Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Citizens' Police Academy: Terrorism and Gangs

Annette Dashofy is currently enjoying a long-overdue vacation with her husband, but sent in the following post on the Citizens’ Police Academy, which she attended before leaving. Gina will be stepping in to answer questions and respond to comments in Annette’s absence.

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


Anonymous said...

Annette/Gina, great post. I ride on the busway and I'm amazed at the graffiti - some of it is art (and most of it's not) but I always wonder, how do they get up there? There's graffiti on rooftops and chimneys, and one long string on the side of an elevated highway underpass. I've noticed a lot more of it in the Strip District lately, and it's not the artistic type - just an initial tag repeated along someone's wall. I wish they wouldn't do that but I have to say I'm OK with the elaborate ones down by the railroad tracks - who do they offend? The trains?

Anonymous said...

I love that book _The Gift of Fear_. We use it in our training for staff on how not to be taken in by manipulative people. I also use DeBecker's stories about debriefing rape victims as good examples of how people get in trouble when they don't trust their instincts.

Annette said...

Hello from Williamsburg, Virginia!

Martha, what's also amazing is how these guys create those elaborate pieces without being caught. They MUST be time consuming, yet no one ever sees them "in progress." Even Detective Thompson couldn't explain it.

Tory, I really must get that book. It keeps coming up in totally different conversations, so I figure the universe might be trying to tell me something.

I now turn your comments over to Gina as I get back to the business of vacationing.

Joyce Tremel said...

Have fun, Annette!

Ramona said...

Interesting stuff, Annette. A graffiti artist was arrested in my area (Delaware) recently. Dozens and dozens of charges. It was amazing.

Enjoy the vacation!

Ramona said...

Hey, I can post again! Hurrah!

Wilfred Bereswill said...

Great stuff, Annette. The graffetti stuff was an eye opener for me.

By the way, I travel to Williamsburg all the time. These restaurants are a bit pricey, but you can't go wrong.

Aberdeen Barn: Good food, especially steaks.

Josiah Chownings Tavern: George Washington used to come here, so you know it's good. It really gives you the feel of the 1800's

Barrets Saefood - Yummy

The Trellis - The place to be seen

For a fantastic steak and a great view of the golf course, Eagles Restaurant at the Kingsmill Resort and Spa Golf Clubhouse.

Of course for some of the best roller coaster rides and "The Most Beautiful Theme Park in America" go to Busch Gardens.

Anonymous said...

Uh, Wilfred -
I take it you don't know Annette is vegetarian. [Me, too.]

Anonymous said...

Hi Annette - hope you're having a great time.

We live in Edgewood, part of the East End, but kind of a pocket of safety, thanks to the fact that we have our own diligent police department.

Thanks for an enlightening post - and I'll never look at graffiti the same way again, either!

Kathy Sweeney

Wilfred Bereswill said...

Somewhere I remember a big slab of Tofu Steak on the menu. Oh wait! That's Fantasy land in Disney World.

Ok, so Annette, I wouldn't head over to Kingsmill for a meal, but the spa is great.

Anonymous said...

Martha -
Just for clarification, Annette wrote today's blog. I''m just here to answer questions -- isn't anybody going to ask questions?

Annette said...

Just checking in. Wilfred, we ate that the Blue Talon Bistro last night and the King's Arms Tavern today for lunch. Killer vegetable pie. Yum. Now we're resting up before heading to Christiana Campbell's Tavern for dinner. We have 5:30 reservations followed by tickets for the 7PM Legends, Myths and Mysterys Ghost Walking Tour.

I'm going to need a vacation from my vacation.

But I haven't seen one bit of graffiti here. What we did see was some school kids rapping to a guy playing a fife. Now that's something you just don't see every day.

Anonymous said...

Hi Annette and Gina,
this is a great post. There's so much useful information here, both for citizens, but also for writers. How cool it would be to take some of these generalizations and spike them with something unexpected. I guess, something like the housewife selling drugs in Weeds. Something along those lines. Thanks for all the rich information.

Wilfred Bereswill said...

OH, I forgot. The ghost tours are cool. We didn't actually take one, but we just kind of joined in and listened.

Joyce Tremel said...

The ghost tour is great! The one we went on ended in the cemetery of Bruton Parish Church. Very creepy!

Will, I'll be going to Busch Gardens in June. I can't wait to ride the new coaster!

Welcome back Ramona!

Annette said...

Just got in from the ghost tour, although it was more of a storytelling extravaganza. Quite a lot of fun. But I'm exhausted now.

And, Kathie, that really is why I'm reporting on my experiences at give both writers and citizens information to use in their writing and maybe in their life. I've said it before and I'll say it again: if you can possibly find the time to attend one of these Citizen's academies, do it!

Anonymous said...

I second that, Annette. The Citizen Police Academy is one of the most interesting sets of classes I've ever attended. Thank you, Joyce, for letting us know about it.

Joyce Tremel said...

Glad you're enjoying it, ladies!