Street gangs have been fighting against each other for years in New York, and now one Long Island City author is sharing an inside look at the ongoing war between these gangs in his new book.
Kevin Deutsch, a crime reporter for Newsday for the past three years, is the author behind “The Triangle: A Year on the Ground with New York’s Bloods and Crips,” which tells of the war between the two street gangs, centered around a Long Island intersection.
Deutsch first encountered members of the Bloods and Crips as a crime reporter for the NY Daily News and would see them battle it out in court rooms. He became interested in the subculture of the gangs and later learned from a source about the gang war going on between the two groups.
After taking a drive out to Hempstead, Long Island, he encountered what he called “an open-air, thriving drug market” where the two gangs fought over the territory.
Once Deutsch became a reporter Newsday, one of his first stories was on the ongoing war at the Linden Triangle, which later inspired the name of his book.
“I had never really thought much about doing a book until I encountered the story on the gangs,” Deutsch said.
After writing the article for Newsday, Deutsch had so much information left over that he felt he needed to tell the full story. That’s when he decided to put together the book.
“The story needed to be told,” he said. “I felt it was a story that no one had told before of young men living lives so far removed from what most of us understand American lives to be.”
The book, which took Deutsch a year of on-site reporting in 2012 and was released last December, follows members of the two gangs, anti-violence activists who would go on prayer marches to try to stop the violence, and police.
As he created one of the first inside accounts of this ongoing gang war, Deutsch had to build relationships with gang members from both sides in order to truly understand everything behind the conflict.
“I had to spend a lot of time assuring them that I had no skin in this game. I was not rooting for anyone. I was an objective observer here to chronicle their lives,” he said.
During his interaction with gang members, he learned how these young men lived in a world surrounded by death, drugs and rape, feeling that this was the only option for them.
“It’s easy to get into a gang but it’s so hard to get out, and most of the guys get out in a box or they get out in a cell,” Deutsch said. “It’s so engraved in the atmosphere of these neighborhoods that it’s a cycle impossible to break.”
Although Deutsch built relationships with a large number of members from both sides of the gangs, he added that there were others who questioned his motives and what he was doing.
In one instance one gang member, who had been high on drugs, got paranoid and believed Deutsch was an undercover cop. This led the young man to take out a gun and point it at Deutsch’s face. Another gang member had to talk the other down to put the gun away, and the gun-wielding member later apologized to Kevin.
Although he was face-to-face with danger, Deutsch said that that moment served as an eye-opening experience to the threat and lifestyle the gang members have to face each day.
“They could tell me all day what it is like, but until I had that gun to my face I didn’t really understand what these kids’ lives are really like,” he said. “I just got a little taste of what they go through every day.”
Through his research for the book, Deutsch said that in 2012 about 56 people were shot in Long Island and the five boroughs in gang-related incidents. He added that in Queens, there is a large Bloods and Crips presence in the Rockaways.
At the end of the year of investigating and after putting the book together, Deutsch handed out copies of the book to members of both gangs. Some responses were really positive, because they felt their stories were finally being told, while others were upset because they felt the other side was being portrayed better.
However, Deutsch said he tried to be as objective as possible when writing the book and tried to cover the gang war just like a war correspondent would.
“They were glad that their story was finally told because they felt America was ignoring them,” he said. “They felt that they were living in a war zone right here in America and no one cared about them.”
Deutsch added that he hopes the book also helps readers understand that gang violence is occurring throughout the nation and is prevalent to in so many communities, even if they don’t necessarily see it.
“The Triangle: A Year on the Ground with New York’s Bloods and Crips” is available at bookstores and through Amazon.
Deutsch will be doing a reading of the book at The Astoria Bookshop, located at 31-29 31st St., on June 4 at 7 p.m.