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This Week in Crip News!!!

Summer 2005 Newsletter


(Picture discription)Victims of Clayton county gang violence in the last few months.
Top:Left;Theodore Howard Jr., 15,Right; Krysal Williams,14
Bottom:Left Unknown toddler,Right;Larry bishop Jr.

This week in Georgia Crip news.

Gangs on rise in Clayton County.

In the past few months two people have been killed as a result of gang violence. Krystal Williams was killed at a party and Larry bishop a member of Morrow Murder Mafia. Also a little kid was also killed after a shot out.
Clayton county has 46 gangs 2 of them crip gangs. Clayton county plans to add a gang task force.

Crip & Blood war in Valdosta.

crips and Bloods have been on the rise in the small town of Valdosta,Ga. No one has been killed yet but school violence has increased. there are at least 30 crip members in Valdosta says my cousin Adrian and the same number of blood members.

This week in Georgia Crip news.

Gangs on rise in Clayton County.

In the past few months two people have been killed as a result of gang violence. Krystal Williams was killed at a party and Larry bishop a member of Morrow Murder Mafia.

Clayton county has 46 gangs 2 of them crip gangs.

Crip & Blood war in Valdosta.

Crips and Bloods have been on the rise in the small town of Valdosta,Ga. No one has been killed yet but school violence has increased. there are at least 30 crip members in Valdosta says my cousin Adrian and the same number of blood members.

Turf War: Savannah's gangs
"Turf Wars" story

Police work to combat violence

Why do children join gangs?

Signs of gang involvement

Gang activity low at start of school year

Programs, and people, help teens take the right path

People and Folk Nations

The Jivens gang: 10 years later

Helpful links

Graphic: "Representing"

Graphic: Attempts to make schools safer

Graphic: How gang members mark their territory

Graphic: How some states are trying to reduce gang violence


To take part in a discussion on how to reduce crime in our community, visit SavannahNOW's online forum.

Get involved
If you have any information about crimes or gang activity, call Savannah Police at 232-4141 or Crime Stoppers anonymously at 234-2020.

Editor's note
Recent violence in the city has prompted the Savannah Police Department to increase members of its gang unit. Police believe that at least three recent shootings, including two homicides, have been gang-related. Normally, the Savannah Morning News does not use false names or unidentified sources in news stories. However, for this particular topic, the paper has done so to protect the identity of some sources. This story is not meant to glorify or condone gang activity.

African-American homicides
Nearly half - 48 percent - of all deaths among African Americans ages 15-24 in Chatham County were homicides in the period 1995-97, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. So far this year, 13 of Savannah's 24 homicide victims were African Americans ages 15-24.

Graffiti falls into two main categories: hip-hop (tagger) graffiti and gang graffiti.

Hip-hop is artistic and can be found almost anywhere, particularly in obvious places such as highway overpasses.

Gang graffiti is cryptic and subtle, most of the time confined to certain areas in inner-city neighborhoods. Gangs use graffiti to mark territory, intimidate other gangs and recruit gang members. Gang symbols are part of the graffiti.

Many times, graffiti is an entry-level assignment for new gang members.

While hip-hop graffiti accounts for 90 percent of the nation's graffiti, gang graffiti accounts for the other 10 percent. Both kinds of graffiti are applied most often between 10 p.m.-3 a.m. Municipalities in the U.S. spend about $15 million per year to remove graffiti vandalism.
While gangs in Savannah may not be as organized as those in larger cities, the results are no less deadly. Although the lifestyle is often voluntary, people are sometimes caught up in the violence simply because of where they live.
By Paula Reed Ward and Jennifer Rose Marino
Savannah Morning News

Gang graffiti on Ogeechee Road at 35th Street.
--Bob Morris/Savannah Morning News
"Keith" is from Savannah's eastside, where he spends his days keeping an eye on the 'hood. There's one rule he lives by: east boys stay in the east and west boys stay in the west.

"If they don't come over here, everything's fine. If they do, hom-i-ciiide," Keith said recently from his hangout on the corner, the site of a recent gang-related shooting. "Soon as the sun go down, everybody run an' get their guns. That's just how it is."

While police downplay gang life in Savannah, inner-city walls paint a more chilling picture. On the sides of convenience stores, abandoned buildings and some occupied houses, angry spray-painted messages surface daily.

Memorial walls that honor recent shooting victims read "R.I.P Chip and Mone." Territorial walls, meanwhile, proclaim "PIRU 4-ever" and "Who-you-Wit? West Side!"

Although local law enforcement agencies recognize that African-American street gang activity is a problem, they define Savannah street gangs as "cliques that shoot each other." They say local gangs aren't as organized as gangs in larger cities such as Los Angeles and Chicago.

But people familiar with inner-city neighborhoods say that local gangs have leadership hierarchies, and that one eastside gang has more than 70 active members.

