The "we" in question were members of several Boston gangs -- St. Joseph, Castlegate, Academy, and the Tremont Street Smokers -- who formed SCAT about a year ago, a force that's been mutating and metastasizing ever since. The latest line-up, says one founding member, also includes the Franklin Hill Giants, the X-Men, the Four Corners Pirates, and two relatively new posses, the Vikings and the Timberwolves. Operating under the moniker SCAT GXV 4CP, this streetwise syndicate, according to gang members and youth workers, now boasts more than 500 members, including hangers-on and wanna-bes.
Sources say the school setting played a major role this year as gang hook-ups went through the transition from alliances to mergers. The student-assignment process was thrown into disarray this fall after the Boston School Committee voted to shut some high schools at the 11th hour, upsetting fragile territorial boundaries. Some gang members suddenly found themselves sitting in the same classroom with their street rivals. The result, sources say, was double-bladed: some gangsters discovered that the dudes they'd been jamming with from afar weren't such bad guys when they got to know them up close, facilitating the formation of combines. At the same time the re-assignments placed long-time adversaries in each other's faces all day, a situation that led to schoolhouse feuds that spilled over into the streets, and to guys arming themselves in school against rivals who'd tear their heart out as soon as the bell rang. A recent three-gang showdown in Mattapan was retraced to some badmouthing on a school bus. One non-gang kid recently complained to a cop: "Man, I don't even want to go to school."
But for the gangs themselves, these posse partnerships have boosted their long-term survival chances by building their ranks. The mergers have also allowed them to increase their marketplace power. When gangs make peace, "everybody makes money," one cop says. "It's basically a thing where you have dealing rights on their turf if you're down with them."
Another reason for unity is to leverage greater product-buying possibilities. "It goes back to the old thing of, 'Why should we just spend $3000 on shit when we can put our money together and get $6000, $7000 worth of shit?'" says the Boston cop. "At UPS, you've got a lot more buying power than as Intervale." The gangs also purchase guns together, according to a source.
The big gun buy that was traced to Georgia last year, according to one cop, was a Castlegate-Intervale joint venture, two gangs throwing in together to buy firearms during a truce period.
How solid these syndicates are is anybody's guess. When push comes to shove, their bonds could be as thin as the spray paint that marks their initials. But the mere fact that the gangsters are thinking on such a large scale as some people worried.
"Not all of this stuff is on the surface enough to put all the pieces together," says Gerry Nuzzolo, a youth worker at Grover Cleveland Community School, in Dorchester. "But I see more and more that there's a lot of shit in place. Too much. There's too many of these clowns out there who are foolish enough to say, 'Hey, we've got all this power, we're not just gonna sit here with it. We've got to do something.' I just don't see the summer going by without that getting used."