Citizens' Police Academy: Terrorism and Gangs

I’m a little late posting this, but hubby and I were away for a few days on a much needed vacation.

(Cross posted on Working Stiffs)

We had another two-parter this week, beginning with Detective Ashley Thompson’s presentation on CAT Eyes, or Community Anti-Terrorism. It’s a nationwide program developed to eliminate racism and terrorism through educating and empowering the average citizen to defend our homeland against terrorism.

One of the main points Detective Thompson wanted to make was that we should watch for a person’s actions. Not what they look like, but what they’re doing. He asked us to use our instincts. Listen to those gut feelings when you notice someone acting suspicious. And he recommended the book The Gift of Fear by Gavin DeBecker, if you’re interested in personal safety or crime prevention.

The general profile of a terrorist is someone who is intelligent, well educated, obsessed with initiating change. He (or she…not all terrorists are men) is 22 to 25 years old and middle class to affluent. However, remember these are generalizations.

There are two categories of terrorism: Domestic and International. Domestic is US citizen against US citizen and happens ALL THE TIME. Think neo-Nazis, the KKK, black supremacist groups, etc. All extremists are not terrorists…at least not until they commit an act of violence.

International terrorism happens less often here on US soil. And not all international terrorists are from the Middle East.

Terrorists often use a “safe house.” You may notice a few suspicious aspects of such a house. The occupant (the terrorist) will use an outside phone. They pay the rent in cash and won’t permit the landlord or maid inside. They have no furniture, but the space may be filled with lab equipment. There will be strange comings and goings, lots of different people and there will be unusual packages delivered. Occupants keep unusual hours.

If you’re thinking, this sounds like a drug house, you’re right.

Terrorists need to raise funds. Some of their methods to come up with cash are coupon fraud (clipping coupons and cashing them in illegally to a store owner); counterfeit baby formula (watered down formula—this happens more in other countries, not so much here); cigarette smuggling (this brings in BILLIONS of dollars each year in the US); illegal drugs (Afghanistan produces 70 to 90% of the world’s supply of opium); credit card theft/identity theft; and something as simple as fake non-profits. Those canisters in the 7-11 asking for your spare change…do you really know if those are legit charities???

We received so much information in this CATS Eyes Basic Program that I can’t begin to cover it all here. Basically, we need to all keep our eyes open, be alert to suspicious activities, listen to our instincts, and report those activities to the authorities. There may be an ongoing investigation that your input could assist.

If you ever get a chance to take this program, do it. We all need to do our part to protect our corner of the world.

Besides, we got a really cool certificate of completion for taking the program.

The second half of the evening was devoted to the Pittsburgh Police Intelligence Unit and gang awareness. The Intelligence Unit’s role is identification ONLY. Pittsburgh does not have a “gang unit.” And not all of their work is gang related. However, gangs were the topic covered this week.

Pennsylvania doesn’t currently have laws on the books concerning gangs, but they’re working on it.

Gangs started appearing in Pittsburgh in the 1980’s and 90’s in the East End. NOW there are gangs in every neighborhood in the city, with around 1000 identified gang members. In Pittsburgh, unlike the West Coast, gangs are less concerned with territory and more concerned with money and drugs. Here, Crips and Bloods often work together.

Gang identifiers include clothing. They wear their colors: Crips wear blue, Bloods wear red, but they adapt and aren’t stupid or obvious. The red may be a bandana or red shoe laces or belt loops or may be something worn under a shirt. The current trend is an oversized white shirt and baggy pants or t-shirts custom air-brushed with a gang identifier.

Other identifiers are hand signs: non verbal communications in which the fingers are placed in ways to “spell out” the gang’s initials.

There is also the use of slang, but it changes all the times. “Cuz” is currently a Crip greeting. “Geyer” said in a kind of growl refers to the Geyer Street gang in the North Side.

Tattoos are either used by all members of a gang or NO members of a gang.

Graffiti can be used as a warning, to challenge rivals, to put out a contract, or as a sign of respect for a fallen gang member.

Not all graffiti is gang related. A TAG is the most basic and prevalent type. A PIECE is a large, labor-intensive artsy works of graffiti, possibly with 3-D effects. These are almost masterpieces and are sometimes considered museum quality. Then there are THROW UPS, multi-colored and balloon-shaped.

None of these are gang related. Gang graffiti uses symbols, numbers, and characters and may identify a gangs ideology, territory, enemies, or allies.

Here are some of the things you may see and their translation.

OG: Original Gangster
LOC: Love of Crips
MOB: Money Over Bitches or Member Of Blood
CK: Crip Killer
BK: Blood Killer

Crips will mark x’s through their o’s because there are o’s in Blood.

Finally, as a citizen, remember the four R’s of Graffiti:
Read it
Report it
Record it (take a picture)
Remove it (quickly)

I know I won’t drive through the city and look at all that graffiti in the same way ever again.

Next week: Recognizing the Explosive Threat

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