SOUTH BRONX — The NYPD's recent bust of neighborhood street gang the Lyman Place Bosses highlights how much youth violence remains a problem in the area.
The Police Department's Juvenile Justice Division lists a total of 46 "youth crews" throughout the borough's 40th, 41st, 42nd and 44th Precincts with names including Seven Three Savages, Mac Ballas, Shooters on Deck, Wild Mexicans, Killbrook Up, Killbrook Down and Mott Haven Gunnaz.
Officers from the 42nd Precinct arrested 10 members of the Lyman Place Bosses last week, a gang that they said was responsible for the fatal shooting of 40-year-old Little League coach Pablo Pagan, who was killed in October 2013 after Lyman members mistook him for a person in a rival crew. Overall, police said they linked the group to 16 shootings over the past two years.
“The community certainly was intimidated by their presence, without a doubt,” said the Rev. Bruce Rivera, a Community Board 3 member who lives near Lyman Place. “Any group that has the capacity for violence is dangerous.”
One arrested member of Lyman, Saliym Gresham, is an aspiring rapper who goes by the name of "Sal Capone."
Many of the gangs operate as a network for drug dealing, police said.
The Mac Ballas, based along Webster Avenue between 172nd and 176th Street, were indicted along with the Bloods — 63 gang members in all — on murder, conspiracy and drug dealing charges after a two-year joint investigation by city and federal agencies, according to the Bronx District Attorney's Office.
Additionally, roughly three dozen members of rival gangs Forest Over Everything and Six Four Goons, which both operate by Forest Houses, were arrested last spring and charged with crimes including conspiracy and attempted murder after a series of shootings during the summer and fall of 2011.
Although tracking gang members' activity on social media played a large role in the Forest and Lyman busts, Deputy Inspector Steven Ortiz, commanding officer of the 42nd Precinct, said he believed social media had also made it easier to incite a brawl by simply sending out an obscene text message or picture.
"We’ll have a nice little fist fight," he said. "But then someone decides to bring a gun to the fist fight."
The territory for the Lyman Place Bosses was only about one-tenth of a mile long, which is typical for modern crews, according to Andrew Grascia, president of the New York Gang Investigators Association, a gang-prevention organization in New York State.
He contrasted this with dominant gangs from the 1980s and 1990s, when big groups like the Bloods and Latin Kings gained worldwide notoriety.
"You don’t see that today," Grascia, 47, said. "Now, what you’re seeing is these fractured little groups. They’re almost street-based local groups. They’re not getting that international acclaim."
Grascia cited more vigorous federal prosecution of larger gangs as a reason why so many smaller ones were now cropping up.
Lt. Alex Baran of the 41st Precinct listed Hunts Point Family, Gunpoint and A Block as the most troublesome groups in his neighborhoods and estimated that the precinct has seen about six gang-related shootings so far this year.
He emphasized that the big gangs were not gone yet and still had connections to some of the borough's smaller crews.
"You could be in A Block, and then if someone asks you what gang are you, you might say a Blood," he said.
Ortiz said most gang violence stems from petty feuds.
"These local crews, they really have no significance or purpose other than creating local havoc," he said. "It’s based on being disrespected. I’m from here, you’re from there. Maybe I’ll go on your block, I’ll take a picture, and I’ll throw up some signs just to get you."
The gangs are generally just based on a group of people from the same place hanging out and deciding to give themselves a name, according to Ortiz.
"If you live on a block and there are 20 kids, you guys all get together and say, 'Hey, we’re going to associate ourselves by the name of this block,'" he said. "'We live on Butler. We’re going to call ourselves the Butler Avenue Crew.'"
Several South Bronx gangs have names that appear to be based on where they are from, including the Longfellow Crew, the Morris Ave Gunnaz and the Fulton Ave Crew.
Members also join up because they are seeking protection or a sense of belonging, according to Rivera.
“A lot of them don’t have the two-parent families,” he said. “They’re looking for families.”