Vicious Gang Marks Territory
The ominous scrawling – MS-13 – was spray-painted on the concrete on the south west corner of Beach 112 Street about four weeks ago. It was followed up by another incident in late June, concerned residents said.
MS-13 ranks among the most dangerous street gangs in America and has between 8,000 to 10,000 members in 33 states, according to Newsweek magazine. Salvadoran refugees in Los Angeles reportedly formed the gang during the 1980s. It has since become synonymous with street crime and heinous murders.
“They were marking territory,” said one resident. “They mark the ground so the police can’t see it from their patrol car,” said the source, who began researching gang graffiti after the incident.
The MS-13 graffiti was followed up by another spray-paint assault on June 26, sources said. Witnesses saw two male Hispanics in a black auto with Pennsylvania license plates tagging up businesses on Rockaway Beach Boulevard between Beach 112 and Beach 113 Streets. Perhaps most shocking was the time of day: 6:10 p.m. on a Sunday with beach weather.
“It was like the hottest day of the year – in broad daylight,” said a witness. “They obviously have no fear.”
Witnesses told The Wave they called police as the men spray-painted Patrick’s Restaurant, a multi-unit residential property and the Rockaway Deli & Grocery along Rockaway Beach Boulevard.
Officers arrived within minutes, but the men had already fled the scene leaving behind only fresh markings in brown spray-paint. The graffiti from that incident appears to be more traditional tags and does not seem to be directly gang-related, but tagging on a gang’s turf is seen as a way of one-upping the gang who laid claim.
While many Rockaway residents are familiar with the dingy section of Rockaway Beach Boulevard just east of Beach 116, Beach 112 Street, south of the boulevard, has decorated two-story homes to the west and Stella Maris High School to the east. It’s a place where children play in relative safety.
But residents of the area are reporting an increase in quality of life issues, which they say stem from the boulevard. Residents say they’ve been threatened by unruly teens that want to grub cigarettes, and they say they are jolted at night by sounds – only to be left wondering if the source was a firework or a gun.
A car was vandalized in that area last week, and a major police response centered around Beach 111 Street on July Fourth (see story page 9).
One area resident, who is alarmed by the trend, contacted the 100 Precinct’s Community Affairs Unit in hope of bringing these matters to the precinct’s new commander, Captain Charles Neacy.
Police, thus far, have rebuffed the suggestion that there may be gang activity in the 100 Precinct. One police source did say that gang members may be drawn to the area for the same reason so many others visit during this time of year: the beach.
That theory is supported by the arrest of four teens last month on Beach 116 Street. The teens – some of them clad in gang colors – were charged with inciting to riot after they allegedly tried to spark a brouhaha on the beach.
Residents, meanwhile, don’t seem interested in whether the vandals are residents or just down for the day. “This should be nipped in the bud,” said one.