Across the nation, street gangs have taken their neighborhood feuds, colors and rituals online. Like everyone else, street gangs are staking out a place on the Web. Det. Juan Colon, who trains gang investigators for the New Jersey State Police, began researching online gang activity in 2000. “But in the last three years,” he says, “there’s just been an explosion of this stuff.”
Some of the more established cliques, like L.A.’s Mid City and Clanton gangs, have professional-quality sites. Click onto Clanton’s Web site and you’ll find a detailed gang history, complete with photographs dating to the 1970s. Some of the gang sites are just simple, free MySpace or GeoCities blogs where people talk tough and live out their fantasies behind the safety of a screen name. Gang Web sites receive e-mails from would-be gangsters overseas who are looking to open chapters abroad. “I am ready to honour all the traditions of CLANTON gang,” reads one gang chat-room post from France. “You’re seeing the Internet turned into an electronic alley,” says George W. Knox, who runs the National Gang Crime Research Center in Peotone, Ill.