Does Charlottesville have a gang problem?

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Does Charlottesville have a gang problem?

Todd Lucas is a difficult man to doubt. He is earnest and he is forceful and he is a person possessed of an electric personality channeled through a gleaming sledgehammer of a smile. So if Detective Todd Lucas of the Charlottesville Police Department says that there are gangs operating in a fair city such as this, your tendency is to goddamn well believe him.

Especially now. It is a Friday evening in early spring, the air just beginning to warm, the sun slowly dipping below the western mountains. And Lucas is tucked behind the wheel of his unmarked, two-door white sedan, stuffed in there, really, because he is fairly bulging with radios and handcuffs and badges and whatever else it is that police officers tuck into the front pockets of their bulletproof vests when they leave HQ for a night of jump-outs.


Local gangs, says CPD Detective Todd Lucas, are mostly based around four city neighborhoods.

Lucas is rolling down Sixth Street SE, past a whole pile of kids bunched up outside a housing complex. Gonna ruin their nights, he says, the speedometer hovering just above 25 mph. Sure, he’s in an unmarked car, but he’s cruising slow enough that a quick peek in the car from the sidewalk is enough to make him as a cop, the military buzzcut, the bulk of his vest—black with the word “Police” written in heavy serif font across the front.

And the stare. Lucas is pushing the nondescript car down the block, but he ain’t trying to hide. Even if he was in a room crowded full of white guys in their 30s, the stare would give him away as police. Not intimidating, not threatening. Knowing.

There are toilets flushing across the city tonight, he says as he drives. And it might be bullshit, false talk born of an oversized sense of importance. But one by one, as he rolls down the street, cell phones are flipped open by people on the porches, walking the sidewalks. The word is already spreading. Cops out tonight.

He pushes past Montrose, Elliot, Druid and Palatine. Here Sixth Street peters out, the foliage of Jordan Park just beginning to take on its summer colors. Lucas makes the corner where Rougemont Avenue bumps into the end of Sixth and eases on the brakes, and the tires crackle on the pavement. He stops and throws the car into park and fiddles with the volume on his walkie-talkie tucked into one of his vest’s numerous pockets.

So far there’s been little talk from the three other cars while they move into their positions. An hour before, the task force had huddled in the CPD conference room, where Lucas went over the plan for the night’s first jump-out—who was coming in from what direction, where the runners would probably run.

Tonight is the first time doing jump-outs with the full team. That means there are other CPD detectives, a patrol officer with a baby face and a nervous grin, a detective from the Jefferson Area Drug Enforcement team, an ATF agent and Jim Hope, the gangs and guns detective in Albemarle County, ACPD’s equivalent of Lucas.

The radio quiets against Lucas’ chest for just a few moments as the late movers make their way to positions north of where Lucas sits drumming his fingers on the top of the steering wheel. The car idles. A crackle, then a few words go over the radio. Lucas sits up in his seat and shifts the car into gear—and as he sits there quietly, waiting for the next radio squawk, the go word, there is the sense of swelled potential and banked force, a round being chambered.

If Lucas and Hope and the City of Charlottesville and even Police Chief Tim Longo are to be believed, the gang team is about to jump out into an area of the city where not only does known gang activity go on, but it’s one of the original spots that fostered The Question. For the last six years, The Question has flashed in and out of the light of public thought, tamped down at times, at others pumped to the surface.

The Question is trotted out when something reminds us of it, when we see news reports of gun fire or a group of kids dressed a particular way, and we feel vaguely threatened and we’re not sure why. And this is The Question: Does Charlottesville have a gang problem?


Todd Lucas and the gang task force have picture after picture of graffiti on and around Hardy Drive, the heart of the 10th and Page neighborhood that rep the Project Crud.

Lucas and his crew are about to run up into the South First Street public housing complex in unmarkeds, stomp on their breaks and jump the fuck out like some overproduced Michael Bay movie to see who runs. Then, they are supposed to stop whoever’s running and find out just exactly why it is they are running from cops in vests and black gloves, to see if these people looking for a quick way out of a tightening circle of cops are running for a reason that could possibly be felonious.

It is close to 7pm. The call goes out. Lucas shoots the car forward.
 
For 10 or 15 seconds, there is nothing but the ever-increasing whine of the car’s engine, the breathless headlong motion it creates, and then the radio lights up with chatter—who’s running, who’s ducking, where they are and where they’re going. And if you do not get a spike of adrenaline now, then you, my friend, are a dead man.

