Several thousand gang members in the Tulsa area are using social networking websites to communicate, according to local law enforcement.
It's called "cyber banging," a form of on-line gang banging.
"They've moved up to sophisticated levels now like everybody else in their criminal enterprise," Sgt. Andy Choate of the Bixby Police Department said. "The danger is what they're posting."
A local expert says members will create unique user names to communicate with other gang members using cryptic codes. Often times, their dialogue will include misspelled words, truncated phrases, and clues to possible retaliation and recruitment events.
Police are taking a creative approach to "crack the code" by joining social networking sites and creating fake user names and pages to anonymously interact with gang members. By doing this, police can obtain tips about suspects and crimes.
"You may find someone discussing sells of narcotics to plans to retaliate on another group," Sgt. Choate said. "We'll seek those people out, educate or prosecute them."
Because of the dangers of "cyberbanging," law enforcement advises average users to protect their personal information by avoiding posts of phone numbers or school names.
Experts report that social networking is becoming more pervasive, which is why it's common among gang members.
"Anything that can enhance or make communication easier in our world teens an young people are jumping all over it," Dr. Susan Chinburg, Assistant Professor of Applied Technology at Rogers State University.
Common networking sites used by gang members include: Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, and Xanga.