"We have to first acknowledge that there are gangs here. People are in denial," said Shannon O'Neil Smith, youth program coordinator at the West Broad Street YMCA and pastor at First Mt. Sinai Baptist Church. "The fact is, organized or not, people are dying."

'Where You Stand'

gang teritory
--Click for full size graphic
Rivalry between the east and westsides of Savannah is nothing new. Just ask Chatham County Public Schools Campus Police Chief Ulysses Bryant, who grew up here.

"It goes way back to a long time ago," Bryant said. "It's all about my side of town, your side of town."

But the rivalry Bryant remembers was a friendlier sort.

"In Savannah, there's always been this thing - eastside, westside, Savannah High, Beach High," said Cpl. Dave Dauphinee of the Savannah Police Department gang unit. "Before, it reflected back on school rivalries more than it did the side of town. Now, it's turning into a territorial-type thing."

On the streets, your territory - where you live - is defined as "where you stand."

"It's all about unitin'," Keith explained.

Uniting, in essence, is the formation of street gangs. According to the Savannah Police Department, there are about 10 street gangs, with about 200-300 members, spread out across the city.

Eastside gangs include the Bloods (or Piru); 3rd Coast; Conservative Vice Lords; Eastside Gangsta Bloods; Camoflauge and Hitch Village Posse, police say. Westside gangs include Westside Crips; 4 1 Boys; and Fellwood Homes Posse. But children on the street say that Camoflauge and 3rd Coast aren't gangs at all, but rappers with a following.

Either way, one fact remains certain, say both police and street sources. Rivalry between the east and west is a reality.

The Same Side of Town

Shannon Smith lays out ground rules to young men interested in joining Young African-American Males in Crisis, or YAAMIC. The new program was conceived to help youths at risk for gang activity and dropping our of school.
--Scott Bryant/Savannah Morning News
But things aren't as simple as east vs. west.

In addition to established eastside-westside rivalry, there are also complications between gangs from the same side of town.

Piru, for example, is said to be currently fighting the Hitch Village Posse.

Both are considered eastside gangs. While eastside gangs affiliate with the national gang label of Bloods or Piru, the Hitch Village Posse is the only eastside gang that affiliates itself with the national gang label of Crips, resulting in the current rivalry.

Evidence that supports this includes street interviews and neighborhood gang graffiti with sayings like "Piru 4-ever" and "F*** Hitch Village Posse."

Recent shootings, however, appear to be the most telling.

On July 19, one person died and four were injured in what police said were two separate-but-related gang shootings.

The first incident occurred at about 11:17 p.m. in the low-income housing community of Hitch Village, alleged home of the Hitch Village Posse. There, police say, a drive-by shooting resulted in the death of Grant Terrell Riley, 19. Sylvester Harris, 17, was injured.

A short time later, in an eastside convenience store parking lot on Waters Avenue near 32nd Street, three men were shot with a shotgun by unidentified subjects. Anthony Hughes, 27; Fred Hughes, 23; and Akelo Stone, 27, all were injured.

Police said the second shooting was in retaliation for the first one at Hitch Village.

Most recently, on July 30, Kenneth Capers, 17, was shot on Ruben Court, also on the city's eastside. That shooting occurred at about 2:45 a.m. while Capers was hanging outside with a group of people. He died the next day.

Hitch Village resident and rising rap star Jason Johnson, 18 - also known as Camoflauge - was arrested after turning himself in. So was David Rashawn Thompson, 19, of the East 32nd Street area.

While Johnson's mother says he is not involved in a gang, he is seen posing on the cover of his CD, "I Represent" with a pump-action shotgun. Another male pictured is also pointing a gun at the camera lens.

Children on the street, meanwhile, say that Johnson is not in a gang, but that true gang members are jealous of his musical success, resulting in the rivalry. One Hitch Village resident altogether denied the existence of a gang in that community.

"The Hitch Village Posse ain't a gang. These guys live 'round here and hang together," said a man who identified himself as Mr. Arsenal. "Every project has a group of guys who all hang out together. Everywhere you go, it's going to be like that."

Part of the problem, he said, is that the local gang issue is misunderstood. "They're ain't no special nothin'," he continued. "Media and police scrutinize and misinterpret a lot of what's goin' on. There are two tales, two stories."

What Savannah's Youth Say

Westside gang graffiti on West Bay Street.
--Bob Morris/Savannah Morning News
One side of the story shows friendship, camaraderie, loyalty and respect.

Teen-agers who don't find guidance and love at home turn to the streets, and there, they find it in gangs.

"People got no one to turn to, so they turn to their friends," Keith said.

"They's the best ones. They's their family."

Two 15-year-old boys from the eastside agree it's common for young people to join gangs. With membership comes a sense of belonging, importance and especially security.