The Question

South First Street is one of the gangs that Lucas and the gang team recognize as having a presence in Charlottesville. It also goes by the initials SFS and the name 900 Block, a reference to the address of the housing complex where brick walls sport tags and the grassy pathway between two specific buildings is spotted with the small, plastic zip bags that are regularly used to measure out crack, heroin and other drugs that come in quantities smaller than a Roosevelt dime.

According to the police, SFS is similar to other homegrown gangs like 6-N-0, P-Spect, PJC and Crud Nova, in that it’s a local clique based on a physical location. It was one of four local cliques that Longo named in 2002, when he broke with his predecessor J.W. “Buddy” Rittenhouse and acknowledged that Charlottesville had at least four gangs that, Longo said at the time, may be involved in the sale and distribution of drugs.

Little more than a year into his term as police chief, Longo had drawn a sharp and a politically dangerous contrast from Rittenhouse, who had consistently brushed away talk of gangs in the city. He had taken the previous chief’s assertion—naïve as it might have been—that Charlottesville is a city free of gangs and shot it all to hell.
And he did so by going public with the names of the four gangs police believed were operating in Charlottesville in a Saturday Daily Progress story.

The story appeared the day of the Dogwood Parade. That morning, Longo half-jokingly told his wife, “You need to go down to the Food Lion and start collecting the boxes. Because they’re probably going to run me out of town after this.”

At least, that’s the way Longo tells the story now, but the flat-topped police chief is nothing if not politically savvy. So it’s hard to believe that Longo had played a blind hand by going public with a story that, ultimately, wouldn’t be beneficial to his department.

The incident that sparked Longo’s acknowledgement of gang activity in Charlottesville had taken place three months earlier on Rougemont Avenue. In the early hours between Friday night and Saturday morning on January 5, 2002, gunmen had fired 42 rounds, hitting two people and five vehicles.

Afterwards, the street was littered with casings. The Daily Progress quoted a veteran police sergeant, who called the scene a “war zone.”

The next morning Longo talked with Bob Frazier, who was the commanding officer of the Jefferson Area Drug Enforcement task force (JADE). Longo wanted Frazier and CPD’s general investigations unit to gather any and all possible intelligence on gangs.

Frazier came back with four groups that he believed were responsible for drug trafficking and violent crimes. These were the names that Longo took public: SFS, P-spect, 6-N-O and Project Crud. This was the first public acknowledgement of The Question.

Six years later, Longo still acknowledges that Charlottesville remains a city dealing with gangs. But as to the question of whether it has a gang problem, he turns circumspect.

“I think Charlottesville has a notable presence of gangs and gang activity. We’ve been saying that since 2002,” says Longo. He sits at a round table in his office in the morning, his Blackberry and yellow legal pad next to a coffee mug that reads, “CALL 311—Baltimore Police Non-Emergency.”

“We see it in both cases we investigate and in cooperation with the county. We see it in some of the tagging and graffiti around the city. We see it in some of our interaction with jail personnel who have an opportunity to be exposed to that level of knowledge.”

Early last year, both the city and county police departments moved to formalize the gang team, members of which had been collaborating on an informal level for about two years. Longo calls the task force “an acknowledgement of our regional effort” to address gang activity.
 
“It makes sense when you’re in an environment like this to leverage the resources around you,” he says about the creation of a joint gang task force.

Last September, both Lucas and Hope donned suits and ties to present what they called a Gang Awareness and Education Town Hall Meeting. Area citizens packed into Charlottesville City Council chambers to watch a PowerPoint presentation showing tattoos from various gangs.
 
Scary stuff, especially for the first-time viewer. But while certain photos and videos drew gasps from the audience that was split between older whites and slightly younger, middle-aged African Americans, there also was an undercurrent of skepticism about the reality of hardcore gang bangers stalking the peaceful city streets of Charlottesville, 42 shots fired on Rougemont Avenue notwithstanding.
 
And here is the surface question that almost everyone wanted to know that night: Does Charlottesville have a gang problem? It’s about as loaded a question as you can get, a line of inquiry that can service whatever point of view that takes the trouble to pick it up and start digging.
 
Want to indulge racist tendencies? Then any group of black kids standing around is a gang. Need to make some sense of seemingly random violence? The hyphenated “gang-related” tag works well. Kids wearing white t-shirts starting to cause trouble? Surely they’re putting in work for a gang.

