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Police plumb social media for guides to gangs in city

Men in videos show guns, brag on groups

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In a video uploaded to YouTube, a man boasts in a rap that "I don't talk about the murder" and claims to invoke fear in people around the city.

"I got a whopper in my pocket, I ain't talkin' 'bout a burger," he continues as the camera pans to show a revolver in his hand.

The Internet has dozens of these videos -- not all music videos -- in which young men proclaim gang affiliations and flash guns and colors.

"We do use it as an intelligence tool, no doubt about it," said Toledo police Sgt. Joe Heffernan. "If someone is going to put on the Internet for the whole world to see that they're in a gang or that they're committing criminal activity, we're going to use that information to solve crimes and complete our mission, which is to keep the community safe."

Videos appear on the social media site from a number of groups that Toledo police have identified as gangs, including the Manor Boys, Cherry Woodz, Lil Heads, X Blocc, Stickney 33, and the Choloz.

In one video, Tremayne Griffin, a Manor Boy who Toledo police have said was one of the most dangerous men in the city, is shown holding a gun in the air.

That video was uploaded in 2010. Griffin is now in prison serving nearly 22 years after he was found guilty for shooting five people in two separate incidents.

In some of the videos, the men sometimes make threats to rival gangs.

In one video posted by X Blocc, a Crip affiliate, different men call out a Blood-affiliated gang, Stickney 33.

X Blocc, in the video, claims Highland, Parkwood, and Glenwood avenues as its territory. Stickney 33 is, as its name suggests, based on Stickney Avenue in North Toledo.

Another video, posted by the Woodstocc and Parkside Crips -- who consider Woodstock Avenue and Parkside Boulevard to be home -- tells the men on Fernwood Avenue, "when I see you I'm knocking you out."

Fernwood Avenue is known as a Blood territory and home to the Lil Heads, also known as the Smith Park Boys.

In a Lil Heads music video posted this spring, one rapper says, "[Forget] da crabs, dis Bloods."

In gang culture, "crabs" is a derogatory term used by Bloods to describe Crips.

"We look at every situation and try to prioritize the threat," Sergeant Heffernan said. "If we see something on a social media site, like YouTube, Facebook, or Twitter where we think it's a credible threat, we're going to act on that. A lot of times we're unable to tell if it's a credible threat or not, and quite frankly, there's so much bragging and baloney on there that a lot of it is hard to take seriously."

Sergeant Heffernan declined to say whether any cases have been solved using information found on social media sites, but added that Toledo police have been using the tools for years.

"I think that when somebody gets on a video like that with a firearm and acts in a violent fashion, that they're making a statement about who they are and what their lifestyle is about," the sergeant said. " … I can't explain why people do the things they do."

Police have said this year that a number of shootings and homicides are gang related, including the recent killing of a 1-year-old girl.

Police believe that the shooters thought they were firing into a Moody Manor apartment -- claimed by the Manor Boys -- to take down a member of the Cherry Woodz, a gang at the Greenbelt Place apartments.

Keondra Hooks was shot once in the head when at least 12 rounds were fired on Aug. 9 into an apartment where she and her sister were sleeping. Keondra died 12 hours later at Mercy St. Vincent Medical Center. Her sister, Leondra Hooks, 2, was shot in the chest but survived.

Three men, all Manor Boys, have been arrested and charged with obstructing official business. Keshawn Jennings, James Moore, and Antwaine Jones are all in the Lucas County jail in lieu of a $500,000 bond.

Contact Taylor Dungjen at: tdungjen@theblade.com, 419-724-6054, or on Twitter @tdungjen_Blade.

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