"Basically, they have each other's backs," said Lil' Shine, 15, who lives in the Live Oak Street area on the eastside. He will be a sophomore at Savannah High this fall.

Lil' Shine's friend, Lucky, explained another benefit of hooking up with a gang - the potential for financial benefit. People in gangs often sell drugs and work in other criminal enterprises, providing members with money.

"Most sell drugs, but don't use them. They use the money to buy cars and clothes," Lucky said.

But more often than not, teens join gangs for a much more basic reason. "You're in it naturally. It's where you live. Automatic," said 15-year-old "Tommy," who's from the westside.

He estimates that there are several hundred westside Crips, but that the groups are not well-organized.

"There's no real special leaders, just people from different neighborhoods sellin' drugs," he said. "It's small kingpins in that area."

The gang setup is hard for most people to comprehend since it's made up of complex layers that change constantly, he added.

"It's deeper than what alotta people think."

What the Police Say

steps against gangs
--Click for full size graphic
But the cops think it's actually pretty simple.

Gangs in Savannah are violent and heavily involved in criminal activity, including drug sales, and property crimes.

And the cops are trying to crack down on them.

The Savannah Police Department has doubled its gang unit from two to four officers and is targeting youths involved in gang activity in hopes of significantly reducing the city's violent crime.

"It's not the person with the most money or the most drugs that you have to worry about," Cpl. Dauphinee said. "It's the person that has the most guns." Robert Walker, a retired Drug Enforcement Administration agent and now a law enforcement gang consultant, said most young people join gangs for the overall excitement associated with it.

These T-shirts are used by the Savannah Police Department's gang unit to help identify local gang members.
--Bob Morris/Savannah Morning News
"Every kid that gets into a gang didn't get in for the purpose of committing crimes," Walker said. "Although they may not have intended to become a criminal, they will just by virtue of joining the gang."

Criminal activity is what separates gangs from other organized groups, such as the Boy Scouts, Walker said. The Boy Scouts have a uniform, slogans and even hand signals - all the same things a gang uses.

But it's not organized friendship that scares community members and the police - it's the criminal activity connected to gang involvement.

Local law enforcement officers recognize the problem with gangs in the city, but they also know the problem isn't as bad as it could be.

Nationally, in 1997, there were an estimated 3,340 homicides that included either a gang member as a victim or suspect, according to the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.

In Savannah, police estimate there are 200-300 gang members and about 10 gangs.

By comparison, the Chicago Police Department Web site shows 38,000 members and 40 organized gangs. And in Los Angeles, there are 26,000 members with 250 active gangs.

Put into perspective, Los Angeles has more than 3.5 million residents. Savannah has 139,000.

"You still don't have the things in Savannah that you have in other cities," Dauphinee said. "Gangs in L.A., true gangs in the Midwest, are self-functioning, self-financially fed organizations."

There, gangs operate with a purpose - making money for the gang as a whole.

Crimes are committed by gang members to further that mission, while most law enforcement officials in Savannah agree that gangs here are not that organized.

"No doubt, there are misguided, unfocused youth who have nothing better to do than commit crimes. Are there territorial idiots? Sure," said William Kirkconnell, the senior resident agent for the local FBI office. "They lack organizational structure. They lack leadership. They don't focus on a common goal.

"But that doesn't diminish the fact that they'll go out and kill each other."

Gangs like those known to thrive on the West Coast and Chicago have a deep knowledge of their history. There are pages and pages of information of alphabets, codes, hand symbols and beliefs that a person must know to be considered a true gang member.

Here, Dauphinee said that many local gang members don't have any idea about what certain symbols mean.

"There are guys out there claiming to be Piru but they're using Crip symbols," he said.

Savannah police equate gangs with violence, but they say that even without them, the city would still have violent crime.

"If these guys were not wearing the colors, you would still have all the homicides based on eastside and westside, as long as time goes on," Dauphinee said. "They're not responsible for all the violence, and a lot of the stuff that happened would have happened regardless if someone was wearing a red or blue rag."

The Red and the Blue

gang description
--Click for full size graphic
It can be as subtle as a red baseball cap tilted to the left.

Or as obvious as a blue shirt, blue cap, blue jeans, blue sneakers and a blue bandana dangling from a back pocket.

Either way, it's how gang members represent their colors, and show their pride for their side.

Like in other cities, there are two main gang factions in Savannah - the Bloods and the Crips.

Both gangs formed initially in California in the late 1960s and early 1970s, and both associate with one of two gang nations, the "People," and the "Folk" (see graphic).

According to the "" Web site, the Crips formed in Los Angeles and were initially known as the "Avenue Cribs," or "Baby Avenues." From the word "Crib," Crip developed. The Crips were known to be a tough gang, often committing strong-arm robberies and assaults.

Within several months, another gang formed in the Piru Street area of Compton. They called themselves the Bloods - or Piru - to recognize the street where they formed.