The Question is not so much even a question, but a starting point for other, more specific debates. What constitutes a problem? Are the groups of people that the police are after, those homegrown cliques of local kids with nary a Blood or Crip to be found, are these really gangs?
 
And that’s when we get to The Real Question. What, exactly, makes a gang a gang?

Like any subculture, like any group that exists at the fringes, a gang turns downright amebic when you try to define it. It morphs and mutates itself, working its way around solid terms. Where Lucas might see a gang, another might see a group of friends, possibly up to no good on a hot summer night. Where neighbors might see a loose collection of people looking out for each other, a federal prosecutor might see a RICO case.
 
And where you or I might see some young wannabes thugging it up as laughable, those so-called wannabes see themselves as down for anything—a clique, a crew, a gang.
 
In a TV news story that aired a week or so ahead of the Town Hall meeting that fall, a reporter asked a woman on the Downtown Mall if she thought there were gangs in Charlottesville.

Nice lady, middle-aged and white. Nope, no gangs here, she says. In the background of the shot, on a wall, there was a tag, three circles forming an inverted triangle, which represent a dog paw, which represents a national gang with bodies and drugs galore stamped all over its name. Those three dots are a symbol of The Bloods.

“This is the shit we’re talking about”

Lucas walks quickly after slamming his car to a stop on the south side of the housing complex. His gait threatens to become a jog, and voices jump through a burst of static over his radio telling him that there’s a man on a scooter coming his way, a man who had turned around and puttered off real quick when the other cars came rushing in.

Just as Lucas hits the parking lot next to the complex, here he is, a big man in a white t-shirt on a red scooter, probably in his early 20s, black. Lucas waves his arms at him, his badge and his vest in plain sight, and the man lets off the throttle and comes to a stop.
 
Lucas pitches questions at him quick. “Where you going? Why’d you take off? Where’d you get the scooter? What are you doing riding it in the courtyard?” The questions come heel-to-toe, with just enough pauses between them for the man to sputter out some fragmented answers. It quickly becomes apparent that there’s nothing wrong here, except perhaps for the fact that the man’s riding a scooter through a courtyard where children play.

So Lucas starts asking about the scooter, just to keep talking, switching from grand inquisitor to the type of guy you’d seek out if he tended bar. “Do you like it here? Does the scooter ride good? How about this weather? See any graffiti popping up over here?”

A woman loading up her car in the parking lot yells over to Lucas that this one is a good guy.

“Well, all right, Mr. B____, I appreciate your time,” says Lucas. He follows that with, “If you need anything, let me know.”

Lucas keeps walking, around the corner, then through the courtyard where he sees a family on a porch, their Friday night interrupted with swarming officers in bulletproof vests and pulsing cruiser lights. Lucas seems to know them, and they seem to know Lucas. He stops for a second to talk, to ask what they’ve been seeing around here, any gang stuff, any graffiti, any problem?

Over to the right, on the family’s brick wall, is some graffiti, the letters SFS with a list of names, a roll call. Could be gang-related. Then again, could be kids marking their territory, harmless. This is what’s difficult about pinning down local gangs who are based in one area. What’s the difference between tagging a wall with gang graffiti and innocently repping your neighborhood? The difference lies in the intent, sometimes impossible for the person doing the tagging to distinguish, let alone the cops.

There are two small kids on the porch, chasing each other, oblivious to the flashing lights and men sitting on the curb with their hands behind their backs just a little farther up. An older man on the porch looks up toward the lights, then back at Lucas.

“Is that a stun gun?” he asks, pointing at the black plastic strapped to Lucas’s leg.

“Yeah, that’s a crack-a-lack.”

Up ahead there is a red Buick, its four doors wide open, with three officers searching it. Sharp barks rattle the windows of the K-9 unit parked nearby that’s been called to the scene. The sunlight is getting thin now, as the day turns toward dusk. Meanwhile, Lucas takes one of the four men sitting on the curb, walks him over to a police cruiser and starts to pat him down, all the while talking about the weather. Residents of the complex sit on their porches and watch the whole thing play out.

The search turns up a small bag of marijuana and some ammo or a .22. “Pop the trunk,” one detective tells the other.
 
