On Tuesday, New York Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly announced plans to beef up the NYPD's cyber crackdown by expanding the use of aggressive online investigative tactics and doubling the size of the gang unit to 300 investigators.
The reinforcements will focus less on established gangs like the Bloods and Crips and more on loosely knit groups of teenagers who stake out a certain block or section of a housing project as their turf and exact vengeance on those who trespass or fail to show the proper respect.
"By capitalizing on the irresistible urge of these suspects to brag about their murderous exploits on Facebook, detectives used social media to draw a virtual map of their criminal activity over the last three years," the commissioner said in remarks prepared for delivery at a law enforcement convention in San Diego.
Examples of the public displays of digital bravado abound. In the Brooklyn case, suspects sought to intimidate informants by posting court documents containing their names, authorities said. In another throwdown, the Rockstarz posted a photo of a Very Cripsy member and the comment, "He is scared. Look at him."
Police say much of the potentially incriminating material they gather can be found on Facebook profiles that are public.
But as part its new, stepped-up efforts, the department will refine and expand use of a tactic instrumental in the three-year Brooklyn gang investigation - having officers adopt Internet aliases, create phony profiles and seek to "friend" suspects to gain access to nonpublic information, officials said.