Tthe current criminal underworld is characterized not by the Mafia dons and heroin kings of yesteryear but by a chaotic universe of warring, decentralized ganglets. And the members are less likely to be battle-hardened parolees than “puppies,” adolescent gangbangers who are too young to have a driver’s license but who are committing violent crimes at alarming levels. “A few years ago, you would see kids 19, 20 years old,” says one NYPD veteran who works the gang beat in Harlem. “Now these kids are babies—15, 14—and they are vicious. They will shoot you in a heartbeat and not think twice about it.”
So who are they? And where are they? “Everywhere,” says Michael Hines, a gang mediator at the city-funded Council for Unity. “It’s not like the old days, where you had Bloods and Crips and there was a political ideology. These kids just get together, call themselves whatever.” But with so many crews and cliques—Money Over Bitches, Vatos Locos, 40 Wolves, Gun Clappin Goonies, Get Money Boys, From Da Zoo, the New Dons, 28 Gunnaz, Stack Money Family, and so on—it’s hard for even the most connected gangbanger to keep everybody straight.