Boston-police pronouncements would lead you to believe that the city's gang cancer has been localized in a hardcore crime crew operating in Roxbury, Dorchester, and Mattapan. In fact, the "illin' " -- going crazy on somebody -- has spread beyond the confines of the inner city to the downtown area, South Boston, Brighton, Roslindale, and Jamaica Plain. And Boston's gang members have hip-hopped the city's borders, according to police and street sources, starting satellites that engage in such traditional gang activities as marauding and/or illicit money-making in such outlying areas as Chelsea (X-Men), Cambridge (Castlegate, Corbet Street Crew, Hill Boys, Humboldt Raiders, Vamp Hill Kinds), Lynn (Columbia Point Dawgs, Franklin Hill Giants, Orchard Park Trailblazers), Waltham (Orchard Park), Brockton (Humboldt, Intervale), West Medford (Intervale), and Dedham (Corbet).
Last month, while Mayor Ray Flynn was unveiling his much-ballyhooed Safe Neighborhoods Plan to end gang violence, local gangs were continuing their expansion plans: plotting the latest mergers -- friendly and hostile takeovers designed to consolidate personnel and increase drug-and-gun purchasing power. According to police sources, gang green is allegedly being laundered through legitimate businesses in Boston owned by Darryl Whiting, whom law-enforcement sources have marked as the man who would be godfather of Boston's gangs. (See "Gang Godfather or Mean Streets Robin Hood," in the April 27 Phoenix.)
And now, in their latest see-no-evil spin, Boston-police officials have asked the public to believe that the posse problem would disappear if only the media would stop citing the names of gangs in its stories. (Boston-police officials refused numerous requests to be interviewed for this article, insisting that they would not discuss the inner workings of gangs.) Meanwhile, down on the blocks from Brighton to the 'Bury, gangs continue to be a major growth industry. Kids on the low rungs make, maybe, $50 a day as lookouts; but some savvy homeboy entrepreneurs routinely take in $1000 daily from their crack dealerships -- as much as $5000 if they're in a management position. They're employing everything from hand-held police scanners to automatic weapons to protect their investments and solidify their hold on one of the more thriving enterprises of the city's multi-million dollar underclass/underground economy -- Gangs, Incorporated.
The evolution of gangs
Boston's gang scene has come very far, very fast. Until the mid '80s, neighborhood historians say, the inner-city had no real street gangs to speak of. Indeed, much of the heroin and cocaine trade -- centered in places like Grove Hall's Sonoma Street -- was controlled by out-of-towners, long-distance dealers who traveled in from New York and Detroit. "Boston was considered a weak little town that couldn't even control its own underground economies," says Franklin Tucker, head of the Barron Center, where Boston Public School kids are sent for assessment if they're busted with a weapon. "So people from out of state came in to control them."
And then came the Corbet Street Crew, the forerunner of Boston's soon-to-come gang crisis.