Gang members have been spotted on MySpace and YouTube and have now spread to Facebook and Twitter. It's a natural migration: The "sets" rely on technology to communicate like everyone else. But now lawmakers are seeking ways to keep tabs on gangsters online.
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State Assembly Majority Leader Alberto Torrico, who's running for state Attorney General, held a select committee hearing in Southern California Thursday called "Gangs 2.0: The Emerging Threat of Cyberthugs."
"Social networking is a great way to reach out to others, update them on activities, exchange information and support a cause," Torrico states. "Unfortunately, gangs are using these tools to communicate, recruit, issue threats, traffic narcotics, promote violence and expand their criminal activities."
He cites a 2007 study that found 70 percent of gang members surveyed found it easier to make friends online than on the street. It's a scary proposition -- gangsters trolling for members, peddling wares and sizing up victims in social networking communities. But technology can be a two-way sword.
Authorities have used digital fingerprints left by criminals online to help win court cases. The Ontario Police Department once used YouTube video of a suspect hanging out with a gang to bolster their case against him. The man was claiming not to be involved with the set. He was convicted.