to boast, threaten and recruit TheStar.com - GTA - Gangs turn to the Web to boast, threaten and recruit
Gangs are taking to the Internet to recruit new members and expand their territories, police say.
Just five years ago, a Toronto gang calling itself the Asian Assassinz had four members and claimed as its turf two blocks in downtown Chinatown.
Back then, they "tagged the living crap" out of the area, according to a police officer who has tracked them, but not any more because, now, "they have the Internet."
Police say gang members' appearances on Web pages, chat rooms, blogs and social networking sites have allowed the Assassinz to recruit new members and expand their criminal activities far beyond the downtown core.
"It's like advertising, or putting up a billboard" with contact information for would-be members, says Toronto police Const. Scott Mills of CrimeStoppers.
Some call it "netbanging," which "refers to a wide variety of gang-related activity on the Web, including the communication of information among gang members, recruitment activities and provoking hostilities amongst rival gangs through derogatory posts," according to a 2006 RCMP report on youth gangs.
An officer who tracks the Assassinz, and prefers to stay anonymous, patrols the streets building his base of confidential informants and getting to know gang members – when he's not trolling the Internet. He says the two investigative techniques complement one another.
The Internet allows a gang to grow and to reach out to areas where "they aren't known," the front-line officer says.
Four youths charged in a recent home invasion case in Windsor, Ont., for instance, are alleged to be members of the Asian Assassinz and Project Originals, another downtown Toronto gang.
Police were initially stumped as to how the accused knew that the residence, hundreds of kilometres from Toronto, was a suspected gambling operation. Then the Toronto officer searched the Internet and made a link to a southwestern Ontario man who recently pleaded guilty to the crime. The alliance of the Assassinz and P.O. Boys, as they're also known, came to the attention of police after they spotted Web pages containing both logos.
It's part of a larger trend, police say, of street gangs turning to the Internet to do everything from brag about their exploits to intimidate rivals or "snitches," as was disclosed recently in the case of David Latchana, the 23-year-old Malton man shot in the head Nov. 3 after a death threat appeared in a rap song posted on myspace.com. ... (more)