Saturday, February 09, 2008

The gangs of Providence [inclduing Cambodian gangs]

Detective Sgt. Michael Wheeler makes a quick check around the home of a leader of the Hanover Boyz on the South Side of Providence. Wheeler, raised in the West End, knows these streets as well as any of the gang members.

In the Renaissance City, the mean streets are what many youths call home

Friday, February 8, 2008
Stories By W. Zachary Malinowski
Photographs by Kris Craig
The Providence Journal (Rhode Island, USA)


PROVIDENCE
On a beautiful afternoon in early autumn everyone seems to be enjoying the unseasonably warm weather with one exception: the Providence Police Gang Unit.

Rising temperatures have led to rising tensions in the ongoing feud between the Young Bloods and Hanover Boyz, two of the largest and most notorious street gangs in the city’s West End.

In the early morning of Sept. 27, there had been two drive-by shootings in gang strongholds: The first in a triple-decker on Hanover Street where a Young Blood gang member had recently moved. Two hours later, the police responded to reports of shots fired on Sorrento Street, just a few blocks from Hanover.

The gunfire came just four days after a Public Street apartment was riddled twice within two hours; it was the home of Souvthea “Smurfy” Oun, leader of the Hanover Boyz.

A Providence police officer jokes that Smurfy’s apartment house has been the target of so many drive-by shootings that he no longer needs air conditioning. The bullet holes provide more than enough ventilation.

Detective Sgt. Mike Wheeler, who heads the Providence Police Gang Unit, decides to address the second shift of police officers who gather for roll call in the auditorium of police headquarters.

About two dozen uniformed officers arrive for assignments and updates on trouble spots in the city. The atmosphere is like a locker room where a football or basketball team review match-ups before a game.

Wheeler steps up to the stage and stands behind a lectern. He informs them about the shootings outside of Smurfy’s apartment and the two gang-related drive-bys from earlier in the morning. When he talks about the YBs — Young Bloods — and Hanover Boyz, there’s no need for an explanation.

“The YB kids and Hanover Boyz are still going at it,” Wheeler says. “Call us. We’re going to start hitting them hard.”

Wheeler tells them that the Young Bloods may have shifted gears and are now wearing green instead of their traditional red clothing. But the switch doesn’t seem to be fooling rival gangs: a shot was fired at a Young Blood wearing green.

“I guess it’s not in the color,” Wheeler says, “It’s in the person.”

Before he steps off the stage, Wheeler says: “Be careful and call us if anything comes to your attention.”

GANGS AND THE violence that trails them have become a major problem in Providence, the state’s capital and largest city.

Boys and girls as young as 12 have been identified as members of the Young Bloods, Hanover Boyz, MS-13, the Almighty Latin King Nation, Laos Pride, Tiny Raskal Gang, Original Crip Gang, Oriental Rascals, Providence Street Boys, Dark Side Rascals, 18th Street Gang and the Asian Outlaw Boyz.

The Latin Kings are involved in drug trafficking, but most of the gang members are not in it for the money. They join for a sense of belonging and to protect themselves from other youths. They have little sense of history and often no idea why they fight, except to avenge slights, with rival gangs.

Police Maj. Stephen M. Campbell, who oversees the detective division, says that monitoring gang activity is a department priority.

“It’s a constant back and forth between warring gangs,” he says. “The potential for a violent outburst that could take multiple lives is always there.”

The police, with the help of two FBI agents and a state trooper assigned to the gang unit, have created a database identifying 1,400 gang members and their associates. Some of them live in Massachusetts or other Rhode Island cities such as Cranston, Woonsocket, Pawtucket, Central Falls and West Warwick. Nonetheless, they frequent Providence and have come across the radar of the police gang unit.

Last year, one in five shootings in the city was gang-related. The police recorded 14 murders and 59 instances in which people were shot, up from 47 in 2006. Gangs were responsible for 2 of last year’s murders, 12 shootings and dozens of drive-by shootings where shots were fired, but nobody was hit.

Last month, the new year began with a flurry of shootings between the Hanover Boyz and the Oriental Rascals. A 20-year-old woman was wounded, but nobody was killed. The vast majority of nonfatal shootings go unsolved because gang members refuse to file police complaints or cooperate with investigators. They prefer to take justice into their own hands.

