Call them wannabe gangsters, but these Bronx groups of teens and twenty-somethings calling themselves crews are just as bad as the more familiar Blood, Crips and other better known gangs.
The police department, recognizing their growth around the borough, has responded by recently expanding its Juvenile Justice Division unit to the Bronx.
Up until five months ago, there was no JJD in the borough, bringing many complaints to local precincts.
At an informational session held June 21 at Fordham University, Bronx residents packed Keating Hall to learn from NYPD’s Community Affairs Bureau about the program designed to tackle young dangerous groups.
The speakers sounded an alarm, urging parents to take back their kids by learning about crews.
“Parents are the first line of responders,” said Kevin O’Connor, assistant commissioner for community affairs.
One of the main weapons in identifying crews is through social media sites like Facebook where they’ve set up pages, documenting their criminal activities.
Even videos showing kids wilding in public places have been posted on YouTube.
“We’ll be fools not to use this information and do something about it,” said O’Connor, adding that many of the posts are used as evidence against the crews.
Crews outnumber longtime gangs like the Bloods and Crips, a reason for the JJD’s expansion, according to O’Connor.
Police have identified 52 such groups in the Bronx. The 40th Precinct in Mott Haven leads the borough with 15 crews, with names like “ Morris Avenue Gunnaz”, “Tray Side” and “Murda Moore Gang.”
At the 49th Precinct in relatively low-crime Morris Park, Van Nest, Allerton, cops there are tracking activities by the Yumm Up/Y.O.E. crew, responsible for large-scale fighting and graffiti vandalism.
The 45th is gathering information on gangs like the “Blood Mulla Army” that’s set up shop in Throggs Neck.
“We find a new one almost every day,” said O’Connor, who defines crews as separate from gangs.
“Crews are not something the police are ready to call gangs because they’re kids,” said O’Connor, noting that members can be as young as eight years old.
But their involvement, he said, has to do with “survability,” since many rely on a crew for protection against outsiders.
“Sometimes you could be perceived as guilty by association,” said Pastor Jay Gooding, who chairs the 49th Precinct Clergy Council.
Gangs also have a set hierarchy, comprised of captains, lieutenants and low-level foot soldiers, said O’Connor. Crews also deal in electronics theft (i.e. iPods, headphones) and weapons possession instead of hardcore crimes like drug distribution, he noted.
Adding to the complexity of crews is the co-existence of rival gang members like the Bloods and Crips affiliated in the same crew.
“They rationalize ‘I’m a Blood and you’re a Crip, but we live in the same building,’” said O’Connor, who advised attendees not to look for the logic.
But understanding the nuances of crews is only half the battle. Preventive measures help beat crews from forming in the first place, he said
And it starts with parents talking with kids.
“To fix the problem, we all need to understand the problem,” said O’Connor.
Outreach groups like the Youth Police Academy and Police Athletic League are other ways kids can stay out of trouble, said O’Connor.
David Cruz can be reach via e-mail at DCruz@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 742-3383