Battle Lines: Gangs of Toledo


When he was 8 years old, he wanted to belong.

Other boys his age were joining soccer teams, studying for vocabulary tests. In bed by 9 o'clock.

This boy, who was raised by his mother in Toledo's south end, was instead bracing for the first punch.

The jump-in lasted 30 minutes. Six boys, about his age, jumped him. Hit him, kicked him. Then two “older homies” — boys about 15 — had their turn. The boy ended up inside a trash can.

“I couldn't get mad at the situation — I put myself through that. I was sore for, like, three or four days, and after that I was cool,” he said, recalling his initiation to the Manor Boyz.

This Manor Boyz' story is one of hundreds like it in Toledo, OH. He's one of thousands of young men and women who, over the past two decades, have pledged allegiance to a neighborhood, to a block, to a corner, to the same violent gang lifestyle that's killing them and the people they care about most.

When Toledo's police department refused in July 2012 to provide access to a “gang-boundaries map” that police use to monitor increasing gang activities, The Blade decided to make a map of its own.

For “Battle Lines; Gangs of Toledo,” a multi-part interactive investigation into Toledo's complicated gang culture, Taylor Dungjen, a reporter for The Blade and a 2012 John Jay/H.F. Guggenheim Fellow, and photographer Amy E. Voigt, spent months compiling interviews and research — even enlisting active gang members to physically draw lines on a map — in order to grasp the city’s intricate gang geography.

Read an overview of their investigation and access the interactive map of gang territories, by clicking HERE, or see below for links to each individual piece.

Day One

Gangs exact bloody toll on Toledo

Lil Heads member says gang is really a family
Rapper focuses on need to end strife in ‘My City’

Blade suit tries to pry gang map from city
How 2 Blade staffers overcame obstacles to cover Toledo’s gangs

Day Two

As fathers falter, gangs fill the void
Female gang member focuses on life beyond the street

Day Three

Toledoans take steps to steer youngsters away from gangs

Mayor calls Blade series ‘irresponsible’

Day Four

Toledo’s gangs not very different from others

Refuting mayor, Diggs states is’s ‘ludicrous’ to deny gangs in Toledo

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