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.
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.