Overall, the police identify a dozen gangs of significance in the city, about twice as many as when the gangs first arrived in the early ’90s. Wheeler says it was easier to track six large gangs with hundreds of members. Today, there is a proliferation of smaller gangs who are constantly feuding with each other.

The police say that in the past the older gang members, called OGs, kept the “juniors” or young gang members in check. That’s no longer the case. The OGs are less involved in the day-to-day workings of the gang, and the juniors have little respect or interest in the old days.

Gang initiation almost always requires a “jump in,” a beating administered by members of the gang who often line up in a gauntlet, striking and kicking the rookie gang member for anywhere from 10 to 90 seconds.

When someone leaves a gang, usually there’s a “jump out.” A gang member is beaten and must suffer bleeding or a broken bone to be set free.

Female gang members also are jumped in and, in some cases, they are “sexed in.” One female gang member had to roll dice and have sex with the same number of male gang members — 2 to 12 — that appeared on the dice. In another jump in, a former MS-13 gang member said that a group of gang members stood before her and she had to select 13 of them and have sex with them in succession.

Many of the gang members are brazen about their gang affiliation. They adorn their bodies with elaborate tattoos that announce their gang allegiance, and they boast about their toughness on Web sites such as MySpace.com.

Most of the violence is gang-on-gang disputes, but gang members also have been arrested for dealing cocaine, ecstasy and marijuana. They are regularly picked up on firearms charges and for armed home invasions.

The gang activity is not limited to the streets. Officials at the Adult Correctional Institutions keep close tabs on gang members who enter the prison system. Tracking them is good for the safety of the prisoners, as well as the safety of the guards. Right now, 250 of the state’s 3,500 male prisoners, 8 percent of the population, have been identified as gang members.

As soon as they enter the ACI’s Intake Service Center, gang members complete a “scars and tattoo sheet” that details the new arrival’s gang affiliation. Among the questions are “nicknames,” “enemy issues” and gang tattoos. A recent arrival at the prison declared that he was a member of the Tiny Raskals gang and his enemies include the Young Bloods, Laos Pride and the Oriental Rascals.

ACI Director A.T. Wall says that prison investigators constantly exchange information with outside law enforcement agencies. He said the prison environment provides a unique perspective on gang activity.

“We have the bodies,” Wall says. “They live with us. We can and do monitor phone calls. We see who is talking in the yard. We can search cells and living areas.”

GROUND ZERO for gang activity in Providence is the West End. Other neighborhoods such as Smith Hill, Valley, Olneyville and the South Side have plenty of gang problems, but the sprawling West End is where most of the gang members call home. The rundown triple-deckers on Hanover, Althea, Sorrento, Bellevue and Linwood Streets, to name a few, are breeding grounds for gang violence.

The gangs tag apartment houses and abandoned brick commercial buildings with crude gang graffiti, only to have rival gangs come by and spray over them. The gang cops treat graffiti and the messages they send very seriously, referring to the urban tags as a “billboard for violence.”

On just about any night, but especially on weekends, the streets teem with packs of youths hanging out or searching for an escape from a life of poverty. Wheeler, and the other officers assigned to the gang unit, spend their nights patrolling the West End and keeping an eye on gang activity. They are vigilant about getting firearms off the street. If they can grab a gang member with a gun, they can avert a shooting and get the gunman locked up.

Wheeler is easygoing. He’s 44 and balding, but he still has that athletic bounce in his step from the days when he played second base for the baseball team at La Salle Academy in Providence. He walks fast, smiles a lot and listens to what people say.

It’s easy to imagine him as a local parish priest or as a youth league coach.

Wheeler loves his job and he loves to talk. He wants to know what everyone is doing. “How’s school going? Looking for work? How is your mother? When are you going to dump that scrawny boyfriend?” Many of the kids hustle over to his unmarked blue Dodge Charger and readily joke with him.

Others wave and yell from the front steps of their triple-deckers, “Hey, Wheeler! What’s going on, Wheeler?”

He makes time for everyone and he freely gives out his cell phone number to gang members, their girlfriends and parents. He lets them know that he’s just a call away. “You need anything,” he says, “call me.”