Out of the trunk comes a long rectangular cardboard box with the words “Shelf Lite” written on it. On it is a picture of a cheap plastic shelf that, from the looks of it, couldn’t hold anything more substantial than half a set of bath towels. But it’s got a strange rattle to it.
 
Out of that box comes an SKS, a rifle that served as a precursor to the AK-47.
 
“This is exactly the shit we’re talking about,” the ATF agent says to the driver, a young man in his late teens or early 20s, “an assault rifle in the projects.”

The driver offers up a weak-ass excuse that most of the task force find hilarious as they’re calling in the serial number on the rifle.

“An SKS for hunting…that’s a good try,” says Hope, laughing at the driver. “Most guys don’t even say that.”

The rifle comes back clean, but the driver’s not getting it back. Hope snaps digital photos of the face of each of the four. Then he tells the one in the backwards Pittsburgh Pirates hat to turn over his hands so his palms face down so he can photograph the tattoos on the back of his hands. They read “Southside.”

The ATF officer points at the embroidered P on his hat as he walks away. “See that ‘P,’” he says. “That’s for the ‘People Nation.’”

The world comes calling

The People Nation is one side of the East Coast gang world. It’s a fragmented world, but it can be broken down into halves. The People Nation is a loose collection of national gangs including the Latin Kings, Vice Lords and The Bloods. On the other side of the world is the Folk Nation, under which various sets of the Crips align. These two nations represent what most people think about when they hear the word “gang.” They have codes, ranks and organizational structures patterned after the Mafia. They are national drug traffickers and droppers of bodies.
 
If the police are to be believed, there are members of various Bloods and Crips sets operating in Charlottesville, and have been for awhile. And if you were to look at some of the tags popping up around town, the graffiti tells the same story.
 
The gangs in Charlottesville, according to Lucas, are mostly based around neighborhoods. Prospect Avenue. South First Street. Friendship Square. Hardy Drive.

“We have members validated who live in those areas or hang out in those areas a lot,” he says, “where we know there’s gang stuff going on.”

The difference between national gangs and the local cliques isn’t just numbers. It’s organization, how well-defined positions within the gang are and how tightly the gang controls its activities. The Bloods and the Crips have their own laws, their own languages, even pledges of allegiance. Local cliques might be able to agree on a name and little else.

But that’s not to say that Charlottesville’s own can’t step into the big time.

In 2006, a federal case toppled close to 30 members of a gang based in the 10th and Page neighborhood. Louis Antonio Bryant, the leader of the Westside Crew or Project Crud (PJC) received two life sentences after being convicted on racketeering charges. Local and federal authorities had spent years making their case against PJC, documenting distribution of crack cocaine and marijuana, regional drug trafficking, shootings and deadly turf wars. This came out of Longo’s initial push.

Bryant and his associates were charged under the Racketeer Influence and Corrupt Organizations Act—known as RICO —a statute that was originally developed to combat the Mafia and is now commonly used against criminal street gangs. Under RICO, federal prosecutors were able to tie together almost 10 years of crime.

Bryant and his PJC crew were all but wiped out after the RICO trial. But the name still rings out. Lucas and the gang task force have picture after picture of graffiti on and around Hardy Drive, the heart of the 10th and Page neighborhood that rep the Project Crud. The letters “PJC” pop up, as do the tags “West Side” and “PJC for life.” The numbers “752” show up too, albeit somewhat less infrequently. Look at a telephone keypad. They’re the numerals you’d punch to spell out the crew’s initials.

And so it goes. Each local clique has its name, its tags and its geographical heart. P-spect is centered around Prospect Avenue. A clique known as 6-N-0 or G-Square is based out of Friendship Court along Sixth Street, a housing complex that used to go by the name of Garrett Square. These are the Eastside and Southside gangs that form a loose affiliation and rival Westside gangs like PJC, Grady Base and Crud Nova, all of which are based around 10th and Page and Grady Avenue.

All of this is true, or it may be to varying degrees. There is the graffiti, there are the jailhouse pictures of tattoos, there are the various boasts of local crews. But outside of Project Crud, which federal prosecutors dismantled over three years ago, what exactly do we call these loose groups of people with common signifiers that could mean, at one moment, a gang, and at another, simple neighborhood loyalty?

And even if someone is snatched up by the police with those tell-tale signs of gang activity—the guns, the drugs—does that make him or her a gang member?

