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Facebook becomes gang's stomping ground -- and demise

New York Police discovered two gangs using the social network to threaten, taunt, and grandstand each other -- giving them evidence to arrest 49 members who are now facing murder charges.

Tribute Facebook page for "Very Crispy Gangsters" member Taquan "Tay Weez" Crandell who was murdered by a "Rockstarz" gang member in 2009.
Screenshot by Dara Kerr/CNET

Two rival gangs have battled in the streets of Brooklyn over the past three years -- leaving several dead and scores of others wounded. They may have kept on like this if cops didn't get savvy to their activities and whereabouts on Facebook.

Now, 49 alleged gangsters are locked up facing murder charges.

"Detectives used social media as well as good old fashioned police work to track these killers," New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said in a press conference today, according to the Village Voice.

The war started when a member of the "Rockstarz" gang murdered a member of the "Very Crispy Gangsters" (VCG) named Taquan "Tay Weez" Crandell in 2009, according to the Village Voice. As the two gangs fought over turf, they increasingly brought their threats, taunting, and grandstanding to Facebook.

The commissioner said that the rival gangs would "friend" each other and then post threats on each other's walls. One of the key Facebook posts that helped bring down the gangs was when a member of the Rockstarz posted "Rockstarz are up 3-0," referencing the body count of gang members, according to the Village Voice.

In another incident, after one VCG member was beaten to death, a Rockstarz member posted a photo of himself wearing the victim's belt and watch with the caption, "I can't give it back to you -- you can't walk no more," according to WNYC. This boastful gang member was shot in both legs just five months later.

"Because of these individuals' insatiable desire to brag about their murderous acts these investigators were able to draw a virtual map of their activities," Kelly said, according to WNYC.

The 49 accused men range in age from 16 to 23, and if convicted they face 8 to 25 years in prison.