Wheeler knows these streets as well as any of the gang members. He was raised in a historic plaque house on Willow Street, just off Messer Street in the West End. His late father, Norman, was a Teamster who unloaded trucks in Lincoln, while his mother, Rose, took care of Mike and his 10 brothers and sisters. He ran these same streets the gang bangers roam. He played basketball and baseball in Ellery Park. He knows all the streets, alleys and landmarks.

“I think it has made it easier for me,” Wheeler says. “They can’t say, ‘You don’t know what it’s like to grow up in this neighborhood.’ ”

BACK AT police headquarters, Wheeler and others assigned to the gang unit share office space on the third floor with the Youth Bureau. Across the way from Wheeler’s office is Corey Soderland, an FBI intelligence analyst. He compiles data on gang members and their crimes, and he looks for trends to help the police fight crime. He puts together the data and gets it out to officers in patrol.

Colorful posters feature hundreds of mug shots of gang members in the city. There are the Hanover Boyz, Young Bloods, MS-13 and Oriental Rascals, to name a few.

Wheeler says that the gang unit makes plenty of arrests, but their primary mission is developing sources, gathering intelligence and preventing gang violence. The gang unit spends much of its time tracking the ongoing battle between the Young Bloods and Hanover Boyz. They are among the city’s largest gangs and they readily resort to violence.

In January 2007, three teenagers from the Hanover Boyz were arrested for killing Viceth Klaratok, 23, a member of the Young Bloods. The teens, all boys, were accused of chasing him for several blocks in the West End and beating him to death with a baseball bat and pipe. It was the city’s first murder of the year.

The police believe that much of the gunfire and violence in the city since then stems from Klaratok’s murder.

ONE AFTERNOON in mid-October, Wheeler drives toward Hanover Street, the frequent site of gang violence over the years. The police radio crackles around dinnertime. Several officers from the gang unit want to show him something.

“Are you guys over there?” Wheeler says. “Awright. Good. I’m right around the corner. We’ll be there in a sec.”

Wheeler ends the call. “Guess who is sitting on the porch with his ass wound and everything?”

None other than Nirut “Shorty” Seng, 21, a leader and longtime gang member of the Young Bloods.

On Oct. 1, about 12:35 a.m., a black Nissan Maxima pulled up outside Seng’s bungalow on Hanover Street. A passenger opened fire, striking Seng in the buttocks. He spent a few days at Rhode Island Hospital, had the bullet removed and recuperated at his brother’s home in Newport.

The police had not seen him since the shooting until that afternoon.

Seng, who is small and thin, stands on the front porch steps with Chris Inoa, another Young Bloods gang member. They are decked out in red, the gang’s trademark color. Seng wore a red St. Louis Cardinals baseball cap and a red and gray Ecko Unlimited shirt. Inoa wore a red hoodie sweatshirt and a Pittsburgh Pirates baseball cap. He fiddles with a red bandana that he wrapped around his mouth.

The gang members gripe about a recent article in The Providence Journal about Seng’s shooting. They are annoyed that the address of a Young Blood was published in the newspaper. The information was accurate, but they felt it placed the gang member in danger.

Seng and Inoa enjoy an easy banter with members of the police gang unit, who talk to them from behind a chainlink fence. There is a lot of talk about the location of Seng’s bullet wound. Seng thinks it’s funny and the police officers egg him on.

Seng and Inoa know several of the police officers on a first-name basis. They expect them to stop by to see what is going on. It’s clear that the opposing sides — police and gang members — enjoy the give-and-take.

“Did they get the bullet out?” Wheeler yells.

Seng smiles and shrugs. They talk about the shooting.

Officer Marty Rawnsley, a strapping policeman, chimes in, “He zigged when he should have zagged.”

“Why would anyone want to do that to you?” Wheeler says. “You’re the nicest kid I know.”

The gang members and cops erupt in laughter.

Seng and Inoa puff Newport cigarettes. At one point, Seng gingerly sits on a concrete step. He is evasive about who shot him. He says the occupants of the car were in a “black Max,” a reference to a Nissan Maxima, the car of choice for many gang bangers.

