Webinar presenters Michael Gingold and Shannon Struble answered a number of your questions after their presentation, The Changing Face of Gangs and Criminal Organizations. Here are just a few of their responses.
Audience Question: Are you seeing the hybrid gangs move primarily from violent acts toward white-collar crimes? And if so what type of white-collar crimes in particular?
Michael Gingold: I could say from my personal experience and Shannon chime in if your experience is different. We have actually noticed that most hybrid gangs in the Greater Phoenix area which is Maricopa county here are really focused on drugs, stealing, armed robberies. Anything to make a quick buck. We’ve also noticed them involved in sex trafficking and prostitution. There are some gang members that do move away from violent crimes and do white-collar crimes. The majority of them are staying in the drug trade and prostitution trade things like that that we just discussed. The ones that I have seen involved in white-collar crime are involved in fraud schemes, taking an ID of another. What they would do is either buy or steal personal identifying information of another. They’ll get prostitutes, people that they have acquaintances with through Instagram from other states. They’ll fly them in, they’ll create credits cards with that person that they just flew in their name but the magnetic strip will have a credit card of someone’s personal information that they stole. It will have someone else’s credit card number on it. What they’ll do is they will go to various stores, they’ll charge gift cards. Stores like Walmart will let you take gift cards and launder them into other gift cards. It becomes harder and harder to track where the originating gift card came from. They’re actually laundering the money by doing multiple gift card exchanges. Eventually, they will either use the gift card, give away the gift card, sell away the gift card to either other individuals or sell it to the third-party vendors that will buy “valid gift cards” at a discounted rate. There are online vendors and even kiosk vendors inside some of the grocery stores that will give you like 50 cents on the dollar. For these people, it is a 100% profit because they’ve never paid for that original gift card.
Shannon Struble: In my experience, I’ve seen a lot of these hybrid gangs commit drug sales, the theft, the violent crimes that have to do with making money are what I usually see.
Audience Question: Is the hybrid portion a road to becoming a full gang member? I think that’s kind of from the farm team to an MLB player. Do you see that playing out with hybrid?
Michael Gingold: I consider hybrid gang members to be full-blown gang members. It’s just that instead of acting within their own traditional gang, they’re meeting up with other individuals who have the same personal agenda as them of making money. They’ll just go commit a crime of opportunity to get that money. It’s not that they are working their way up into a major gang. A lot of them are coming from – they’re either not a gang member yet and they are being recruited by these people, or they’re from a more traditional gang and working their way into their own profiteering system with the use of the hybrid gangs as a way to make money for themselves and still benefit their new hybrid gang.
Shannon Struble: We have seen some of the individuals in hybrid gangs that have connections to their neighboorhood gangs go back to their neighborhood gangs but a lot of it they are staying with their hybrid gangs committing these crimes to make money.
Michael Gingold: I can think of one case that we currently have pending now so I can’t talk too much about it other than I’ll say that we have a group of kids that were formerly from PMSK, committed crimes as PMSK, committed a series of violent offense and are now claiming Hollywood 39th Ave. They actually went backward. They went from this hybrid gang into a Hollywood 39th Ave which is a traditional street gang. For me, that’s been the exception here in Phoenix
Audience Question: We have a hybrid gang that just changed their name to YSP. They also claimed rolling 20s Crips. When documenting a hybrid gang member, would you recommend documenting them under the traditional gang name or the hybrid gang name which may be changing frequently?
Michael Gingold: I think it’s really up to the law enforcement’s interview and what they say in that particular interview. Our detectives here have traditionally documented them under both. For example, if we talk about YSN here in our presentation, we talked about an individual who was Westside City Crips which is what our biggest Phoenix criminal Crips at. The first time they interviewed him, he was talking about Crips. He had Crips tattoos, he was wearing Crips colors. They documented him as a Crip member. The second they talked to him for a different crime, they realized he was associating with this hybrid gang YSN. They documented him under YSN but then also took note of all his Crips identifiers. They also documented him as a Crips member. I personally from a personal standpoint, I don’t see anything wrong with doing multiple documentations. The more information the better. You want to be as thorough as you can in your documentation. You definitely want to explain where you got your information from and your documentation too. That’s probably going to help your prosecution.
Shannon Struble: I think as long as you can meet 2 of the seven criteria for each of the gangs, I think it’s would be extremely helpful if you have both of the gangs listed in what we call a gimmick cart. Whoever your jurisdiction have that information laid out for you guys. The individual that Mike has referenced as far as YSN, one of the prosecutions was for his conduct with YSN. There was also another prosecution for his conduct where he was proclaiming Westside City when he committed his crime. Both of those documentations led to prosecutions for him being a part of both of those gangs. If we didn’t have the documentation for both of those gangs, it would be a lot harder to prosecute him for both of those crimes.
Audience Question: Are there special rules of regulations when documenting juveniles as part of a system lightening up?
