DAYTON — The Dayton View Hustlers, a street gang with a sophisticated organizational style that divides members into specialized shooters, robbers and street dealers, has weathered a coordinated four-year gang suppression campaign by law enforcement.
The well established Hustlers are already into a third membership generation, said FBI Senior Resident Agent Tim Ferguson.
The 100-member group holds influence in their namesake Dayton View neighborhood — a large section of the city extending west from the Great Miami River and bound by Salem Avenue and Wolf Creek.
They’re also a threat to other areas of the city and the suburbs.
Gangs sometimes like to set up houses in suburbs to evade home invasions or robberies by rival gangs, Ferguson said.
Suburban police should be on the alert, said Dayton Police Maj. Pat Welsh. “If you’re seeing our guys, don’t think it won’t escalate,” Welsh said.
Neighborhood ‘held hostage’ by gang
Ten of Dayton’s 37 homicides in 2011 involved group or gang members either as victims or attackers, Welsh said. The Hustlers, also known as DVH by police, factored in four of the 10 gang-related homicides, including September’s high-profile slaying of a Central State University football player at a downtown night spot.
As a group, the Hustlers account for about 10 percent of the 948 identified gang members in some 77 or so gangs catalogued by the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office.
The Hustlers also have an effective recruitment style, Dayton Police Detective and gang specialist Chad Knight said.
“The young guys who want to join up — they continue to put new people in place when someone ends up dead or in jail,” he said.
Knight described the Hustlers as well-armed with military-grade weapons.
“Dayton View is a beautiful neighborhood with wonderful people, but these thugs make it unbearable,” he said. “It’s a neighborhood held hostage.”
Anti-gang effort makes progress
While the Hustlers remain, a law-enforcement campaign that began in 2008 is credited with sharply reducing local street homicides and gunplay. It also led to federal prosecutions that leveled two outfits — Diamond Cut and Dope Boy Mafia, both associatd with street crime.
When the Community Initiative to Reduce Gun Violence (CIRGV) began, the problem was obvious. In 2008, Dayton police said 14 homicides were gang- or criminal group-related. Police studied homicides in a 3½-year period from 2005 through early 2008 and found that the victim or the accused in 36 of 120 homicides — 30 percent — was connected to a street gang or criminal group. That finding was the product of Welsh’s analyzing police records.
Since then, gang/group homicides in Dayton have been lower than the 14 recorded in 2008. There were 10 in 2009, five in 2010 and 10 in 2011. There’s also been a 14 percent drop in gun-related aggravated assaults.
The initiative included the U.S. Marshals Service, FBI, Montgomery County Prosecutor’s Office, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms, and others. Trotwood and the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office were founding agencies. The effort was styled after the Boston Strategy, a violence reduction program that has received good marks nationwide.
The anti-gang work was designed to function within existing financial resources, police said.
Dayton Police Chief Richard Biehl delivered a message to 50 known criminals in the region at a police “call-in.” Mend your ways or expect the full weight of law enforcement to fall on you, he said. Reps from local and federal law enforcement, civic leadership, social services and the religious community announced that a new page has been turned. There have been a dozen call-ins since.
Ferguson said the FBI elevated gang violence to its top criminal priority in Southwestern Ohio.
“It’s a crime problem that fuels everything else,” he said.
Dayton’s gun crimes are largely gang-driven, Ferguson added, with neighborhood-level gang activity.
The key success is a close working relationship among the FBI and local agencies.
Despite that, the Hustlers remain a powerful piece of unfinished business.
Hustlers are flexible and adept recruiters
The Hustlers, like the (DeSoto) Bass Boys, and Arlington Court Gangsters, began in one neighborhood and spread heroin-dealing tentacles outward. In contrast to more tightly organized national gangs like the Bloods and Crips, the Hustlers are more flexible. They’re adept recruiters and also spawn full-fledged gangs that establish themselves as threats in their own right such as the Money Go Gettas and Hooskal Clique, with the Hooskal specializing in the “top predator” style of robbing other drug dealers, say both Dayton police and federal authorities. “Hooskal” is a street term for a person who takes without asking.
Welsh points to one key event — the 2009 high-profile murder of Thomas “Tom-Tom” Watson, 25, a high-ranking Hustler who was boldly gunned down by three men armed with military-style rifles before a large crowd in broad daylight on a College Hill Park basketball court. The killing triggered retaliations throughout the city.
“We made no bones about it. The Dayton View Hustlers was fair game for our focused law enforcement with the goal of dismantling the group,” Welsh said.
The crackdown to date has netted two Hustlers on new federal charges for an older homicide — Thomas Watson’s cousin, Keith Watson, 29, and Theron E. Lewis, 26. In May, a federal grand jury indicted Watson, who bears a “hooskal” tattoo on the right side of his forehead.
The indictment charged that Lewis and Watson forced their way into a Harold Street address in west Dayton on April 3, 2007 to rob the place. During the home invasion, Dewayne Burg Sr., 52, was killed with a point-blank shot from a .380-caliber handgun. Dayton detectives said Burg was trying to protect his quadriplegic son after one of the men pointed a firearm at him. The indictment identified the robbers, who escaped with $5,200 in drug sale proceeds, as members of the Hooskal Clique of the Dayton View Hustlers.
When indicted, Lewis was already in prison serving a 23 years-to-life sentence for the murder of Isaac “Quan” Gibson, who argued with Lewis and Watson at a West Riverview cookout to honor the basketball court hit victim and DVH leader Thomas Watson. Both Lewis and Keith Watson pulled guns at the cookout and started firing.
Lewis also was jailed after mayhem at a funeral for Raymond “Byrd” McDaniel. Police said Lewis’ gun jammed in 2009 after he started firing on the crowd as it left St. Paul Global Outreach Ministries (now The Potter’s House) at 2050 Germantown Street. No one was injured.
Both men pleaded guilty Feb. 27 in the robbery homicide prosecution. Lewis’ plea agreement called for a 25-year prison sentence to run concurrent with the sentence he’s serving for the Gibson murder. Watson’s plea agreement calls for a nine-to-11-year prison term for his role in the home invasion. A sentencing for both will be June 28.
The Dayton Federal Safe Streets Task Force and the Dayton police homicide unit worked on the case.
Community’s help needed to stifle gangs
Despite the success, the effort needs more resources, personnel and commitment from other police agencies — including suburban agencies — if it is to continue its success, said Montgomery County Sheriff Phil Plummer.
Bishop Mark C. McGuire Sr. of The Potter’s House Dayton International Ministries sees the fight as a community issue.
“Once we began to investigate the situation (in 2008), we thought maybe there were one or two (gangs) and now you have upwards of some hundreds of pockets of groups that have given themselves some particular name,” McGuire said. “Once you see that happening, you have to deal with it in a very serious manner.
“Historically, Dayton has been a stopping point, a pass through, a transient place for many gangs around the country. Interstate 70, Interstate 75, have been roadways for all kinds of activity.”
He added: “These are our kids, grandkids and nephews. We’re not going to see the problem change at first until men stop being afraid of boys. These are our streets, our corners, our stores. Until we’ve got the guts to speak to them, to address them, to let them know this is the type of behavior that just cannot be tolerated.
“I think that we are going to have to come together, walk together, talk with one another about how we want to address these particular issues.”
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