Loosely formed Baltimore neighborhood “crews” are finding new reasons to kill, such as showing a red bandana on the wrong street, the Baltimore Sun reports. Those who police the city and schools, as well as the jails and prisons, are fearful of the potential growth and impact of these gangs, which are more brazen in their crimes and quick to pull a trigger. Seeds of that growth were planted about six or seven years ago when out-of-state gangs began targeting Baltimore – taking advantage of the city’s thriving drug trade and proximity to Interstate 95. They made inroads by recruiting in the state’s prison system.
Police have identified about 2,600 known or suspected members of street gangs, including 400 Bloods, 100 Crips, and a few dozen members of Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13 – a Latino gang that has gained a prominent and violent foothold in the Washington, D.C., suburbs. Baltimore gang members mimic the mannerisms, coded language, and secret hand signals of their counterparts in Los Angeles and other cities. Gang initiation rites such as stealing cell phones have triggered crime sprees in tourist areas, targeting visitors or residents of bustling neighborhoods. The same trend is occurring in other cities. Cleveland police finished a yearlong drug investigation and arrested four members of the Compton Crips, a California-based gang. The city has also seen a spike in activity from branches of a Chicago gang.