Asked who shot him, Seng says that he has plenty of enemies, and he rattles off a list of rivals. “I’ve been down since I was 13,” he says. “I’m a known YB.”

He shrugs off the shooting as no big deal, and he’s dismissive of the gunman.

“Basically, if they hit me in the leg, they have no aim,” he says. “I didn’t even want to go to the hospital.”

Seng says that he worries about getting killed “every day,” but that he knows that’s the price he must pay for being a Young Blood. “It’s just another day in the life.”

Inoa’s mother stops by. Wheeler gives her a hug and a peck on the cheek. She tries to get her son to come home. He says something in Spanish and refuses to leave. A few months ago, Inoa, 17, was interested in joining the armed services and Wheeler tried to help him out.

But the lure of the street was too strong. He wasn’t willing to leave his ways for the disciplined life of a soldier. Before leaving, Wheeler tells Seng that he’s flirting with danger and that he should be more concerned with the well-being of his 5-year old daughter, Jennifer. Seng has the letters “PJ,” initials for “Precious Jennifer,” tattooed on his neck. The little girl bounds up and down the same steps where her father was shot.

Wheeler’s advice falls on deaf ears. Seng hears what he wants to hear, and he looks away.

DARKNESS SETS IN as Wheeler drives his unmarked car from the West End to the South Side. He heads down Public Street to pass the apartment house where Souvthea “Smurfy” Oun, the leader of the Hanover Boyz, lives.

Two young men sit on the front steps. Wheeler circles the block and radios for backup. A few weeks earlier, the gang unit had stopped by the house and arrested a young man for carrying a knife. The police also seized a .22-caliber rifle and a BB gun, from another gang member, that looked exactly like a real gun.

It was a tense scene and the police officers drew their guns. Afterward, the gang members were told they could no longer hang outside the house.

Wheeler climbs out of his car and tells the young men that they cannot loiter there. He peppers them with questions. Who are they? What are they up to? The boys are guarded, but respectful. One says that he recently moved back to Providence from New Jersey.

Johnny Oun, Smurfy’s younger brother and a Hanover Boy, emerges from the house and talks to Wheeler. He tells Johnny to get Smurf.

Minutes later, Smurfy, 20, who wears a sleeveless T-shirt and low-slung jeans, strolls out from the darkness alongside the apartment house. He stands about 5-feet, 4 inches tall, and cannot weigh more than 110 pounds. Tattoos cover his bare arms, and he commands a certain presence as he shakes hands with Wheeler and a reporter.

He is polite and cooperative. He agrees to keep youths off his porch. He grimaces when asked whether he is the leader of the Hanover Boyz. “We’re just a bunch of dudes who hang out together,” he says.

Moments later, he acknowledges that he’s the leader of the gang that is loosely affiliated with the Los Angeles-based Crips. “That’s what separates us from the others,” he says. He says that his gang has been feuding with the Young Bloods because “they are opposites.” At the same time, he says, the ongoing beef is “nonsense,” and he’s not even sure of its origins.

“My mind is not on all this negative,” he says.

Smurfy says that he works in a tattoo parlor and that he used to live in Philadelphia.

During the conversation, Wheeler, who carries a flashlight, checks out the bushes along the side of the house for weapons. He returns and jokes with one of the boys on the porch about his colorful sneakers — lime green, pink and white. “Where did you get those?” he says. “You must be very secure with your masculinity.”

Smurfy laughs and the boys all laugh.

“You paid for those?” says Wheeler. “Get out!”

GANGS ARE nothing new to the city. Back in the early ’90s, the police witnessed a surge in Asian gangs in the West End, South Side and Smith Hill. Many of the new gang members were the children of refugees from Cambodia. They had survived the killing fields of Pol Pot, the Cambodian dictator whose genocidal reign led to the deaths of millions from torture, execution and starvation. Thousands of them spent years in brutal refugee camps in places such as Thailand.

Laotian refugees were also scattered after the U.S. Secret War in Laos that conscripted men and boys to fight alongside American soldiers.

Unable to return home, these refugees resettled in the United States and formed large communities in Long Beach, Calif., Lowell, Mass., and Providence.

Most of the Cambodian adults suffered from post-traumatic stress, having seen violence inflicted on their families including being forced to watch their parents, siblings and children executed. They had difficulty assimilating into a culture that gave children far more freedom than they had in their homelands.

