Growing up as a white girl in rural Kansas, my knowledge of gangs was very limited. Yes, I’m part Italian, but it’s not like we’re born with a copy of “Mobbing 101.” Somewhere down the line, I probably have a distant relative that slung handguns or laundered cash, a respectable living in the eyes of the mob. But seeing as they don’t like talking about their highly illegal professions, I got all of my drug trafficking facts from the media; rap songs and Hollywood literally taught me everything I knew about gangs.
From the section of Goodfellas I didn’t sleep through, I learned three distinct features about mob members: they had nervous habits, no qualms about cheating on their wives, and they are super organized. Extensive measures were taken to ensure fluidity and well-executed plans. There were calling trees (this was before email) to keep everyone informed, code words for security, driving routes. And most everyone had a specific job, like it was a union. If these men had been looking for a business front to exploit, they would have been great professional organizers.
Gangs Update with the Times
But as the years passed and rotary dial phones were no longer the preferred way of communication, the gangs improved their contact methods. Email is now ready in virtually any place with an Internet connection, and social media can be accessed by anyone who has the ability to lie about their age – an act of fraud that I’m betting is no cause for concern within a mob.
According to a book based on organized crime, gangs have been taking notice to all the available technology. Street gangs, especially in Chicago, use social media accounts to make plans, recruit new members, and bully others. The text, The Gang Book, by The Chicago Crime Commission – an organization dedicated to exposing preventing Chicago-area crimes – tells how elaborate and sophisticated the methods have become. (You didn’t think it’d be obvious, right? Like invites to an event labeled “Weekly Mob Mixer” or tweets saying “Meet me at the bank at 1 a.m. don’t forget your Glock, silencer, and ski mask.” Ok, good.)
Because law enforcement has a hard time keeping track of the constant updates to social media and electronic equipment, it’s relatively easy for gang members to communicate online. For example, users can have multiple profiles and aliases, making it virtually impossible to track whose linked to which accounts. Throw in a series of code words and plausible-sounding life facts, and police may never be the wiser to these fake profiles. Unfortunately, there’s not a section that deciphers law-abiding Facebook users from chin-deep mob bosses.
The Gang Book, according to the commission’s president, Jody Weis, was created to help prevent the spread of gangs and its crimes. Investigators can use the book as a reference point in investigations. While parents can use the book to teach their children about the dangers and warning signs of gang activity.
Screen shot taken 1-20-12.