Michael Gingold: Not for us. As long as you comply with your general rule, you can’t coerce people. It has to be a voluntary conversation, things of that nature. There are no special rules. Obviously, if you are doing it as part of an interrogation. In Arizona, we have juvenile Miranda warnings which are very similar to normal Miranda warnings but they also include a notice to the suspect or defendant that they have a right to have a parent present. You have to follow those protocols but as long as you are legally talking to someone and you are not forcing them, you are not detaining them to talk to you and they don’t want to be detained unless you have a reason to lawfully detain them, everything’s fine. One of the challenges we have in Arizona lately though is that if you make contact with a gang member, you don’t Mirandize them but you are just talking to them while in custody. Your interrogation is over for the case you are investigating and then you are doing booking information or even flip that even prior to getting into your current investigation prior to Miranda, you are talking about his gang affiliation and that person is prosecuted 2, 3, 4, 5 years later for a totally separate crime. Sometimes, we are getting challenges to using those gang members identification cards in our future prosecutions because that information was not taken post-Miranda. I hope that makes sense to the way I worded it. We are finding that some judges are precluding(?) our use of gang information on a defendant because the gang information was taken prior to Miranda. I personally don’t think the law really tracks that way. That is some of the rulings that we are getting. That’s where my bureau has a little bit of disagreement with some of the rulings of the bench. That’s the way it goes. Now when I teach at various gang classes, gang liaison officer classes I always suggest that if they are doing documentation based on an interview in another case, they might want to do it post-Miranda. Obviously, if you just stopping on the street, talking to someone and they are talking to you, Miranda wouldn’t apply in that situation. If you are investigating a crime you might want to do it post Miranda. I always leave that to law enforcement, their policies, their procedures.
Shannon Struble: I have prosecuted gang members where we have documentation from when they were juveniles and we are able to use that information from when they were juveniles up until to their adulthood. The biggest this is just following when they were juveniles is to follow the set rules that you have in your jurisdiction might be using the juvenile Miranda rights.
Audience Question: I know that you talked about the benefits of the gang and the fact that they have a party and you are able to use that to prove the benefits of the gang. Jody is wondering if you could provide additional examples of how you proved the benefits of the gang, especially with these hybrid gangs?
Michael Gingold: With PMSK, what we’re finding is that they are becoming very bold and brave. Every time they commit crimes now that they are exclaiming PMSK, they’ve moved away from what I would consider a hybrid gang and are recruiting directly into a true hardcore traditional gang that happens to migratory throughout the entire greater Phoenix area. We have a lot of problems prosecuting them and the gang when they were hybrid gangs because we didn’t know how they were benefitting the gang. The key to that is the officer interview is when we get admissions from other members. I know that is not the best answer but it really comes down to what we see on social media and what we are seeing from our police interviews. With PMSK, them committing these crimes and then posting about it on social media was helping them actually recruit further gang members. I believe you can articulate that that’s benefitting the gangs because it’s increasing your membership which is going to increase your profit which is going to increase the fear of people in the neighborhood regardless if it’s Phoenix, Tempe, Chandler. All of the suburbs kids are migratory. You can prove benefit that way because they are expanding their numbers. In YSN we found that in some cases, and Shannon can chime in here, she prosecuted all of the YSN people, is that they started to act with the same group of people in a lot of situations. They were basically taking away people’s cellphones and things of that nature that we can use to show that they are trying to turn their profit.
Shannon Struble: There is a lot of intel specifically with YSN that they are just going to sell those phones for profit. And every time they are selling or grabbing someone’s property from them, it wasn’t the same person over and over that was grabbing the property. It was different individuals. They kind of have their own setup on how they are going to go about it so it would be a different individual that would grab that property. There was intel that they are going to sell that property to make money. Each person would be making money at different times.
Audience Question: We have a couple of questions that have come in regarding hybrid gangs in prisons. Are you seeing that hybrid gangs either involved in smuggling contraband into prisons or maybe some of those traditional prison gangs are reverting to hybrid gangs?
Michael Gingold: The only thing that I have really seen is that at least our prison gangs here are still really traditional prison gangs segregated by race or ethnicity. They are trying to better themselves for their prison politics but some of them will work together. Some of the different groups will work together. Mexico Mafia(?) will work with other groups that you wouldn’t expect them to, to help with the drug trade on the outside and making money or things of that nature even inside trying to make money. We’ve had some cases where Mexico Mafia(?) is working with few AB(?) members to run drugs, launder money, extortion, things of that nature. It’s not quite as common as we see on the street but I think it’s going to be a growing practice. It’s also hard within the confines of the prison which in my entire career has traditionally been segregated by race, ethnicity, culture, things of that nature.
Shannon Struble: I think our prisoners are trying to integrate a lot of the races. We may see more of that when a lot of these programs come out. Most of what we see is along the traditional lines of either racial ethnicity, not so much the hybrid gang stuff.
Audience Question: As part of hybrid gangs, have you seen any international links?
Michael Gingold: I have not seen any international links in any of our cases. What we have seen is people personally, I’ve seen people from the Greater Phoenix area coming together from different gangs. I’ve seen people from Chicago come into the Phoenix gangs to create hybrid gangs. I’ve seen people from Tennessee to come into Phoenix and create a more hybrid gang. I’ve not seen anything international. That doesn’t mean that that doesn’t exist. It’s just something that has not been on our local radar.
Shannon Struble: I haven’t like that either. It is mostly some individuals coming from the midwest to Arizona that are bringing those types of influences to Arizona.