that gang is capable of.

    The fact that some of the same juveniles who were involved in that deadly beat-in still are members of the Asian Boyz only makes matters worse, police said.

    One reason the Asian Boyz might be getting its grip in the inner city, Williams believes, is because it’s preying upon the fears of younger immigrant teens who feel isolated and bullied.

    With nowhere else to turn, these youth refugees find security in a group that promises them protection. In the long run, police fear that unique motive in such a refugee-populated city might prove to foster a more lasting gang foundation that hasn’t existed in Utica for years.

    That lack of purpose and belonging in a troubled teen’s life can then make them vulnerable to the appeal of a gang.

    “Just because somebody is in a gang doesn’t mean they’re always cold-hearted, so don’t be so quick to judge somebody just because he is in a gang,” said Dee, who noted the structured way of life his experience gave him. “You have very good individuals that are involved in gangs because those might be the only people who accepted him for who he was.”

    Combating the issue

    The gradual choking of the gangs in Utica and Oneida County began after the 1990s when local and federal police agencies joined forces to dismantle their far-reaching drug operations, officials said. More guns were taken off the street. And community leaders stepped up in later years to try and resolve disputes between feuding neighborhood rivals before they boiled over into violence.

    The Oneida County District Attorney’s Office used to have a state-funded gang investigator that kept track of gangs and intervened within the area’s school. But that position has since been returned to the Sheriff’s Office, which gathers facts about gang activity from incoming inmates that can be shared amongst the county’s police agencies.

    Although recent budget cuts have made it harder for police to dedicate resources to monitor gang activity, officials agree that the headway made by gang-fighting initiatives in the past have managed to keep gangs at bay.

    But if police don’t keep up the pressure, alienated youths looking for purpose could continue to evolve their gang-like antics until it’s too late, prosecutors fear.

    “As we continue to watch our police agencies made smaller with less resources, we’re unable to put in the same time and effort that we were able to put in five or six years ago,” Oneida County District Attorney Scott McNamara said. “I’m happy that we’ve been blessed with a decrease in gang activity, but it can always turn in a second.”

  • Thu, May 09, 2013 9:09 AM | Trevor (Administrator)

    A member of the Bailey Boys street gang in Buffalo has pleaded guilty to charges stemming from the shooting death of a clerk in an East Side convenience store more than two years ago, U.S. Attorney William J. Hochul Jr. announced Tuesday.

    Dwight Mitchell, 19, faces a maximum penalty of life in prison and a $250,000 fine after pleading guilty before U.S. District Judge William M. Skretny to aiding and abetting a violent crime committed in aid of a racketeering enterprise. He is scheduled to be sentenced Aug. 26.

    Prosecutors said Mitchell held the door open at the Super Stop Food Market, 970 Kensington Ave., on Nov. 29, 2010, while someone identified as “TS,” who wanted to become a gang member, fired several shots into the store, hoping to hit a member of the rival Midway Crew gang. Instead, he killed Charles B. Myles-Jones, 20, a store employee not affiliated with any gang, as he walked into the store.

  • Mon, April 15, 2013 8:51 PM | Trevor (Administrator)
    April 13, 2013

    BY BILL WOLCOTT
    Lockport Union-Sun & Journal

    Lockport Union-Sun & Journal undefined More than 100 men and women made the first anti-gang and bullying conference at Lockport High School a success, according to a field intelligence officer from the Niagara County Sheriff’s Office.

    The Greater Niagara Regional Training Conference, which was held from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the auditorium, drew diverse groups from therapists from Catholic Charities to BOCE workers from the Livingston County Jail. Canadian law enforcement officers also attended with Lockport and Niagara Falls cops.

    “That’s a great turnout for his area,” said officer Kirk Kingsbury of Greater Niagara Regional Gang Training. “To have 100 people, that’s phenomenal.”

    The conference, started by the New York Gang Investigators Association in 2006, was co-sponsored by the Lockport City School District and the sheriff’s office. It was designed for law enforcement, social workers and teachers. It is the first time it was held in Niagara County.

    There are no reported gangs in Lockport, according to Kingsbury, but there continue to be issues in Niagara Falls.

    “Right now gangs are down. They lost a lot of the gang identifiers undefined colors, names,” Kingsbury said. “They are dropping that and becoming a group of criminal crews instead of gangs.”

    Lists of designer and clothing companies used as gang identifiers were provided by NYGIA. Their clothing ranges from Allan Iverson to Under Armour. Sports team logos are also used. There are several uses of the Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Kings logos.

    Officer Dave Cudahy of the Niagara Falls Police Department led the discussion of bullying.

    “The types of bullying overlap,” he said. “The internet exploded so fast and got so big, it got away from us. Cyber bullying is too easy and too anonymous.”

    Miles Patterson of Lockport High School was the non-law enforcement representative for NYIGA. He worked with Principal Frank Movalli and Superintendent Michelle T. Bradley to invite people who work with at-risk youth. He also has knowledge of gangs and bullying.

