NEW YORK (AP) — More than 100 alleged gang members were charged Wednesday for what law enforcement officials called a decades-old feud that wreaked violence and death over two Harlem public housing developments.
"These three gangs were not sophisticated drug-trafficking organizations," said Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance in announcing the two indictments. "Far from it, they were young people protecting their territories from imaginary threats and avenging the murders of fellow gang members and loved ones."
The 103 suspected gang members face charges including conspiracy to commit murder, attempted murder and gang assault.
Forty suspects from three gangs were arrested in early morning raids in Harlem, 39 were already jailed on other offenses and the rest were being sought in what Vance called the largest gang case in New York City history.
The crews warred over territory for two city housing developments, the General Grant Houses and the Manhattanville Houses, and their feuding and vendetta attacks are thought to have resulted in the 2011 shooting death of a nationally-ranked high school basketball star named Tayshana "Chicken" Murphy, Vance said.
Murphy, 18, was shot and killed in the General Grant Houses. Two men convicted and sentenced to 25 years to life for her slaying were members of the Make It Happen Boys crew, Vance said. But Murphy's brother is alleged in the indictment as being a member of 3Stacks, Vance said, and is charged with conspiracy of the first degree.
Commissioner William Bratton, who attended the early morning raids Wednesday, said much of the violence was senseless.
"It's just violence for violence sake," he said at a press conference. "Feuds over nothing."
Investigators from Vance's office worked with gang squad detectives and Department of Correction officials to review more than 1 million Facebook pages, tens of thousands of phone calls from the Rikers Island jail complex and hundreds of hours of video footage in preparing the case, Vance said.
Surveillance video, taken from cameras in the buildings' elevators, hallways and grounds, were a major benefit to investigators, Bratton said. But not all public housing developments have video. Nearly 60 percent of the city's public housing buildings don't have a single camera installed — including one in Brooklyn where two small children were stabbed Sunday, one fatally.
"We embrace it, we need it," Bratton said of crime-fighting technology such as camera systems. "There's not a case I get briefed on in my crime briefings or my counterterrorism briefings each morning that doesn't have some significant technology component to it."
The crews — called 3Stacks, Make it Happen Boys and Money Avenue — are alleged to have used more than 50 weapons over the past four years, some of which were transported by kids as young as 10, and are responsible for two killings and 19 nonfatal shootings, among other crimes, Vance said. The youngest gang member charged is 15 years old, he said.
Police officials estimate nontraditional street crews comprised of school-aged youngsters account for about 40 percent of shootings citywide.
The suspects are expected to be arraigned in Manhattan Criminal Court on Thursday.