As mentioned earlier, Savannah Bloods are said to live predominantly on the city's eastside. The Crips, who use blue and black for their colors, hang mostly on the westside.

"Gangs is what it boils down to. If you divide it to west and eastside, you gotta get it to Crips and Bloods, 'cause that's what it is," Tommy said. "There's no other way you can look at it. If there wasn't Bloods and Crips, there wouldn't be no east and west fights. That's what keep it alive. Bloods and Crips."

While Tommy says that young people are almost automatically in the gang based on the community they've grown up in, other teens disagree.

"Nobody can't make you be in the gang," said Lil' Shine.

Lil' Shine and Lucky both say the best way to avoid joining a gang is to get a job and avoid peer pressure.

"I don't know why you'd join a gang," Lucky said. "You ain't no higher power. You're still the same person."

Gang Culture

Except sometimes you're not.

When a young person joins a gang, it's as if he or she takes on a whole new persona. It's almost like a religion. Gang members have colors, primarily red and blue, but also yellow and black. There are certain colors they can wear together and certain they can't.

Nationally, gangs are reputed to make new recruits go through an initiation process. Male members are often "beat into" a gang, while female members can be "raped in." More sophisticated gangs have levels for members to move up, with more serious crimes at the top. Level one, for example, might be to spray paint graffiti on a sign, while level 20 might be murder.

Members are required to learn about the gang's history - whether they are represented by the number five or number six. Whether they are supposed to lean to the right or lean to the left. Whether they paint their pitchfork right-side-up, or upside-down.

The rules can be extensive as far as the graffiti and information go. But in Savannah, police don't see the same level of knowledge as in other cities. "The knowledge is there, but it's not as good as some we've seen in the past," Cpl. Dauphinee said.

One of the reasons for that could be the smaller number of gang members in Savannah, or the novelty of the culture in the city.

Gangs have been around in California for more than three decades, and the knowledge there runs deep. In Savannah, a police gang unit wasn't formed until the early '90s.

"You don't have that many generations of gang members in Savannah," Walker said.

While local gang graffiti may not be as sophisticated as graffiti in other cities, it still contains gang symbols and slogans.

On the eastside, the Bloods mark their territory mostly in red, spray-painting words like "Piru for Life," and writing the word "Crip" as "Crab" to disrespect their rivals. On the westside, the paint is mostly black, with the word "Piru" upside-down, and more threatening words, such as "Kill Slobs," meant as a warning to the Bloods.

Symbols include the westside's six-pointed star and eight-ball and the eastside's five-pointed star and pitchfork pointing downward.

Language, too, is part of gang culture. For example, "Mac," or "Maccin," (spellings vary) - means sweet-talking women.

Almost all gang members have nicknames, and they often will get tattoos with gang symbols in them.

Clothing for members of a gang can vary, but can be as specific as wearing certain sports teams' logos, specific sneakers and often baseball caps turned to one side or the other.

Many schools have passed dress codes to eliminate gang-related clothing and paraphernalia in classrooms - including the Savannah-Chatham County Public Schools system. Walker, however, said that children are smart and often find ways around the rules.

One way they do that is to color the inside of a pants pocket red or blue to show their colors.

"There's all sorts of ways to beat the system," he said.

The Female Factor

car photo
A recovered stolen car with Piru gang graffiti painted on it.
--Bob Morris/Savannah Morning News
When Shirley Shaw's car was stolen not long ago, she considered it just another crime. But when police recovered the car a few weeks later, it was returned to her with a grim reminder.

The broken car, which now sits motionless in the driveway covered with a tarp, is covered with gang graffiti. Several years ago, Shaw's daughter was in a gang, and Shaw claims her family experienced a drive-by shooting when she tried to get out.

"The house was shot up with an AK-47 while we were sleeping," Smith said. "If we were standing, we would've been shot."

It angers her that gang members spray-paint Rest in Peace slogans about fallen friends.

"How can anybody rest in peace when they're all going to burn in hell?," she questioned.

Shaw is also angry at Mayor Floyd Adams Jr.'s recent reaction to crime in the community. Some thought his response was too passive.

"I think Floyd Adams needs to sit on the hood of my car and drive down 31st and around Hitch Village," Shaw said.

Having a daughter involved with a gang was difficult, Shaw said, but she's pleased her daughter has changed her ways.

A common myth in the community, said Pastor Smith, is that local street gangs are primarily male.

"There are young women also in these gangs," he said. "It's not as prevalent as of yet, but we need to take this gang problem seriously. Anytime you have a young person - male or female - from the westside who can't go to the eastside because they're wearing a certain color and might be killed - that's a problem."

Crime reporter Paula Reed Ward can be reached at or 652-0360. K-12 education reporter Jennifer Rose Marino can be reached at or 652-0307.
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