NYPD Doubling Anti-Gang Unit, Zeroing in on Social Media

In a speech to be delivered Tuesday, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly announces a new "Operation Crew Cut" in an aim to drive down violence attributed to local street crews

The NYPD is set to announce a new crackdown on street gangs in an effort to drive down violence and robberies across the city.

As part of "Operation Crew Cut," the NYPD will double the size of its anti-gang unit to 300 officers to stop local street crews that are increasingly responsible for committing violent crimes.

NBC 4 New York has obtained a copy of a speech set to be delivered by Police Commissioner Ray Kelly Tuesday to the International Association of Chiefs of Police Conference in San Diego. Kelly writes in the speech that 150 additional detectives will join the gang unit.

"We’ll focus those resources not on large, established gangs such as the Bloods and Crips, but on the looser associations of younger men who identify themselves by the block they live on, or on which side of a housing development they reside," Kelly wrote. 

NYPD Transit and Housing Bureau officers will also assist in increasing patrols to try to keep local street crews in check.

Detectives will also increase their monitoring of social media where crew members sometimes boast of the shootings or robberies they committed or plan to commit, Kelly  wrote in his speech.

Kelly cited a recent case in which investigators used Facebook to track a turf war between two Brooklyn crews named the Very Crispy Gangsters and the Rockstars. The case resulted in dozens of arrests for shootings and other mayhem.      

"By capitalizing on the irresistible urge of these suspects to brag about their murderous exploits on Facebook, detectives used social media to draw a virtual map of their criminal activity over the last three years,'' Kelly said.      

Detectives have seen instances where a gang member has taunted rivals by circulating a photo of himself posing in front of their apartment building. Orders of protection also have been posted as a means of intimidation, Kelly said.      

The NYPD has developed strict guidelines for investigators using social networks "to instill the proper balance between the investigative potential of social network sites and privacy expectations,'' Kelly said.      

The rules allow officers to adopt aliases for their online work as long as they first get permission from the department. They also will use special laptops that protect their anonymity.      

Staffing for the expanded unit will come from gradual redeployment from other areas of the department, not from new hires.

Kelly will also address the 4 percent increase in crime rate in New York City so far this year, attributing it to a 40-percent jump in the thefts of Apple products

"In the absence of the Apple thefts, we would be experiencing a decline," according to the prepared remarks. 

Automatic shut-off technology and tracking system apps like Find My iPhone can help reduce the growing problem and aid police in finding thieves, Kelly's speech says.

Additional undercover officers will soon be assigned to patrol the subways where some of the robberies are taking place. 

"Gangs drive violence in this city and turn neighborhoods into war zones," Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance said in a statement. "I commend Commissioner Kelly and the NYPD for dedicating more resources to this important division, and look forward to continuing our work combating violent street crime."

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