“It’s difficult for me to prove the nexus between the drug dealing and the gang involved,” says Lucas. “Are they dealing for themselves, or are they dealing for the gang? The laws are kind of funny.”

This much, at least, is verifiable. The Virginia code that defines a “criminal street gang” is a clunker of a legalism with multiple roman numerals in parentheses. But what it comes down to is this: A criminal street gang is a group of three or more people with a name, sign or symbol that is formed for criminal activities.

But here is the part that surely would cause Lucas to tear his hair out if it wasn’t already buzzed down—getting caught breaking the law once isn’t enough. The third standard for the definition of a gang stipulates that members, individually or collectively, had to have, at the very least, conspired to commit at least two previous separate criminal acts, one of which has to be an act of violence.

Anything less, in the eyes of the state, is just a group of individual criminals. This is what Lucas is working with.

The local cliques float in a space between what most of us think of as a hardcore gang and a group of people who live in the same place. The line between gang and group isn’t fine; many times, it simply doesn’t exist. When someone throws up a “Westside” or “SFS” tag, what are they really saying?

Metro connect

Questions like these come into sharper focus when the big boys, the nationally recognized gangs, enter the scene. There is documented evidence of Eastside and Southside gangs showing affiliation with the two sides of the East Coast world.

Six-pointed stars pop out alongside local gang graffiti, the sign of the Folk Nation under which the Crips fall. The three dots—dogs’ paws—and five-pointed crowns have also made their way onto walls and sidewalks, signifiers of the Bloods.

There was the Crips tag on the back of the Old Terrace Theater, the word “Folk” written with a six-pointed star in place of the “o.” Next to it the letters “BK”—Blood Killer. Only the “B” is painted backwards, as is the number 5 that makes up the lower leg of the K—signs of disrespect to the Bloods.

Then there is the tag “Blood Nation” slapped down on the sidewalk of Jackson-Via Elementary School. There is the NTG tagged on a Hardy Drive street sign, initials for a Blood set called the 9-Trey Gangsters.


Police Chief Tim Longo believes that Charlottesville is a city dealing with gangs, but is more cautious about believing that there’s a gang problem.

Gangs like the Crips and Bloods don’t naturally form in university towns in the Blue Ridge foothills. For 9-Trey Gangster tags and six-pointed stars to start showing up in Charlottesville, there has to be a connection, something that Tim Sinatra calls “the metropolitan link.”

Sinatra is the executive director of the Boys & Girls Club of Charlottesville/Albemarle. Fifteen years ago, when he was a student at the University of North Carolina in Asheville, he spent time researching how gangs form and operate in mid-sized cities like Asheville and Charlottesville. And he saw a pattern emerge as national gangs started to get toeholds in these places.

“You’d have someone who lived in D.C., and he might be a low-level gang member there or in New York,” says Sinatra. “And they would move from there [to a smaller city]. And he’d look around and say, ‘Hey, there’s no gangs here. I can be king. I’m going to share these signs with them, this code.’
 
“And he’d start with one kid. And it’d be two, then three. And they’d start organizing. If you can’t be king in the big city, you can be king in the small city.”

Sometimes, though, the people you recruit don’t want to join.
 
In 2006, two juveniles were lured off the Downtown Mall and then beaten when they refused to join the Bloods. But this wasn’t a schoolyard beating. One victim needed metal plates surgically placed in his jaw. The other had his front teeth pushed back into the roof of his mouth.

Six teenagers were charged in the beatings, three of whom had the Bloods’ “books of knowledge,” a sort of gang manual with the gang’s history, pledges and list of local members. The attackers were wearing red clothes, including bandanas and caps, according to prosecutors.
 
One of the six, though, didn’t face trial. Indio Martinez was released after the beatings when a juvenile court judge deemed him unfit to stand trial. He would soon be back in front of a judge.

On March 2, 2007, Martinez was involved in a shooting on Prospect Avenue in which Javier Garcia fired an AK-47 into a crowd, critically injuring a 16-year-old. The shooting stemmed from a verbal altercation that began at a local rec center. Hours after the altercation, Martinez, his brother Carmello “Pee Wee” Martinez and Garcia pull up on Prospect in a green SUV. Pee Wee waved the assault rifle at the crowd that had gathered before handing it to Garcia, who ultimately pulled the trigger.