Police Sgt. Timothy Patterson then headed up the Providence Police Youth Bureau, and he witnessed firsthand the surge in Asian youths across the city. He worked 70-hour weeks tracking the activities of what he knew would be a growing problem. He attended their parties, weddings, funerals and baby christenings.

“I wanted to know the culture,” says Patterson, now retired. “I wanted them to know me. I wanted to know the kids.”

The Cambodian youths had problems at Central, Hope and Mount Pleasant high schools. They were the new kids and the target of taunts and bullying from their white, black and Latino classmates. The newcomers banded together and formed street gangs.

André “Ajay” Benton, now 28, streetworker manager for The Institute for the Study and Practice of Nonviolence, ran the streets and sold drugs on the city’s South Side in the ’90s. He remembered the Cambodian kids refusing to get pushed around. If a Cambodian kid was targeted, Benton said that a group of Cambodians, “80 strong,” would show up to retaliate.

The first recognized Cambodian street gang in Providence was the Bad Junior Boys in the early ’90s. The newcomers were ready and willing to fight and use guns.

Eventually, the Cambodians had problems within their ranks. Many of them broke off and formed or joined new gangs, such as the Providence Street Boys and the Oriental Rascals. Laos Pride burst on the scene, and there was plenty of bad blood between the Cambodians and the Laotians.

The Providence Street Boys laid claim to Ellery Street Park in the West End, while the Oriental Rascals called the playground behind the firehouse on Messer Street its own. The public parks became known as the PSB Park and the OR Park.

The early ’90s saw the arrival of the Latin Kings, the Chicago-based street gang with a national reach. In October 1993, the Providence police raided a second-floor apartment on Douglas Avenue and arrested Luis “Cuba” Rivera, a leader of the Latin Kings in Connecticut who was sent to Providence to organize a local chapter for the gang.

The police seized heroin, guns and an organizational chart. They also found a list of the gang’s sworn members and those awaiting induction.

Rivera and four fellow Latin Kings were convicted on felony charges and sent to the ACI. In June 1997, Edson Toro, also a Latin King, stabbed Rivera to death with a homemade shank in the prison yard. About 200 inmates witnessed the attack, and Toro was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison. He declined to be interviewed for this story.

Over the past decade, the Providence police, state police and federal investigators have launched two important initiatives aimed at dismantling the Latin Kings in Rhode Island: Operation Checkmate and Operation Royal Flush.

In 1997, five Latin Kings prosecuted in Operation Checkmate were sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for crimes ranging from murder to racketeering.

Operation Royal Flush ended in the indictment of 26 Latin Kings on drug and firearms violations. The police seized 24 kilograms of cocaine valued at more than $1 million and 47 pounds of marijuana.

Lt. Thomas A. Verdi, who heads the police narcotics and organized crime unit, said the Latin Kings are the best organized and most dangerous gang in the city. He said the gang’s national network allows them to import criminals from places like New York, Connecticut and Florida.

“They have a hierarchy. They have bylaws,” says Verdi. “The Kings have a network that is far-reaching.”

Verdi estimates that there are about 30 Latin Kings in the city. State prison officials said that the Latin Kings and Neta, a Connecticut-based prison gang, number about 80 in the ACI.

One of the Latin Kings leaders, Vidal “Lucky” Rodriguez, was gunned down in August outside El Tiburon, a Spanish bar on Valley Street. The murder remains unsolved, but the police suspect that he may have been targeted by a rival gang.

Many of the gangs, including the Latin Kings, welcome girls and women into their ranks. In Providence, it’s not unusual to see gang members from both sexes.

One Friday night in September, Police Officer Jeremy Doucette radioed for assistance from the gang squad. He was at Crown Fried Chicken on Broad Street with members of the Young Bloods street gang. It was a charged scene on the street.

The gang members claimed that someone from the Providence Street Boys drove by and flashed a gun at them.

A woman, Karen Maloney, 21, spewed profanities and stood on the sidewalk with a couple of young men. All of them were wearing red, the colors of the Young Bloods. She has two brothers who are gang members. She and Shorty have a child, “Precious Jennifer,” whose initials, PJ, are tattooed on Seng’s neck.

