Social media may be fueling gang violence in south LA

LOS ANGELES (NBC LA) Los Angeles police beefed up patrols in South LA after seven shootings left 11 people wounded and one dead between Saturday night and Sunday morning. Now it’s led to a firestorm on social media, with the hashtag #100days100nights claiming a gang war has begun.

“I wouldn’t say we’re in the middle of a gang war,” said LAPD South Bureau Deputy Chief Bill Scott. “We do have a spike of violence and until we really solve these murders and these shootings and know exactly what the causes are, it’s no different than any other cycle of violence.”

Social media posts claim two gangs have claimed a battle to reach 100 kills before the other.

The LAPD has allocated additional resources to South Bureau, including 77th Division, which was handling most of the violent calls over the weekend. But officials say it will stop short of throwing a dragnet over the community over online rumors.

Gang intervention teams who spend their days and nights working with hardcore gang members say they have investigated the social media threats and believe it’s just one way gang members are “banging.”

“They’ve been having issues with each other since the 70s anyway,” said Ben Owens, known as “Taco” on the street. “We’re trying to communicate to the community that this is something that’s being promoted through social media. However, we don’t believe that that’s what either community wants to see happen. We don’t believe that people want to kill 100 people within 100 days.”

“I think that people overestimate gangs,” Owens said, claiming neither gang has the resources or the intent to do so.

Others in the community are admitting fear, though, as they see how gang activity is progressing. Aqeela Sherrills calls himself a peace advocate and doesn’t believe South LA gangs have the ability or the necessity to use social media for violent threats.

“Half the people haven’t heard about it,” he said. “People are hearing about it for the first time on social media.”

Sherrills has lived in Watts for decades.

“People in the neighborhood are crazy, they’re dysfunctional, but they ain’t stupid,” Sherrills says, adding that the online messages list borders and boundaries which is far too much information any gang member would admit to.

“Who’s laying out boundaries and borders and telling us where not to go? Who does that? Ain’t nobody from the streets doing that. Come on, be serious,” he said.

Gang intervention teams have been working for more than a decade deep inside local gangs in an effort to quell certain issues that could become much larger problems.

“Social media is not our friend in doing this work,” says Kevin “Twin” Orange, “it’s the enemy.”

Orange says if the intentions were real, whoever was making the online claim would make themselves known.

“There’s no face to it,” he said. “If somebody was really gonna do a challenge like that, they’re gonna put a face to it, there’s gonna be a name to it and say this is me and we’re about to do that.”

Instead of offering facts, Owens says social media is fanning the flames of anger in South LA.

“I think social media is acting as a scorecard,” Owens said. “Who’s winning the war? And there are no winners. There are no spoils.”

On Monday night, a peace rally was held in South LA, calling for an end to the violence.

NBC Los Angeles’s Beverly White contributed to this report.

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