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Street Sources Part 3

Part 3 of a 4-part series

This column first appeared on


Here s a golden rule about developing informants: When it comes to building rapport with potential street sources, sincerity is everything. If you can fake that, you ve got it made.

Cynical? Of course. It s the police world, after all. But a show of genuine concern for their problems can work wonders in getting people with inside information about street gangs to talk to you, according to trainer Pat McCarthy of the popular Street Crimes seminars, whose techniques for cultivating informants we ve been tracking in this four-part series.

That s true particularly in dealing with the subjects of this 3rd installment: the intimates of gangbangers, including ex-lovers, disgruntled homies and concerned family members all of whom are likely to have valuable information that can help you win the battle against illegal gang activities.

It takes work to develop a good informant, McCarthy says. The key is getting them in the right frame of mind to do what you want them to do. You ll most likely have to put on a convincing act to get them there. But if you re a good cop, it s almost guaranteed you re a good talker, a good actor.


One prized piece of intelligence you should always be alert for as you work the street is news of any bust-up within a gang or affecting an individual gang member, McCarthy advises. Romantic falling-outs are special treasures. You ll never find a prospective street source riper for the picking than a jilted wife or girlfriend.

During his decade-plus experience as a top gang cop for the Chicago Police Department, McCarthy learned that bangers, like other criminals, seem to change love interests constantly, so you should have no problem getting wind of a dumping if you ve nurtured a keen ear for street gossip.

Contact the injured party as quickly as possible, while the wounds of rejection still smart. Chitchat a bit, nothing heavy, McCarthy suggests. Then in a tone of wonderment, mention that you re really surprised by how nice she is. It just doesn t fit with how your ex described you, you can say, shaking your head.

Of course she ll then be dying to know more and you can fan the flames with a few choice quotes from her former lover to set her boiling, McCarthy says. Maybe mention that you saw her ex with his new girlfriend and they both looked so happy.

You want to get her as mad as possible so she can t wait to rat out her ex and his banger buddies.

You may find an ex-girlfriend or ex-spouse who has a restraining order or an order of protection against a gang member. The complainant will be happy to help you get him off the street because she s scared of him, McCarthy says. And she ll not only have information about him but also about his banger associates.

Overcome her fear of retaliation by assuring her of absolute confidentiality.

Some departments have directives that may prohibit street officers from working with informants. The tactics in this article can prove very effective, but check departmental regs to make sure you stay out of trouble. If your agency has such a prohibition, consider talking with an administrator about a modification to permit the use of these techniques. ed.

Rejected Gang Members

Disgruntled members of a given gang can be just as hungry to wreak revenge as a discarded love interest is.

Gang members boast about their mutual love and solidarity, McCarthy notes, but the truth is things often aren t rosy-cozy in most gangs. There are petty jealousies, infighting, simmering feuds, political plotting, pissing contests like any organization.

A homie who s been socially snubbed, passed over for promotion or dressed down in front of other members may be in just the right mood for you to flip him. I ve had guys give me secrets just to eliminate competition for advancement within a gang, McCarthy says.

With the right prospect one who deep inside feels trapped in the gang life you can connect helping you with escaping to a better life. You need to prey on his emotions and fears, McCarthy explains. He knows that doing good is really the right thing to do, and you feed that feeling. Helping you looks like his springboard out.

Urge him to think about his family and his own self interest. Something like, Wouldn t this be a great point in your life for you to make a new start? You re a bright guy. You could really do something with your life. A lot of people I see are too far gone, but you re a decent guy. You can start over.

Contrast that theme with the future of staying in the gang, keeping its secrets and inevitably getting arrested. Who s gonna hit on your girlfriend if you re locked up? Which of your buddies is gonna climb on her first? I ve seen it happen many times to guys who thought it would never happen.

Play on their relative position in the gang. You re just a small fish. You ll be pushed into the system and forgotten. Are you gonna be sitting in a cell two years from now, buried, thinking you should have jumped when I gave you the chance? The decision you make today is going to have an impact on the rest of your future. It s your choice. If you don t want to help yourself out, I ll find somebody else who does.

McCarthy emphasizes, You want to present a package to them and explain it so it sounds like self-preservation to cooperate. You have to be a salesman. If you re good, they ll listen. More people will flip than won t if they re approached in the right way.

Family Members

Parents, siblings, other concerned relatives you often can play them psychologically, too, McCarthy says. Many times they re looking for ways to straighten a kid out, and you can sell them on helping you as a means of helping him.

Again, you need to paint a picture for them: The gangbanger in their family is on a collision course with the joint, and they re going to be standing in line at the visitors center on Thanksgiving and Christmas to talk to him through plexiglass if he continues on that path.

Use a lot of stories of families you ve known in similar situations, but stress that many of them had their head in the sand and now their kid s too far gone in the gang life to be saved. On the other hand, you ve had cases where families have worked with you and their kids have gotten into rehab and been able to put gangs behind them. Make up success stories if you have to. People will fall for it.

Of course if you promise to do something helpful, follow through. And be sure to give a firm reassurance of confidentiality: Nobody will ever know where anything you tell me came from.

If the vision of a banger leaving the gang life seems too unrealistic to sell, McCarthy suggests a lesser of two evils approach: I know your son has a pistol. I ll tell you what s gonna happen. One of these days he s going to shoot someone and he s going to jail for 30 or 40 years. If you ll help me, I ll bust him now on the gun charge, but that s a lot better for him than picking up a murder rap. You ll be cutting him a big break.

McCarthy recalls, I ve had family members tell me, He just left the house with a gun wrapped in a towel. It s in his trunk. And I ve gone out and made the bust.

In neighborhoods where the police are viewed as an occupying force, you ll have to work hard to build trust. No one wants to help out an enemy, McCarthy says. Your personality will be vital to your success. You have to come across as the good guy who wants to help out. Seem caring. Bleed sincerity.

Play on how bad they d feel if their kid got shot. Blame the neighborhood not them for his problems. Make up stories of what you did bad as a kid but your family cared enough to help straighten you out. Make them believe you re speaking and acting from your heart.

McCarthy summarizes, There s no magic dust you throw on people and have everyone crumble and cooperate. You ll get a lot of turn-downs, but be patient and persistent. If you keep at it, it will work.

Want More?

For additional valuable strategies for finding, grooming and managing street sources and CIs, conducting effective street interviews, surveillance tactics, courtroom survival strategies, interrogation tricks & tactics, ethical considerations for the street cop and finding hidden traps and secret compartments, consult the new Street Cop video training series produced by McCarthy in VHS and DVD formats. Call 800/275-4915 or visit McCarthy also created the Street Crimes program, a unique and informative three-day training seminar presented in over 100 cities across the U.S., Canada and Mexico every year. All Street Crimes instructors have at least 20 years of actual street experience. Visit and click on Street Crimes Program, or call 800/275-4915.


Next issue: Exploit the invisible eyes and ears you encounter every day.

Remsberg's column is a exclusive, sponsored by Blauer.

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