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Youth gangs on the rise

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125th St. and Old Broadway, Harlem. Photo by Lisa Evers 125th St. and Old Broadway, Harlem. Photo by Lisa Evers
NEW YORK (MYFOXNY) -

New York City Police are increasingly turning to Facebook in the battle against gang violence.

Police say 320 youth gangs are operating citywide and are to blame for 40-percent of the city's shootings.

Some gangs have members as young as six-years-old.

500 officers recently swarmed two Harlem housing projects, arresting dozens of young men allegedly involved in shooting, stabbings, robberies, and more.

"No one in this city should hear gunshots or be afraid to have their child go to school or have their parents go to the grocery store,” says Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance Jr.

40% of the shootings in America’s biggest city are blamed on gangs or “youth crews” with members as young as 14, often battling over turf. The crews are street smart, but cops say dumb enough to post threats and boast of shooting on Facebook and other social media.

NYPD Commissioner William Bratton says, "Make no mistake about it, the motivation here oftentimes is not about drugs. It's just violence for violence's sake."

Community activists say poverty is to blame.

"When people have less, they try to make the best with the less that that have sometimes the less is their block,” said Vernon Williams, a former gang member and ex-con. “ If I have nothing else, I got the love for my block and I want to look good and I want to be safe and I want to eat. And sometimes that translates into violence."

Rev. Vernon Williams is working to convince teens to find a better path and says crews are now actively recruiting little kids to join the ranks.

"I have known them to be as young as six,” said Williams. “No brag. Just fact. I have known them to be as young as six."

Activist Iesha Sekou is working with at-risk teens in some of the city’s roughest neighborhoods.

“We have to be careful and not criminalize our young people and not criminalize their parents and look towards changing language, helping to change some of the behavior and the things they see,” says Sekou. “If this is what they're surrounded with, this is what they will become.”

And there are fears that violence could escalate in the summer months.

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