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Social Media the 'New Gang Graffiti' Says Top Cop

By Joe Ward | January 14, 2016 11:58am
 Interim Supt. John Escalante.
Interim Supt. John Escalante.
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Getty Images/Scott Olson

CHICAGO — Interim Chicago Police Supt. John Escalante cited social media use as contributing to the violent crime problem in the city, calling it "the modern gang graffiti."

Speaking at a news conference Wednesday, Escalante said the violence in Chicago so far this year — 119 wounded in shootings with 20 dead — is "gang conflict . . . driven by social media."

This "taunting" has been a problem for the last three years, but it has played a significant role in the shootings this year, he said. In addition to taunting, the gang members will use Twitter and other forms of social media to arrange for meet ups for potential conflicts.

Deputy Chief Eugene Roy said the department worked to monitor these online threats, but said it was difficult given manpower needed to do that. 

Last May, talking about gang infighting in Uptown, officials said social media was helping escalate crime crime in Rogers Park and Uptown, describing it as "technological kerosene."

In the past, residents could see signs of gang conflict. But now they're "not seeing any signs of conflict and suddenly there's gunfire," Ald. James Cappleman (46th) said at the time.

Lt. Bob Stasch said the conflicts "might be happening at North Shore and Ashland. The conflict starts up there, is sent out on YouTube, Twitter and Facebook, and before you know it those Gangster Disciples are driving around Clarendon Park looking for someone to shoot."

According to one national study of gang members use of social media, 74 percent of gang members who participated in a survey say they were frequent Internet users and had established an online presence "to gain respect for their gang."

The study quotes one gang member saying, “Someone says something to me on Facebook, I don't even write a word. The only thing I do is post my 30-popper, my big banger.”

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