Now, he plans to extend his influence. He wants to publish a magazine on gang life called B'More Careful. The gang plans to dabble in real estate and open a child care facility called Teachers Teaching Parents - the initials, of course, match Tree Top Piru.
"I'm a smart man," Gary said.
While Gary was locked up awaiting his homicide trial, Shawn was "put down with" - street talk for joined - a gang and then was shot and killed in November on an East Baltimore street. No arrest has been made in his case.
Days after Shawn's death, two makeshift memorials appeared. Family members tied balloons and teddy bears to a street sign near where he was cut down at East Hoffman Street and North Luzerne Avenue. Across the street somebody scrawled gang graffiti on the sidewalk and walls - a letter "B" with an arrow pointing up was written under the words "RIP Shawn," the phrase "one blood" was spray painted in black on the ground.
At his funeral Shawn was laid out in a red sweater. His young friends placed red bandanas on his chest. Red flowers flanked the casket; red shoe laces were worn by some mourners; pictures of Shawn in red were in the obituary.
The crowd of about 200 at the Preston Street funeral home was split into two distinct audiences: his real family and his street family.
In one group, ladies dressed in black skirts, men came out in pinstriped suits. They shouted "Hallelujah!" and "Thank you, Jesus" during the service.
The other half were dressed in street wear: T-shirts and sneakers. Most of them did not join in when the congregation sang and shouted for Jesus, but the preacher tried to reach them. "I encourage every young person here to look at Miss Linda," said Bishop Robert E. Farrow. Later he said, "For the children here, you don't know the pain that you bring on a mother."
Linda Robinson, Shawn's mother, said she didn't believe that Shawn was in a gang until she saw everyone at the funeral. Now she goes to the corners and pleads with witnesses to testify.
Friel, who runs the gang intelligence unit in the Eastern District, said children in blighted neighborhoods have few options.
"It's a matter of finding something positive for these kids," he said. "These [older] guys get a hold of them and let them be a part of something. You get a secret handshake, you get some special clothes, and automatically, you've got 300 friends."
Friel and his officers are often on the lookout for gang colors. If someone is wearing multiple pieces of red clothing, there's a good chance that they will pull up in an unmarked car and strike up a conversation.
One afternoon, the officers chatted with a man who wore a red Boston Red Sox hat and a red leather coat.
"What's up with all the red? You in a gang?" said Detective Louis Holley, a 14-year veteran. "You in a gang?"
"You have Blood love?" Friel asked, holding his digital camera at his side as they all stood on the sidewalk. But the man denied being in a gang, volunteered that he did some time in jail and that he's not interested in gang life.
They parted after a few minutes, and Friel did not take his picture; the officers concluded that he was most likely too old to be connected to gangs and was sporting the colors for fashion's sake.
But if someone admits to a gang affiliation, the officers snap a photo. Tattoos are also noted. The information they gather is entered into a database, and they share intelligence within the department or with other agencies, such as the jail or the school police.
In a small way, Friel said, having gang members openly wearing colors and identifying themselves publicly makes it easier to track criminal activity. "Back in the day, you'd roll up on a corner and wouldn't know who you were dealing with. Now, at least, they stick out more."
Gang problem hemorrhaging
Feeding on drug trade, groups increasingly organized, violent
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