Maloney and the gang members were glad to see Detective Sgt. Wheeler.

Scott Petrocchi, a gang officer, emerged from the restaurant and announced, “I have some good news and some bad news. The good news is that nothing is going to happen to you. The bad news is that if you ever step inside this restaurant again, you will be arrested.”

Maloney seemed more upset that she had been barred from the restaurant than nearly being shot by a rival gang member.

After about 15 minutes of arguing and pleading, Maloney and the gang members piled into a beat-up black Lincoln Continental and sped off into the night. The police found a golf club and lead pipe against the curb.

Wheeler says Maloney’s relationship with Seng and the reputation of her brothers give her standing in the gang.

“I don’t think she’s a leader or anything like that,” Wheeler said. “But she definitely carries some clout.”

In recent years, the Providence police have joined forces with the FBI and federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement to combat MS-13, the notorious Latino gang based in Los Angeles. They are known for their elaborate tattoos and propensity for violence.

MS stands for Mara Salvatrucha. “Mara,” means gang; “Salva,” stands for Salvador; “trucha,” is beware. Gang members are from El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico.

The Providence police gang unit first noticed signs of MS-13 around 2000. Within a year, an aggressive recruiting drive resulted in about 100 men, and a few women, joining the gang. They ranged in age from 12 to 30.

Its members are known to deal cocaine, steal cars, break into cars and mug strangers in the streets.

Over the past three years, the Providence police and immigration agents have deported about 45 MS-13 members, including major players such as Jose Alvarado, Celso “Psycho” Giron and Jairo “Bullet” Perez. The police said that Perez, who had convictions in Rhode Island for weapons violations, sexual assault and resisting arrest, was murdered while he sold DVDs on a street corner in Guatemala.

The deportations were part of a national FBI crackdown to arrest and prosecute MS-13 gang members after an escalation of violent gang activity in suburban Washington, D.C. The brutality was underscored by two chilling crimes: gang members were convicted of killing a pregnant 17-year-old who was cooperating with the federal authorities, while others were arrested for slicing off the fingers of two rival gang members.

The deportations, police crackdowns and intervention from the groups such as the nonviolence institute have slowed gang activity, but the initiatives have failed to eradicate gangs from the city. Wheeler, from the Providence police gang unit, and Teny Gross, executive director for The Institute for the Study and Practice of Nonviolence, have continued to wage their daily battles against gang violence.

They have a mutual respect for each other’s mission, but Gross and his streetworkers have refused to supply information to the police. They have their own ways of trying to bring peace to the city’s warring gangs.

Wheeler knows that the police can’t eliminate gangs in the city. Still, he is available around-the-clock for troubled young people who are looking for a way out. He does what he can to get them jobs or help them earn their GED, the high school graduation equivalency diploma.

He drives them to Traffic Court and tells them how to settle fines and get their driver’s licenses reinstated. He asks employers and school officials to give a kid a second chance. Maybe a little help will give a kid a ray of hope and help him turn his back on the gang.

“Any way we can help them get out of a gang,” he said. “I’ll work with whoever is trying to do the right thing.”

Providence Police Chief Col. Dean Esserman said the proliferation of gangs is just part of a larger problem plaguing society. He said there are too many youths running the streets unsupervised. He said the community and schools have to be more involved in the lives of children and provide them with meaningful alternatives.

Esserman would like to see longer school days and educational programs that extend beyond the 180-day school year. He said he would prefer to see 100 new teachers — not 100 new police officers — join the city payroll.

“The best way to fight crime is not to arrest these children,” he said. “We are not looking for smaller handcuffs.”

BACK AT THE apartment house on Public Street, Wheeler and the other cops assigned to the gang unit get serious with Smurfy Oun and the other young men hanging out on his porch.

“Obviously, you know some of these guys,” Wheeler says. “You know how it is. And when the heat is on? Something happens. There’s a shooting, car windows being broken. Anything like that, well there is a lot more of these guys.” He points to Scott Petrocchi and Shawn Kennedy, two young officers assigned to the gang unit.

“Yeah,” says Smurfy.

