Gangs in Md. Throw Rivals A Cyberpunch

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By Allison Klein
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, April 14, 2006

The threat from the Washington area gang Street Thug Criminals was very clear: "We swore we were going to get the *bleep* that did this and we are. RIP Antonio."

It was delivered the way almost everything seems to be these days: on a Web page.

The Street Thug Criminals have an Internet page, and they used it to warn a rival Langley Park gang that Antonio's death would be avenged.

Police call it "cyberbanging" -- gang members openly bragging about affiliations, skipping school, getting high and battling rival gangs.

Many postings deal with Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13, a Latino gang that has been spreading quickly across the Washington region in recent years.

There is no way to know for certain whether these cyberbangers are gang members, but it's not likely that they are phonies, said Sgt. George Norris, a Prince George's County police officer who heads a 16-member regional gang task force.

"If you portray yourself as being MS-13 and you're not, when they find out about it, they kill you just as if you're a rival gang member," Norris said.

Prince George's police and other investigators use the sites to track the growing gang problem and to catalog members.

Most cyberbangers on Web pages examined by The Washington Post are teenagers and design their pages to flash in-your-face images of gang flags, hand signs, marijuana, women, stacks of cash and "original gangster" scrolls certifying them as legitimate. Some show pictures of themselves with guns and bandannas covering their faces below the eyes, casting menacing glances.

The sites use the members' nicknames and rarely refer to legal names. The pages are legal; it is not against the law to be in a gang.

"Barney," a 15-year-old from Langley Park, says he likes fashion, video games and basketball. According to his page, he is into photography, does not have a girlfriend -- and is a member of two violent street gangs, the Lewisdale Crew and Brown Union.

The gangs, better known the LDC and BU, are bitter rivals of MS-13's.


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