The 21st century has created a new form of criminal activity we have labeled “internet thugging.” In some circles, this has been taken to an extreme, with gangs throughout the nation engaging in online activity that has results in real life. This is currently known as cyber banging in the media. Cyber banging uses the newest, cutting-edge forms of social media where gang members taunt one another, document beatings, show off weapons, and anything else that displays gang culture. Don’t be so quick to forget about the 2012 murder of Chicago rap artist Lil JoJo after some social media exchanges with the camp of well-known rapper Chief Keef.
Police forces and federal agents have been monitoring internet activity with a microscope via the Patriot Act and other new laws for over a decade. Local police forces have taken to the Net and are faced with having to figure out real gang activity from the posers, leading to increases in online policing in traditional gang populated areas such as South Central Los Angeles. Police officials contribute a rise in murders throughout the area to online gang activity. Now, they are using the technology to monitor possible threats of violence and gang conflicts that could result in violence. The downside to this is, with the current internet landscape so anonymous, it is hard to know for sure.
With the rise in clearly documented gang violence police forces are applying a blanket approach to their cyber investigations. A more effective approach to policing is direct contact with gang leaders to stop violence in its tracks. Police are coming to terms with the reality that the real power lies in the gang leadership, on the ground, who influence street politics directly. As gang activity and turf wars have shifted into cyberspace, the cooperation of gang-influencers and former or current leaders/members has been statistically more effective than just increasing police presence and creating gang injunctions. This intervention can happen in more organized, larger gangs, such as the traditional groups in New York and Los Angeles. However, their tactics of locking up gang leaders in Chicago have backfired, causing multiple splintered gangs, warring over minor disagreements that have resulted in a skyrocketing murder toll.
It is going to be uncertain how this form of policing will affect future investigations. While some see this as police overreacting, they are just trying to stay one step ahead of crime. One thing that will happen, for sure, is a rise in arrests of some beloved gang-related musicians or social media figures who glorify that life via social media.