STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. --- They wear colors. They have hand signals. They have their own tattoos, their own beads, their own graffiti tags.
They may rob or assault you.
More likely, they're looking to steal your fancy iPhone, but they are also interested in recruiting your firstborn.
The gangs are on the prowl. In addition to the Bloods, the Crips, and the Latin Kings, the NYPD has been targeting what appears to be a newer trend of organized gang crime -- one that aims to recruit children as young as 8.
Youth crews, youth gangs, are responsible for 30 percent of the shootings in the city, according to Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly. The NYPD is looking to stamp out this activity, which means parents have to get involved.
To that aim, the NYPD's Juvenile Justice Division held a youth summit Wednesday night inside the Gerard Carter Community Center in Stapleton.
The crews are also known for making use of social media such as Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Google +, and Instagram, to send a messages, host events and even recruit members particularly with displays of photos of weed, drugs or money.
This is what the crews or the gangs use to bring the kid in the web, said Sgt. Emmanuel Andre of the Juvenile Justice Division. "They [kids] go on these websites and they show them money, they show them guns. They show them drugs. They show them alcohol." The social media aspect has been helping the police track crews, crew events and criminal activity, Andre said.
Sgt. Andre noted that youth crews are not as established as say, the Bloods or Crips. Instead, they are more localized relating either to a particular building or neighborhood. Popular Staten Island rivalries he noted include: New Brighton vs. West Brighton, West Brighton vs. Mariners Harbor, and Stapleton vs. Park Hill.
Criminal activity for crews started out with cellphones and also iPhones -- a popular year-round robbery items for the crews, he said. In addition, they also look to steal certain types of sneakers, jackets, and even Dr. Dre headphones. They have recently become more sophisticated in terms of crime moving from basic street crimes to more white collar crimes such as credit card scams, check fraud and id theft.
The Juvenile Justice Division was created in 2011, when Kelly began to notice most of the robberies and shootings citywide appeared to be caused by groups containing kids as young as 8.
"[They] were causing the most trouble," said Andre of the Juvenile Justice Division. In response, Kelly formed the division and also created Operation Crew Cut, a city anti-gang initiative that targets well-known gangs as well as youth crews and gangs.
Andre said the crews also use "flaggin'" for identification -- that can include using small beads, bracelets or tattoos to identify the groups they belong to, as well as graffiti on school bags. These seemingly innocent but gang-related details are all signs parents need to look out for and be aware of, said Juvenile Justice Division Commanding Officer Deputy Inspector Michael Nemoyten.
In addition, parents should check their child's Facebook page and friend them on the Internet as well as check their phone photos and text messages and be aware of who they're friends are.
Nemoyten said the NYPD is looking to building a partnership with the community to protect children and crack down on the gang crimes.
"We want to do whatever we can to help save or prevent someone from either committing violence, committing a crime or becoming a victim of a crime," said Nemoyten.
Andre noted that what may appear to be glamorous on the surface, usually ends up bad.
"They show them all these things to bring these kids into the web. What they are not telling them is the end result is only two possibilities -- death or in jail. One or the other."