Wheeler looks at Smurfy and says, “You’ve got to control this.” He tells the gang leader that he’s lucky nobody “got a bullet in the head,” from the police when they were outside flashing a rifle and a BB gun that looked like a real handgun a few weeks back.

One of the gang unit cops jokes that next time, someone may get “shot in the ass,” a reference to Shorty Seng of the Young Bloods.

Smurfy laughs. “He got shot running away. That’s what I’m saying, man. He’s got to be a man and stand there and accept that. …”

Wheeler tells him that if you’re going to get shot below the waist, you had better turn around. Smurfy appreciates the cop’s sense of humor.

The police officers turn to leave. “So, you’ll take care of this problem for me?” Wheeler says.

Smurfy promises that he will get the boys off the porch. Wheeler and the other gang unit officers leave the scene with some final words. “It’s nothing personal,” Wheeler says. “It’s just the way it is. Alright?”

The gang leader nods his head.

Hanover Boyz: Growing West End gang with about 60 members who are Asian, Latino, African-American and white. Some of the gang members live in the city’s South Side. The police believe the leader is Souvthea “Smurfy” Oun. The gang colors are navy blue because it aligns itself with the Los Angeles-based Crips gang. The gang’s graffiti is HBZ, 8 Duce, 82 and 8226 — H is the 8th letter in the alphabet; B is the 2nd; and Z is the 26th letter.

Young Bloods: Large West End gang that stretches into the South Side and Cranston. The police estimate that there are about 60 members. One of the leaders is Nirut “Shorty” Seng. Bitter rivals with the Hanover Boyz. Gang members are Asian, Latino, African-American and white. Known for wearing the color red — St. Louis Cardinals, Red Sox baseball caps and red kerchiefs. The gang’s graffiti is YB and 252 — Y is the 25th letter in the alphabet; B is the 2nd.

MS-13: Mara Salvatrucha: Violent Los Angeles-based gang with cells in Central America, Mexico and across the United States. “Mara” means gang; “Salva,” stands for Salvador; “trucha” is beware. There are an estimated 100 gang members in the Providence area. Many of them live in the city’s North End in neighborhoods off Branch Avenue. They can also be found in Cranston, Pawtucket and Central Falls. They wear blue Los Angeles Dodgers baseball caps, blue or tan Dickies with long-sleeve shirts with the top button clasped. Over the past three years, about 45 gang members, including leaders Jose Alvarado and Jairo “Bullet” Perez have been deported to Guatemala. The gang’s local graffiti is Providence Salvatrucha Locos, Mara, MS-13 XIII and X3.

The Almighty Latin King Nation: About 30 gang members living in the Providence metropolitan area. Unlike many of the other gangs there is a hierarchy and bylaws. They also have a national following with strong chapters in Chicago, New York and Connecticut. Involved in cocaine and marijuana trafficking, most of the gang members are Latino, but some are African-American. Colors are black and gold. The police say that the Rhode Island leader is Eric “E” Thomas, recently released from the Adult Correctional Institutions. Gang members often have tattoos of a five-pointed crown. Graffiti often features the crown or the number 360, which stands for 360 degrees strong.

Laos Pride: About 60 gang members in this group whose stronghold is Smith Hill. Exclusively Laotian. Known for home invasions and a willingness to use firearms. Main rivals are the Young Bloods and the Tiny Raskal Gang. They have had a long-standing feud with the Woonsocket-based Laos Out of Control, LOC, gang. There’s no identified leader. One of its most violent members, Khek “Evil K,” Choummalaithong, pleaded guilty this fall to federal weapons charges and he faces a possible sentence of life imprisonment. Graffiti is LP and the gang goes by the numbers 1216 — L, the alphabet’s 12th letter; P is the 16th.

Tiny Raskal Gang: A predominately Cambodian gang that also has Latinos, African-Americans and whites among its 30 to 40 members. They are found on Smith Hill as well as the Sorrento Street area in the West End. There is a large contingent of Tiny Rascals in Lowell, Mass. Noted clothing is gray rags and gray Dickies. The police identify the leader as Vichet Som, also known as “Sniper.” The gang goes by the numbers 7126 — the 712 looks like TR, while 6 resembles a G.

