2010-04-30 / Columnists

The Rockaway Beat

Gangs Are Anathema To Community Quality Of Life
Commentary By Howard Schwach

There are 84 names on the list and it grows daily.

The list includes Big Nose, Blam-K, Buddha, G-Poc, Nukka, Smoke, Gumout, Boobie, Tommy Guns, Ty Boy, Crutches, Smooth, AB-Money, Spade- O, Gun-Play and Vice Boy.

They have a few things in common.

They are all reputed gangbangers.

They are all guilty of multiple crimes.

And, they were all arrested in connection with a massive gang takedown two weeks ago.

The cops called the takedown “Operation Under Siege,” for a reason. Our peninsula is indeed under siege by these gangs.

Operation Under Siege brought in seven men who murdered another drug dealer earlier this month, suspects in numerous drug shootings, two men wanted for plotting to kill police officers, 60 handguns, more than five kilograms of cocaine, 567 decks of heroin, two pounds of marijuana and more than $50,000 in drug proceeds. Police say that the gang was earning more than $15,000 a week from drug sales.

Some in Rockaway say, “Why worry about them. They are just selling drugs to each other and they kill each other more often than not?”

Queens District Attorney Richard Brown answered that question.

“This investigation strikes at the heart of a unified and criminally active street gang that turned [Rockaway] into a war zone and threatened the lives and safety of innocent bystanders and law enforcement officers. For too long, these gang members have poisoned our streets with narcotics and put fear into the daily lives of innocent people.”

Brown’s rhetoric aside, we should worry because gangs are an anathema to a normal quality of life for any community, and especially an isolated community such as Rockaway.

And, they are growing.

The NYPD takedown two weeks ago centered on every public housing complex on the peninsula, from Redfern in the far eastern reaches of Rockaway to the Hammel Houses on

Beach 84 Street.

It included relatively famous national gangs such as the Bloods and the Crips as well as an amalgam of the two, Flocc.

Within those gangs we now have “Sets” in each of the individual housing projects.

For example, we have GIB, an acronym for “Get it in Bricks,” as in bricks of cocaine. That set centers around the Hammel Houses, and was active in a series of murders a few years ago.

Then, we have GOA, a violent set that centers around the Ocean-Bay Houses in the center of the peninsula.

The Hassock Boys set takes its name for the main street that runs through the Redfern Houses on the Rockaway border with Nassau County.

The Wildmeda set (I have no idea where their name comes from) is eclectic, with members in Arverne, Rockaway Beach, Far Rockaway and Edgemere. Some even come from off the peninsula. Perhaps they all attended college together.

Gangs are nothing new.

When I was teaching in Far Rockaway in the 1980s and 90s, the largest gang was the “Five Percenters.” The name came from the prisons, the claim being that 95 percent of the black people in America were the tools of the white population, while the gang, the other five percent, were the only ones who knew the real deal.

They took names such as “Born Wisdom, God Allah” and “Born Justice, God Allah,” and they would answer only to those names, not to the “slave names” that they were given at birth.

They had to commit crimes to move up in the hierarchy and anybody who tried to “jump out” of the gang was beaten to within an inch of his life.

They mugged, robbed, pillaged and raped their way through Rockaway until they died of their own weight and a crackdown by the NYPD.

They were largely unknown outside of their own circles, however, because they tended to attack only people of color, unless some white person appeared as a target of interest.

The same is true with today’s gangs.

They tend to mistreat only their own, although that could change with the coming of the most violent gang in America – MS 13.

MS-13, a Salvadorian gang that migrated to America, was not involved in the recent takedown, but there is no doubt that the gang is becoming more active in Rockaway.

Mara Salvatrucha, better known as MS 13, is considered by local police officials and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to be one of the most dangerous gangs in the world. The majority of the gang members are South American and it has spread from there to Los Angeles and then across the nation.

In May of 2008, MS 13 members from Hempstead on Long Island, reportedly trying to muscle in on Far Rockaway drug dealers, shot several locals in a drive-by shooting. Gang markings have been reported in both Far Rockaway and around the Beach 116 Street area in recent months.

Earlier this month, there were two homicides, both within a few blocks of each other. An Hispanic man was stabbed to death on the beach at Beach 12 Street in what police have called a gang-related murder. It appears that all of the men belonged to MS 13.

Last summer, several locals were wounded in a drive-by shooting. The men in the car were collared by cops and turned out to be MS-13 members from a Hempstead (Long Island) set who were trying to move in on the Far Rockaway drug trade.

This could be a long, hot summer for all of us, and it will largely be the fact that gangs are so prevalent in Rockaway.

We should not take their threat lightly.

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