MEMPHIS, TN (abc24.com) — Gangs are going high tech to recruit kids. Believe it or not, kids as young as 9 years old are being lured into a life of crime on Facebook. Shelby County prosecutors say there's been a spike in violence and social media is partly to blame. Not only are gangs using social media sites like Facebook to recruit new members, gangs are also using these sites for intimidation and to bring notoriety to themselves.
"Some gangs are wide open and you can go online and they'll tell you, ‘I'm a Crip for life’ or a ‘Blood for life,’" said the Shelby County Chief Gang Prosecutor, Ray Lepone.
Lepone says it's yet another hurdle for law enforcement as street gangs move their dirty work to the web.
"Now where you may have to talk to a kid walking down the street, you're able to lure them into this lifestyle using the media itself because you can get in contact with so many individuals at one time,” he said.
It's a scary new reality. In recent court cases, Lepone used Facebook to help convict gang members. Unfortunately, he says social media sites have also made it easier for gangs to pull kids in.
"One way to recruit, especially young kids, to get in the gang lifestyle is to get into the glorification of it and what better way to do that than through the social media," said Lepone.
As popular as Facebook is with kids, Lepone warns parents to be on the lookout and make sure to know who's communicating with their kids online. One obstacle prosecutors face is when evidence is deleted online, but Lepone says there are many ways to retrieve incriminating photos that are posted on the web.