The Martinez brothers came to Charlottesville from New York City. Both claim to be members of the Bloods. Both were involved in the beating that followed the failed recruitment. And both Blood memebers were there that evening on Prospect Avenue, the heart of the P-spect crew, part of the Southside group that have, through various pieces of graffiti, aligned themselves with the Crips.

The summer of the white t-shirts

It’s been six years since Chief Longo put Charlottesville’s gangs on the front page, and nobody’s run him out of town. In fact, he seems downright comfortable in his office on a spring Tuesday morning, coffee in hand, the phone just outside his office answered in two rings or less.

“We don’t have the numbers and cases and population of gangs we see in other parts of the country,” he says. “We just don’t have them here yet.
 
“My fear is that over time we might see more of it. And if we do, you need to be staffing now for it. You can’t wait until it happens because you’ll never stand up a contingent of resources to deal with it if you wait that long.”

Specifically, he’s looking at Waynesboro and Richmond. The guns and drug traffic along I-81. The meth labs “up over that mountain.”

In April, Nathaniel Rivers pleaded guilty to three armed robberies in and around Staunton last year. He is a confessed member of the East Side Skyline Piru Bloods. A year earlier, Rashane Washington and Jordan Strickland broke into a Waynesboro apartment and shot 18-year-old James Gordon O’Brien, an alleged Crips member, and a 14-year old. Both Washington and Strickland were known Bloods members. O’Brien had just been released from jail after doing time for an earlier gang-related shooting.
 
It’s this in-and-out, the flux of people coming into the city that worries Longo. Lucas says much the same thing. The gangs are here, in some form, to some degree. The police for the most part know and track them. But introduce an outside element into the mix along with more organization and a big blue or red banner to wave in the faces of your enemies, and suddenly the game changes.

So what about Charlottesville? White t-shirts. In the heat of last summer, the media couldn’t get enough of them.
After a spate of assaults near Downtown, the media fueled speculation that the crimes, committed by mostly young black males, were gang related. The evidence? Some, if not most of the perpetrators wore white t-shirts.
 
During an on-air interview with Longo, Coy Barefoot of WINA summed up a confused public’s perception of what constituted a gang member in Charlottesville.

“It looks like gang activity,” Barefoot said, “kids sort of wearing the same thing, white t-shirts and jeans, jumping people Downtown and [on] West Main Street.”

As the assaults continued, the news stories piled up, leading some to ask The Question: Does Charlottesville have a gang problem?

“The frustration for me was that while we had a sense of who might be responsible for some of that activity, we didn’t have the ability to make a case,” says Longo. “Most of the victims weren’t in a position to identify the people who assaulted them, other than to say that they were young, they were black and they wore X type of clothing.”

Here Longo pauses and gives a sideways grin.

“By the way, those aren’t the characteristics of a gang. You can’t say, ‘They all have white t-shirts. That must be a gang.’”

He shakes his head, still smiling.

“No.”

One down, four to go

It’s night now, the sun is gone, and Lucas is making his way back to his unmarked police car, which has been sitting by itself under a street light on South First Street. The four men were released, short some weed and one assault rifle, and the rest of the team is getting back into their cars as they argue about where to stop for dinner.

It’s a little after 9pm, and they have four more jump-outs to go. They’ll be at it late into the night.

He walks slowly now, having to go back to HQ and turn over the small amount of marijuana that he’d confiscated. This is the slowest he’s moved all night.
 
He walks on the sidewalk that runs through the middle of the housing complex, and as he passes the streetlights overhead they toss off a cast of his own shadow that revolves around him.
 
Except for the streetlights that are broken, just about every other one. It’s not accidental. The lights are broken with a strategy in mind, to keep those parts of the complex where things happen that people aren’t supposed to see in the dark.
 
The city repairs them, says Lucas, and they just break them again.

He gets to South First, and there is a streetlight that’s not broken, shining its light straight down on the sidewalk by Lucas’ car. He walks slowly but with care, looking for cars that might be following him to his, looking for shadows inside other parked cars. Can’t be too careful in this part of town, early Friday night, the weather just starting to turn.

There’s nothing out there, nobody. He walks on the sidewalk around his car and spray painted on the concrete, directly under the street light, lit up as if on stage are three pieces of graffiti—a three-tine pitchfork, a six-pointed star and the numbers “666” all bunched together.

Just to the left on the gray concrete, the words “Blood Killa” sprawl out, inches from the curb. The “B” is written backwards.

Welcome to the Southside. It’s going to be a long night.