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DA: 63 Members Of Rival Street Gangs Indicted In East Harlem Crackdown

Prosecutors Say Groups Used Social Media To Carry Out Campaign Of Violence
Authorities seized 25 guns in connection with a crackdown against three violent East Harlem gangs on Thursday, April 4, 2013. (credit: Juliet Papa/1010 WINS)

Authorities seized 25 guns in connection with a crackdown against three violent East Harlem gangs on Thursday, April 4, 2013. (credit: Juliet Papa/1010 WINS)

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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) – Authorities said 63 people have been indicted in a crackdown against three violent Manhattan street gangs.

The rival street gangs, known as “Air It Out,” “True Money Gang” and “Whoadey” were battling for control over a section of East Harlem.

Prosecutors said rival members used social media and terrorized the community in a campaign of violence that included gun trafficking, assaults, and murder.

Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance Jr. and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly say the crimes date back to at least 2009. They include three murders and more than 30 shootings as well as assaults 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,” said Vance. “Forced to live among this senseless violence is the silent majority – innocent families who live in fear of getting shot while trying to go about their daily lives.”

Overnight, NYPD officers rounded up dozens of alleged gang members believed to be part of some of the city’s most violent crews.

Dozens of guns were confiscated guns. Police said they are proof of the bloody street wars that have plagued East Harlem for years — turning the community into a danger zone.

The weapons are now evidence one of the largest gang takedowns in Manhattan history.

“They mark first time in number of years that entire group of gang members charged w conspiracy in first degree with object of murder,” Vance said.

Police said the 2009 fatal shooting of a member of “Air It Out” set off a deadly chain of revenge shootings. Of the 63 alleged gang members, prosecutors said dozens are charged with first degree conspiracy to commit murder.

“This isn’t about money,” Vance said. “They were conspiring to commit violence for the sake of violence.”

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, Jr. announcing a major gang takedown - April 4, 2013 (credit: Alex Silverman / WCBS 880)

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, Jr. announcing a major gang takedown – April 4, 2013 (credit: Alex Silverman / WCBS 880)

Prosecutors said alleged gang members outlined plans to shoot and kill rival gang members on social media, using Facebook, Twitter and text messages to plot their kills.

They also used social media and prison phone calls to traffic firearms and ammunition and to warn each other of potential police activity, prosecutors said.

“Social media remains a double-edged sword in our crime fighting strategies. It is used by crew members to brag about past crimes, taunt rivals, and incite violence,” Kelly said. “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.”

In addition to the indictments, authorities seized 25 guns in connection with the case.

Police said they believe the takedown will make the streets safer, but admit there is still plenty of work to do. Around 40 people believed to be connected with the gangs are still on the streets. Prosecutors said they did not have the evidence to charge them.

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(TM and © Copyright 2013 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2013 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)