    “It’s all wrapped up in one. There is the social networking, bullying and gangs they’re all tied in,” said Lynn Kennison, who works a the Livingston County Jail for BOCES. “Genesee is kind of out in the country, but we have inmates from all over the area. There are people that come in that have gang affiliations. It’s not just an urban issue and we want to learn more about.”

    Holly Ames of Niagara Falls and Cathy Jasinski of North Tonawanda are multi-systemic therapists who work with teenagers for Catholic Charities. MST is an intensive treatment program that focuses on homes and families, schools and teachers, neighborhoods and friends that impact chronic and violent juvenile offenders.

    “We get the family involved and school involved trying to increase independence of the child who they can go to and who they can really identify with,” Jasinski said. “It’s been great really, just learning what we can do to contribute and take back to families.”

    NYGIA provided a guide for parents and teachers, regarding gangs and what they can do to keep children from joining gangs.

    While teachers feel they intervene, students say the opposite, according to Cudahy. “You can’t intervene enough,” he said.

    Addressing police and student resource officers, he said, “Don’t underestimate the effect you have on a child. He’s looking at you like you are Superman.”

    He told teachers to encourage students to yell, “STOP” when being bullied in class.

  • Tue, March 19, 2013 8:39 AM | Trevor (Administrator)

     

    Rochester, N.Y.

    It’s something Rochester Police Chief James Sheppard calls a “new way of doing business”. On Monday, Sheppard explained that his department would start hand-delivering letters to the city’s known gang members.

    “We’re not sending random letters to all gang members,” Sheppard explained. “We’re communicating with particular gangs we know are being violent. Ones we know have shot and put bodies on the street. We’re focusing on them.”

    In the letters, Sheppard explains that law enforcement has intensified their surveillance and monitoring of the gang member and their friends.

    The letters states that police know who the gang member is and who their friends are. Then it goes on to explain that state and federal law enforcement agencies are assisting RPD to target those involved in firearms violence.

    Sheppard explains that these efforts are in response to an 80 percent increase in violent incidents and shootings during the first part of the year last year.

    “We’re not sending threats,” Sheppard said. “We’re basically sending out explanations. ‘This is why you have been targeted. This is why you see the police activity that you see. You can communicate to your peers and those being violent in your group that it’s not going to be tolerated.’”

    The department hopes that letting gang members know that they have been identified and targeted by police may prevent them from committing more crimes.

    “We know who they are. We know their associates. We know where they hang. We have all this information at play. We may not have enough information at the beginning of our efforts to make arrests, but we have enough information to know that they are involved in a group that has been involved in shootings that have put bodies on the ground.”

    This new tactic of communicating with gang members is similar to Operation Ceasefire program implemented in 2003. Sheppard says that the department lost focus on Operation Ceasefire over the years and is now working to revive the program.

    Keenan Allen was the executive director of Pathways to Peace at the time Operation Ceasefire started. Allen assisted in helping the men and woman who wanted to transition out of gang membership.

    Allen says that Operation Ceasefire was successful because, like the letters, it let gang members know that they were on the police department’s radar, thus scaring the.

    While some gang members may choose to simply ignore the letters delivered to them, Allen says some may actually use it as a chance to stop their violent behavior.

    “I can tell you that historically, when Operation Ceasefire was done, when people did not heed the warning [from police] they were targeted by police and dealt judiciously. Hopefully, they will take it seriously.”

  • Fri, March 15, 2013 3:35 PM | Trevor (Administrator)

    Criminal gangs are increasingly reliant on the internet to coordinate assaults, robbery and recruitment, according to research from US criminologists. Interviews with several hundred gang members in five US cities found that almost half had committed online crimes in the past six months.

    “Years ago a gang would drive through a rival neighborhood, spray graffiti and shout insults to start a fight,” Professor Scott H. Decker, lead researcher and Arizona State University criminologist, told Metro. “Today those taunts are more likely to happen online…where it be done a dozen times in the same period.”

    Over 80% of surveyed members said they used YouTube, the most popular site for posting threats, many of which led to violence. Forums such as thehoodup.com provide real-time information on criminal and police activity.

    The FBI recently announced concerns that more organized gangs such as the Bloods and Crips could move into white-collar cybercrime, although Decker is unconvinced. “Our suspicion is that if someone develops that expertise they are more likely to move away from gangs that draw too much attention.”

    But the web has opened up new possibilities. “It’s another way to engage and people can never get away from the internet,” said University of Michigan Professor of Social Work Desmond Patton. “Individuals that live around gang activity can be drawn in.”

    Law enforcement has benefitted from online gang activity, with almost 50 New York members arrested in 2012 after police infiltrated a Facebook group that detailed murders. “The police are always saying ‘don’t shut it down’ because it’s easy for them to track,” said George Knox, executive director of the US National Gang Crime Research Center, who is nonetheless campaigning for Internet Service Providers to censor gang content.

    British youth group XLP use social media to connect with gang members. “We have a YouTube channel monitored by music professionals and kids like getting their stuff up,” said CEO Patrick Regan. “It’s been a great way to get a positive message across.”

 
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