Oriental Rascals: Another Cambodian gang with 50 to 60 members, most of whom live in the West End. Others live in Cranston. The gang wears blue and has been around since the early ’90s. The gang has a strong relationship with Laos Pride. Rivals are the Providence Street Boys and MS-13. Many of the gang members have grown up, married and have jobs.

Providence Street Boys: Like the Oriental Rascals, PSB members have aged and are not as active as they were 10 years ago. They have an ongoing relationship with the Young Bloods. Nonetheless, the police continue to monitor the 50 or so gang members who are a mix of Cambodians, African-Americans, Latinos and whites. They still get together at baby showers or parties. Historically, the gang’s colors were blue and red. They are longtime enemies with the Oriental Rascals.

Original Crip Gang: OCG has between 30 and 35 members, and they are based in the Mount Pleasant and Chalkstone Avenue neighborhoods. The gang is a blend of different ethnic groups. Two recognized leaders are Mario Lopez and Alvaro ‘Lil’ G’ Fernandez. OCG’s chief rival is MS-13.

Dark Side Rascals: Junior version of the Oriental Rascals, meaning most of its 20 or so members are teenagers. The police say the leader is Sareivouth Cheam, also know as “Vut” or “Little One.” Last April, he was arrested for attacking a rival with a golf club at the Providence Place mall.

Asian Outlaw Boyz: Known on the street as AOB. Most of the gang members are based in Cranston, and they have been involved in assaults and tagging graffiti; gang members are suspected of participating in a recent stabbing. The gang was formed about a year ago.

18th Street Gang: About 25 members based in the city’s West End. Most of the members are of Guatemalan descent, but the gang also has an ethnic mix of Asians, African-Americans and Latinos. The police say that the gang is involved in document fraud and fights with rival gangs, especially MS-13. Weapons of choice are knives and bats — not firearms. They favor the color blue and use the numbers 666 and XVIII.

bmalinow@projo.com

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

Scott Petrocchi, a gang officer “I have some good news and some bad news. The good news is that nothing is going to happen to you. The bad news is that if you ever step inside this restaurant again, you will be arrested.”

If any ganger member walk out into public places and put other innocence people in immediate danger and they need to be bar for life from going there and I think it is fair! I certainly wouldn't want to walk pass by some gang members which can put in life in danger! Please give no more ground to any gang member!

Anonymous said...

These cockroach-slave tax-wasting money government should either execute or expatriate them to where they belong.

These slaves do not belong in the civil society.

Anonymous said...

Thaey are monkeys not skave 9:35PM they do bad thing to themselve!

Anonymous said...

many of the gang youths are born and raised here in America. I believe all kids are born innocent, and this is a problem created domestically. don’t deport the problem you created because you can not contain it.

Anonymous said...

(These cockroach-slave tax-wasting money government should either execute or expatriate them to where they belong.

These slaves do not belong in the civil society.)

We are product of our environment. So what whitey throw at us, we eat it up like a box of chocolate. The animal we are today was created by white trash like you. I mean come on,don't you idiot see the trend. Ya'll did to black folks and hispanic and now it the asian.You snowflake think ya'll the superior race, looking down upon other race.By calling us slave said it all. I'm proud to be that GOOK you love to hate!!

Anonymous said...

(Thaey are monkeys not skave 9:35PM they do bad thing to themselve!)

Some monkeys are smarter then some human. In this case, you're one of them idiot. I bet you some monkey know how to spell check better then you. "They" not "thaey" and "slave" not " skave".

Anonymous said...

So I can't get a gun for a security job but I can be shot by these kids who have the cops as their best friends, who are going to give them a hug after shooting me because they're only misunderstood victims of their enviornment? Christ this state SUCKS!!!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

don't be hating cuz of the article people. ya don't know what we gone through. all ya crackers don't know what goes on in the asian home so fuck off.


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erick estrada said...

Things like this is what keeps violence going. That isn't going to help. Most of gang members are citizens. If may be there was more people who could understand the life and struggle they go through and if there was more help out there with people who care than shit wouldn't be the way it is but when you got people who think there better and look down on others well they will choose a side and look at people the same way. With hate. People like the dumb ass that wrote that smart comment are reasons to them to bring violence. You make them feel like there isn't a place for them when its there home as much as its yours.