103 Gang Members Indicted—Thanks to Their Incriminating Facebook Messages

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
June 5 2014 9:20 PM

103 Gang Members Indicted Thanks to Their Incriminating Facebook Messages

On Wednesday, 500 NYPD officers arrested 40 members of three warring gangs in what may be the biggest single gang takedown in New York history. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the bust was made possible by the gang members' long trail of incriminating Facebook messages, which detailed their crimes with startling specificity. Vice reports:

The accused — aged 15 to 30, with most of them at the lower end of that range — were indicted on a variety of criminal charges, including two murders, 19 non-fatal shootings, and 50 shootings in which nobody was hit. The boys are also accused in a long list of stabbings, slashings, assaults, robberies, and firearms possession. 
“They are Facebook dummies," Rev. Vernon Williams, a Harlem pastor who has spent years trying to curb youth violence in the neighborhood, told VICE News. "Because the stuff that they were saying, that was gonna come back to bite them, especially admitting participating in crimes, admitting getting the weapons that were gonna be used in crimes, and then calling someone in a state prison and giving them a report of what they did.”
"The indictment is almost 200 pages long and I would say 75-80 percent of it is Facebook posts and similar activity,” he said, referring to one of the two indictments. “The DA’s office was helped by the accused, all they did was watch and document it. I don’t know what took them so long, but once they had enough, they scooped them up.”
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In all, 103 gang members were indicted. 39 are already in jail; the rest have yet to be located. You can read the indictments yourself to see just how heavily they drew upon incriminating social media exchanges. It's pretty clear that, were it not for Facebook, law enforcement officers could never have gathered enough evidence to make such a massive bust. One small perk of millennials' Facebook addiction.

Mark Joseph Stern is a writer for Slate. He covers science, the law, and LGBTQ issues.