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Police arrest 63 gang members in massive social media sting
Members of three East Harlem gangs bragged about their violent exploits on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube.
Police have busted 63 members of three gangs that used social media to wage and brag about bloody wars across East Harlem.
Members of the Air It Out (AIO), True Money Gang (TMG), and Whoadey gangs incriminated themselves in expletive-ridden rants on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube as they terrorized a 30 block area around the northeast corner of Central Park. Police say the gangs were involved in at least three murders, 30 shootings, and countless acts of violence and robbery in the neighborhood beginning in 2009, when three members of the TMG were shot. Locals “lived in fear of getting shot while trying to go about their daily lives,” Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance said in a press release announcing the arrests.
Luckily for locals, the perpetrators suffered from the same malaise that studies have shown affects gangsters across the United States: They just couldn’t help themselves from bragging about the exploits on social media. Gang members used slang in an attempt to obfuscate their activities, but it didn’t work. Police deciphered their code and released a small glossary in their press release yesterday:
Shooting a gun could either be “Air it,” “dump on,” “pop a bottle” or “play the flute,” police said. Others include “boys” (cops) “bread” (money) or “food,” “gas,” “sea shellz” or “electricity” (all terms for bullets). The gangs became real wordsmiths when talking about guns, however. Those could be anything from a “bitch,” to a “drum set,” to a “girlfriend” or, more colorfully, a “flamingo” or a “sandwich.”
Murder was “rocking [someone] to sleep early.”
In one example released by police, a member of Air It Out wrote on Facebook: “I’ll give u $300 if u clap a Trill or Whoadey before October.” Encoding work like that won’t get you a job at the NSA. “Clap,” police easily deciphered to mean “shooting a member of another gang.”
Kevin Morris is a veteran web reporter and editor who specializes in longform journalism. He led the Daily Dot’s esports vertical and, following its acquisition by GAMURS in late 2016, launched Dot Esports, where he serves as the site’s editor-in-chief.