The staggering number of gangs poses a unique problem for Boston lawmen as they scramble to find the ruthless killer of three young women Sunday night on Harlem Street.
Suffolk District Attorney Daniel F. Conley, whose office revealed the shocking tally yesterday, said gang-linked murders make up the “bulk” of the city’s homicides.
“When these worlds collide, it could be at a barbecue or a house party, and when you couple that with easy access to firearms and young people who aren’t developmentally adjusted enough to not act in a split second of ferocious violence, it’s a recipe for trouble,” the DA said.
But the gangs themselves also differ from those in other major cities, experts said. Hub crews identify themselves by streets, neighborhoods and housing projects, and largely lack ties to well-known national gangs such as the Latin Kings, Crips and Bloods, save for pockets in East Boston, Chelsea and Revere, Conley said.
It leaves them to create their own identifiers — sometimes among as few as a dozen members — that can include team logos and hats.
Raffi Yessayan, a Quincy lawyer who spent seven-plus years in the Suffolk DA’s gang unit, including the last four as its chief, said a gang indicator of a Pittsburgh Pirates logo once sparked a shooting.
“It’s not anything overly sophisticated,” he said.
Boston police Commissioner Edward F. Davis said yesterday the horrific Harlem Street massacre was “gang-related.”
But as the families of the promising young women prepared to bury their dead, Conley stopped short of saying the slayings were linked to gang activity.
Yet authorities were working on the theory that Sharrice Perkins, Kristen Lartey and Genevieve Marie Phillip, all 22, and a fourth woman who survived the shocking shootings were “selected.”
Davis said the women were “definitively targeted,” and he later told the Herald one of the victims “has a criminal history,” but he declined to say which.
“All I know is three beautiful lives were taken,” said the Rev. Gary Adams, Perkins’ cousin, as Boston’s Ten Point Coalition offered a $2,000 reward for information leading to the killer’s arrest. “There’s no explanation that could make sense.”
According to the most recent FBI data, gangs are responsible for 48 percent of violent crime nationally, but in some states, including Massachusetts, it can be as high as 90 percent. The FBI gang list clumps the Colombo Crime Family with the notorious Boylston Street gang, H Block and Franklin Hill and Franklin Field groups of Boston.
“The majority of gang violence in this country happens by a chance encounter,” said Al Valdez, a gang expert and head of the criminal justice program at Westwood College in Anaheim, Calif. “Culturally speaking, violence is the language of street gangs. Everything is settled with that. The simplest solution for them is murder.”