I’m one of those people old enough to remember when gangs were a big deal during the late 1980s and most of the 1990s. While the Crips and the Bloods feud is the most well-known in recent American history, many other local gangs have either been around during the same time or have popped up since that time.
One interesting thing I have noticed about today’s gangs in Boston vs. their predecessors of 20 years ago is the engagement in illegal activity. 20 years ago, that was their primary and preferred source of income and most were high school dropouts. Today most do normal, honest work or are really good students at school. Another difference is the age makeup. 20 years ago the majority of them were between the ages of 12 and 32. Today, the age range is 16 to 24.
One comparison of note in Boston especially is the violence both between gangs and their unsuspecting victims: 20 years ago acts of violence and homicides were carried out discreetly or at night. Today there is no preference as to the timing. Once they have targeted something and they feel like it, they will strike. While discretion is thrownout the window today there is a silver lining: They have a fall guy ready when there are “accidents”. By accidents I mean innocents are hurt/killed. They have a sense of honor in that way, usually either one of the people involved in the hit or someone with a clean record if the victim can’t/won’t identify their attacker. Back in the day, Gangsters gladly took up the role of vigilantes, meteing out their own “justice” in place of the law. Today, it’s much more simple: An eye for an eye.
H-Block is the name of the gang in the neighborhood where I live. Their primary territory is Humbolt Ave. from Seaver St. to Martin Luther King Boulevard and the connecting side streets as well as The Mall of Roxbury. They also claim Seaver St. from the intersection of Seaver and Humbolt Ave. to Egleston Sq. including the square itself. They are known to Boston Police and prefer to keep a low profile. They don’t really get into it with neighboring gangs due to their small numbers. According to one source they number less than 50 and it’s for that reason their focus is patrolling just their own territory.
Rival gang members who enter their territory are verbally and physically threatened. If the rival does not leave things get violent. According to my source their arsenal is “small but formidable” so they avoid using guns without a good reason. Again, these gangsters are organized and very intelligent. My source is a member of H-Block and only agreed to share this informnation with me under the condition I do not disclose their identity. Even so I wouldn’t expect them to tell me their real name off the record. The gang does not bother the general public who live in their territory. In fact, most wouldn’t know they were talking to a member of H-Block at a glance. If you’re a new face, they will not bother you if you do not present yourself as a threat to them. The ethnic makeup is primarily African-American though according to my source there are some Hispanic, Asian and Caucasian members as well.
Not gonna lie, much of what my source has told me about H-Block were likely picked up from the movies, Music and the TV Show The Wire. The Wire was a TV show about a fictional urban gang in Baltimore. After watching the first episode on Netflix last night it easy for me to see why so many of these new gangs have been using it as a blueprint. Everything you want to know about starting and running a gang in the ‘Hood can to learned from watching the TV series.
It is interesting to note there is no initiation to join H-Block. Your membership is prettymuch a given if you live within their territory. H-Block does have a presence on Social Media (which I will not link to for obvious reasons) but they do not advertise themselves. My source did not disclose any gang signs or symbols. I drew two conclusions from that. Either they didn’t use one or they didn’t trust me enough at the time to show me. I’m assuming the latter though the former is also possible. The person I talked to did not have any identifying marks or symbols that would even make it known to other gang members they were with H-Block.
When it comes to acts of violence in the City of Boston, Boston Police can tell fairly quickly if it was a lone wolf or a group/gang that did the crime. Lone wolves are usually caught within days or weeks. Gang members…they take a bit longer unless they have a fall guy ready. Almost forgot one thing I missed until now: You know how usually if you join a gang you’re in it for life? If you move away, H-Block won’t hold it against you. That’s just life. As long as you don’t betray your former “family” later you’ll still have their protection if you ask for it.
Tnis is just part 1 of my three-part blog on gangs in Boston. The next article highlights another gang in the ‘Hood.
Yes, I have been actively seeking out gang members for the insider information. yes, I tell them up-front why. No, I don’t feel scared being around people 10+ years younger than me who are not cops freely showing off weapons. Oh and no, I never go alone. I’m not that careless BUT as long as you don’t act nervous or weird around them you have nothing to worry about.
As an aside: If someone in the neighborhood was a victim of a heinous crime, well…for the suspect’s on safety he’d better hope the cops find him first!