Social Media Attracts Gang Members

Gang members are turning more often to social media sites to brag about their crimes, share intelligence on rivals and network with other gang members across the country.

For example, the notoriously violent MS-13 gang has set up dozens of Facebook accounts with followers from around the world. My Space and Twitter are also popular with gang members looking to share quick bits of information.

So if the gangs are on the Internet that means police departments can’t be far behind in their efforts to control gang-related crimes, said Patrick Fiel, public safety advisor for ADT Security Services.

“Police departments are now training Internet-savvy officers to act as followers and friends on these gang sites,” he said. “They are proving to be a valuable source of information.”

He said police departments have gained access to the gangs’ sites in a number of ways, including posing as young girls.

“The intelligence gained through MySpace, Facebook, Twitter and other Web sites have led to a number of arrests and successful prosecutions,” Fiel said. “It’s becoming one more tool in the law enforcement arsenal.”

According to the Department of Justice's 2008 National Gang Threat Assessment, there are at least 20,000 gangs and more than 1 million active gang members in the U.S.

-- PSW Staff