Police used the same social media platforms as 63 gang members where they bragged about their crimes, taunted rivals and incited violence to bring down three crews now charged with terrorizing East Harlem, NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly said Thursday.
Fifty-nine members of three rival gangs were being arraigned Thursday for what police described as a reign of violence stretching back to 2009, specifically targeting residents of housing projects between East 106th and East 116th streets between Third and Fifth avenues.
The accused were members of gangs called Air It Out, True Money Gang and Whoadey, said Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance. They were charged with crimes including conspiracy, attempted murder, assault and weapons possession, he said.
Four gang members remained at large Thursday.
The defendants used hundreds of Facebook and Twitter posts and direct messages, text messages, cellphone videos and calls made from the Rikers Correctional Facility to plot the deaths of rival gang members, Vance said.
And police were able catch the gang members simply by reading their incriminating posts on the social networks.
He said the carnage stepped up about 2009, when members of the True Money Gang and Whoadey gangs formed an alliance against Air It Out. That led to a spiral of "tit-for-tat retaliatory violence over the next three years that resulted in two more homicides and at least 10 additional retaliatory shootings," Kelly said.
The sweep also was unique in that it was the first time in Manhattan in recent memory that competing gangs -- all accused of multiple acts of violence -- "have been removed en masse at once," Vance said.
The defendants range in age from 16 to 25, though some were as young as 13 at the time of the crimes, according to Vance's office.