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D.C. 'crew' members may live in Md.: FBI agent

The Crime Scene recently sat down with FBI Agent Dave LeValley and retired FBI Agent Daniel Reilly, who works as a contractor, to talk about gangs in the District. LeValley supervises the Safe Streets task force of 14 agents, eight D.C. police officers and two U.S. Park Police officers. It specializes in handling gang-related crimes and street-level violence.

(Yesterday, we published an interview with Special Agent Robert G. Saale, FBI agent in charge of a squad of agents who investigate gangs and violent crime in Northern Virginia.)

What does Safe Streets do?

LeValley: We investigate criminal enterprise, or gangs, in the District. These gangs are typically are at the heart of a lot of the violence in the city. They are four or five guys, maybe 10 or 12, that control a neighborhood, or have a negative influence on a neighborhood in D.C., and sell drugs, extort, murder or rob in a particular area.

Have you picked up on any trends?

LeValley: They are geographically spread out. We are finding ourselves more and more connecting individuals to southern Prince George’s County, as opposed to the early 1990s, when they were more of a close-knit groups of guys right on R Street or right on 37th Place. They will still go there for illicit activity -- to sell drugs -- because that is where they control a piece of property, but often times they now live in Prince George’s County [or] Montgomery County.

Geographically, they are spreading out, but they have alliances and ties to a specific housing project or street in the city that they go to and are respected in. They commute to work.

Reilly: Maybe I have a killer, one of the most violent people, and he doesn’t want to live there because he doesn’t want to subject himself to retaliation. So he moves out.

How do they meet each other if they are so spread out?

LeValley: They met here and moved out. They still have relatives here. It’s less of a nationally organized gang, like the Bloods or the Crips. This a group of individuals who were born around the same time, started school around the same time, dropped out of school around the same time, started getting into minor crime -- car thefts [or] car-jackings -- together, went through the arrest process.

In the vernacular, they came up together. And then they make a little bit of money, through drugs or robberies, and are able to move to Prince George’s County or another county. They are not all in Prince George’s. They still have roots and a history from where they came from.

How many crews are there in the District?

LeValley: We have mapped 83. Some of those are going to be the much more entrenched. Some are on the periphery, with 10 to 15 members. Some members will be older. Some will be younger. Some will have done a lot of time in prison. Some will be coming up to establish their reputations.

Are they as violent as they used to be? Homicides are way down this year in the District, and there has been a general downward trend in the last decade or so.

Reilly: One of the things I would like to say we have accomplished, When I started doing this in 1989, there were 15 to 20 guys who everybody in law enforcement knew were responsible for 10 murders or more. Everyone knew who they were ..... On and on and on. Each of them at least 10 people. When you start talking about those people being taken off the street by Safe Streets, the numbers are going to go down. We don’t have the same problem we did then. We have been consistent in our efforts to get the worst of the worst off the street.

What are the most popular drugs for sale?

LeValley: Heroin, crack and PCP. There is a lot of marijuana, but we mostly focus on the other drugs.

Reilly: Marijuana is the "grease" for all of them. From a federal standpoint, it’s hard to prosecute a case strictly on marijuana.

Where does it come from?

LeValley: Regionally, heroin comes from Baltimore. Heroin is a little different. Some heroin comes off the Southwestern border. Some heroin comes from Asia. Some heroin comes from South America. Primarily, it comes into New York City and filters down to Philly and Baltimore, and then to D.C.

Usually, couriers go to Baltimore to pick it up. In terms of cocaine, the Colombians get it to Mexico, and the Mexicans smuggle it into the United States, like Atlanta, Chicago or Los Angeles. D.C. is primarily affected by Southern [and] Eastern routes.

We are typically a secondary market. We don’t see smuggled loads of multi-hundred kilos, like some large cities. We are primarily a consumer market here. But our focus is less concerned with drug smuggling routes and more concerned with the crew or the organization that has impact, or dominion, over a particular area in the city.

The amounts of drugs doesn’t matter a whole lot. Down at the street level, and a little bit above, is where a lot of the chaos and violence comes into play because [gangs] have to control the real estate.

-- Del Quentin Wilber

By Washington Post Editors  |  January 12, 2010; 6:02 AM ET
Categories:  Del Quentin Wilber , Gangs , The District  
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Comments

Good interview, but I think one major factor contributing factor to dealers living in maryland now is the skyrocketing housing prices and neighborhood changes in DC starting from the late 90s.

I remember in the late 80s and early 90s you would see crews all over the place in NW (14th st, P st, logan circle, georgia ave, 1st st, etc.) and homes were relatively VERY cheap at artifically depressed prices due to the crime, drugs, etc. Many of those neighborhoods have significantly changed demographically and prices have skyrocketed.

Also, many former "consumers" no longer live in NW and have shifted to PG (or out of the DC area altogether).

Posted by: plive202 | January 12, 2010 9:44 AM | Report abuse

Gentrification is good for somethings. Million dollar condos = bad; criminals who can't afford them either and move away = good.

Posted by: Nosh1 | January 12, 2010 9:48 AM | Report abuse

And let's not forget a lot of the projects that have been demolished on the southside (east capitol, capers, douglass/stanton, valley green, the list goes on..). These places were MAGNETS for hustlers and addicts. After demolition, the majority of tenants have left DC for PG (or out of town with Section 8 vouchers).

Posted by: plive202 | January 12, 2010 9:50 AM | Report abuse

I first documented the Maryland drug dealers commuting to work about 10 years ago. I am glad that the Post is covering it because people laughed and laughed at me. I'd see guys on the corner whose grandparents died and sold their house in the late 90s and they'd still be here causing trouble.

The other dirty little secret is that Virginia construction workers buy a lot of cocaine in DC. I've called the police on a dozen or so white panel trucks, painters trucks and the like.

So when you live in a gentrified neighborhood with people who take care of their property and call the police, it's FRUSTRATING to see dealers with MD tags and buyers with VA tags.

Posted by: bbcrock | January 12, 2010 9:53 AM | Report abuse

Don't build any more projects. That's the stupidest thing you can do. How come some desperately poor people don't mind working for a living & other people who aren't anywhere near as poor would rather join a gang, deal drugs, rob people/banks, be a pimp, etc?

Posted by: uncivil | January 12, 2010 1:15 PM | Report abuse

yes I've been saying this for years but nearly everyone is laughing in disbelief when they are told that most of the drug dealers are living in MoCo and PG now. It's true, many do now drive into Baltimore and DC for work. Many areas of DC, and some areas of Baltimore have seen gentrification and rising prices, with fewer vacant houses and projects getting demolished.

This does explain the latest population statistics showing that it is mainly blacks that are moving out of Baltimore now, not whites.

When LeValley says "Some heroin comes from Asia" what he really means is that at least 80-90% of the heroin is produced in Afghanistan. After regularly producing 70% of the world's opium, Afghanistan decreased production dramatically under a ban by the Taliban in 2000, a move which cut production by 94 per cent. After American and British troops invaded Afghanistan, removed the Taliban and installed the interim government, Afghanistan became the world's largest opium producer once more, and has increased rapidly since.

US-backed Afghan President Hamid Karzai's brother - Ahmed Wali Karza, chief of the Kandahar Provincial Council, is a key player in the Opium trade. Conveniently, he also has another brother, Qayum Karzai, who owns three Baltimore restaurants, the Helmand, Tapas Teatro, and b-A Bolton Hill Bistro. Police keep saying there is no evidence, but isn't it self-explanatory?

Posted by: lwatkins4 | January 13, 2010 10:34 AM | Report abuse

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