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Where Sugar and Spice Meet Bricks and Bats

Girl Gang Violence Alarms D.C. Officials

By Clarence Williams
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, December 28, 2004; Page B01

Neither side recalls exactly what sparked the feud. But more than two years after fists first flew, dozens of members of two District gangs continue to clash, swinging baseball bats and slinging bricks at rivals.

Jaws have been broken. Arms slashed. Faces sprayed with mace.

"Girls want to show their strength. Girls want respect," said Bridget Miller of the District's Youth Gang Task Force about violence between rival gangs. (Rich Lipski -- The Washington Post)

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The gang violence is familiar to law enforcement officials, but the type of player is not. The Knockout Honies and the Most Wanted Honeyz are girl gangs, the District's largest, with about 200 members between them.

Girl gangs have been on the rise for several years in the District and other cities, including Chicago, Philadelphia and New York, gang experts say. No one has been killed in girl gang confrontations in the District, but an escalation of gang-related violence in recent months has officials alarmed about the possibility, particularly during the city's school holiday break, which continues through Sunday.

"Everything that is going on in the city is with the girls," said Bridget Miller, a contractor hired by the D.C. schools as a supervisor with the Youth Gang Task Force.

Miller, 39, a self-described "former knucklehead," or troublemaker, from southeastern Virginia, counsels students in the District and Prince George's County. She said girl gangs have been emerging in the area for six to seven years. She said there are now at least 35 such gangs in the District, including the Loony Tunes and Always Been Hated On.

The Knockout Honies and the Most Wanted Honeyz exemplify the challenges facing officials, as most of their fights occur after school, on street corners and outside nightclubs and out of sight of adults.

The two groups were formed five to six years ago. Each is a loose collection of friends and acquaintances who typically live in the same neighborhood or attend the same schools. Members of the Knockouts live mainly along the 14th Street NW corridor; Most Wanteds typically live in near Northeast and near Southeast Washington.

Like other such groups in the city, the Knockouts and the Most Wanteds did not consider themselves gangs in the beginning, and even now, the gang label is generally used only by police and school officials. Widespread violence between the two groups did not take root until about two years ago, police said.

The Knockouts, Most Wanteds and other D.C. girl gangs are not affiliated with male gangs, as girl gangs are in some cities, and as far as police know, they are not typically involved in drug dealing, street robberies or other criminal acts. The gangs tend to pick only on their rivals, not on others in the community. Ego is a major motivator, experts said.

Most girl gang members in the District do not seem destined for a life of crime, experts say. Some are honor-roll students. They band together for camaraderie and protection and sometimes to explore their sexual identity, members and experts said.

"I'm about to be 18. I'm trying to make a future out of my life," said Shakita McBrayer, a senior at Cardozo Senior High School in the Columbia Heights neighborhood of Northwest. McBrayer, a member of the Knockouts, who apparently were given the moniker by a school official and male students at Cardozo, plans to study social work at Morgan State University in Baltimore next fall.

Dorothy Washington, 18, another of the Knockouts' approximately 75 members, plans to study business at Lincoln University in Pennsylvania next year. Until then, the senior at Luke C. Moore Academy High School in Northeast has a simple response to anyone who would attack her gang.

"We're going to hit them back, no matter what," said Washington, who otherwise comes across as genial and reserved. "I'm going to squad up and come back for you."

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