The latest evolution in crime-fighting measures in New York City is apparently logging on to YouTube or WorldStarHipHop to keep a tab on the newest rap music videos. According to a recent New York Times report, NYC cops use the clips to better understand gang dynamics and inter-gang rivalries.
This past December saw a case brought against 11 gang members, aided by a music video from local rap crew, Dub Gang Money. According to police lieutenant Peter Carretta, the clip provided evidence that the accused were members of an established gang and associated with one another.
The department’s growing interest in the world of low-budget rap videos comes as the police begin to abate their controversial stop-and-frisk tactics, assigning troops of officers to slowly pursue long-term investigations against troublesome neighbourhood youth gangs, known as crews or sets.
Police have been ordered by prosecutors to amass evidence that individual shooting incidents are part of larger criminal conspiracies linked to inter-crew warfare, leading officers to pay attention to the local rap scene in order to increase understanding about the street hierarchy.
“You really have to listen to the songs because they’re talking about ongoing violence,” anti-gang squad member Officer Fred Vanpelt told The Times. Officer Vanpelt worked on the case of rapper Cuame Nelson aka Murda Malo, a member of a rap group called Addicted to Cash or ATC, who police investigators say was also the latest face of a criminal group known for gunning down rivals.
While at one time it could take months or even years for tales of inter-gang violence and murder to hit the streets in the form of rap songs, the speed at which young rappers now release lyrics and video online has not only bolstered their audience but proved a boon for law enforcement.
“It’s important to us,” said Police Sgt George Tavares, who explained that there was recently a video that served as “a keystone piece of evidence” against a crew that was under investigation by his team, though he declined to provide details for fear the clip would be taken down.
“It’s a double-edged sword,” said Patrice Allen, who currently manages Murda Malo and fellow ATC member K-Dot aka Karon Stanley, both of whom are under felony indictment in a Brooklyn gang case. “If you have that much passion and love for the music, I guess you have to deal with it.”