The Triangle

The Triangle

A Y​ear on the Ground with New York‘s Bloods and Crips.

By Kevin Deutsch


The Triangle Gang War of 2012:
An Introduction

The Linden Triangle: Linden Avenue and Linden Place, Hempstead, Long Island. At this blighted intersection, seemingly forgotten by the middle and upper class communities that surround it, the dream of suburban comfort and safety has devolved into a nightmare of flying bullets and bloodshed. Here, a war between the Bloods and Crips has torn a once-peaceful neighborhood apart.

The Triangle: A Year on the Ground with New York’s Bloods and Crips, tells the true story of one year in the life of a suburban village-turned-war-zone. Written by Kevin Deutsch, award-winning criminal justice reporter for Newsday, it follows two warring gangs and the anti-violence activists and police desperate to stop them. As the body count climbs and conflict spreads to New York City, young men wielding military grade weaponry wage a prolonged battle over pride, respect, revenge, and their legacies.

Based on immersive reporting and interviews with more than 250 gang members, their families, drug addicts, police, and others, this is the first insider account of a New York Bloods-Crips gang war from the only journalist ever given access to the crews’ secretive realm. The Triangle is a chilling investigation of a world in which teenagers shoot their childhood friends over gang allegiance; where rape is used as a form of retaliation; and once-promising students are molded into cold-blooded assassins.

Photo by Steve Pfost.

Hempstead Crips control the market for marijuana and cocaine in the area surrounding Linden Avenue and Linden Place—a blighted, impoverished area known as the Linden Triangle, or simply the Triangle—on the north side of West Graham Avenue.

South of Graham, on MLK Drive, the local Bloods set controls a smaller drug market in and around the housing projects lining the street. Both crews want to take over each other’s drug markets. As for strategies, they seem to have settled on a war of attrition, aiming to kill or maim as many of their enemies as possible until one side can no longer fight. The prayer marchers, a group of local anti-violence activists, are trying to stop the gang war.

The anti-violence activists seen marching here employ a novel strategy: midnight prayer walks in which they roam the village's war-torn drug markets, looking for gang members and addicts with whom to pray. Many of the marchers are former junkies or gang members themselves, having once sowed mayhem on the same streets they now find themselves trying to clean up.

For some, the marches serve as a form of penance; a way of showing contrition for the pain they had caused their families, friends, and neighbors in their youth. Others sign up to march out of anger or grief, fed up with the shootings and retaliatory strikes; the seemingly endless funeral processions; and the twin plagues of easy-to-buy guns and plentiful crack engulfing their hometown.

Photo by Steve Pfost

The sinister plots hatched by one gang against the other don’t stop. But neither do Reverend Kirk Lyons (at center) and his prayer marchers. They return to the Triangle every Friday just before midnight to pray with gang members, always with the goal of preventing retaliatory attacks.

Photo by Steve Pfost.

The Park Lake apartments, a low-income housing development on Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, served as the Hempstead Bloods' headquarters and primary drug dealing location.

Photo by Steve Pfost.

Seduccion, pictured here, was used by the Bloods as a meeting spot for strategy sessions during the gang war.

Photo by Steve Pfost.

Makeshift memorials for murder victims, like the one pictured here, are erected with numbing frequency in the Triangle.

Photo by Kevin Deutsch.

Marchers are pictured here praying with some local Bloods outside the Park Lake apartments. There are whispers the group may themselves be targeted for sticking their noses in the business of warring gangs. Savant Sharpe, convinced the marchers are police informants, has promised to hunt them down and kill them if he’s proven right. Doc Reed, believing reverend Lyons more sympathetic to the Crips plight than his own gang’s, says he’ll treat the reverend as a combatant should a gun battle break out while he’s in Bloods territory.

Photo by Steve Pfost.

The marchers are pictured here praying with several Crips members outside the gang's headquarters in the Triangle. The older men can remember hanging with the fathers and uncles of some of these boys back in the day, drinking beers and chasing girls with them in Hempstead. Most of those men are dead now, cut down by bullets or blades following senseless arguments over gang colors, money, women, or drugs.

Photo by Steve Pfost.

Some Crips and prayer marchers are pictured here walking past Campbell Park and Hempstead's water tower. The park is where Devon LaFleur, a local student, is "jumped in" as part of his initiation into the Bloods during the gang war.

Photo by Steve Pfost.

Hempstead Mayor Wayne Hall (left) and Police Chief Michael McGowan discuss ways to end the 2012 gang war. “We want people to feel safe in their community,” Hall says. “And we won’t stop until they are. We owe that to them.”

Photo by Kevin Coughlin.

The Triangle