Three rival gangs, some of New York City's most violent, have been taken down and authorities were able to do it in large part because of social media.
"The internet is our 21st century crime scene," said Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance. "There isn't a crime that happens, here in Manhattan or elsewhere, that doesn't leave some electronic fingerprint."
Several dozen alleged members of the Air It Out, True Money and Whoadey gangs have been accused of carrying out a "campaign of violence dating back to at least 2009," Vance said.
The gangs have been tied to three murders, nearly three dozen shootings and gun trafficking.
"Today's indictments chronicle a bloody gang war that claimed the lives of at least three teenagers, led to the shooting of dozens of individuals and put bounties on people's heads," the DA said.
The cops also grabbed 25 guns, officials said.
In the old days police needed wiretaps or an informant, a "rat," to bring down a criminal gang. Today the players are ratting out themselves.
"Social media remains a double-edged sword in our crime fighting strategies," New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said. "It is used by crew members to brag about past crimes, taunt rivals and incite violence. On the other hand we use social media to document past crimes and intercept new ones being talked about openly by crew members on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube."
Court records quoted one gang member on Facebook bragging, "I'm 2 Glocks strapped rolling down 112 Madison 116th this is the New Iraq." Said another on Twitter: "It start goin' off like its 4th of July."
"This is how people are communicating," Vance said. "It's no different whether it's talking about getting together on Saturday night or getting together on Saturday night to shoot somebody."
Prosecutors released a two-page glossary of terms the alleged gang members used on their social media accounts that police decoded. Biscuit, blammer or clickety are all slang for a gun. Food, electricity or sea shellz refer to ammunition.
Between October 2009 and March 2013, court records say two gangs – True Money and Whoadey – allied together against a third, Air it Out, for the purposes of protecting their territory and avenging shootings and murders committed by one group against another. The 63 defendants in all three gangs are charged with attempting to kill one another, buy and sell guns and use violence to protect their turf.
The alleged gang members used hundreds of Facebook and Twitter posts and direct messages, text messages, cell phone videos, and calls made from Rikers Correctional Facility to plot the deaths of rival gang members. Gang members also used social media and prison phone calls to traffic firearms and ammunition, and to warn each other of potential law enforcement action.