The end of October only means one thing: Halloween! People search for the perfect costume to top the year before, and buy out a warehouse of candy to prepare for the scary festivities. While most folks get ready to enjoy their night, others rush home before it gets dark.
For years, Halloween has been rumored as “gang initiation night.” Gangs have rituals in which new members perform violent acts to whichever target they are given in order to get into the gang. Each year a new lewd activity spreads as the preliminary for new gang members.
Remember one of the most circulated rumors a few years back: the “flashing headlights” warning. The new gang member under initiation drives along with no headlights, and the first car to flash their headlights at him is now his “mark.” He then is required to turn around and chase that car, and shoot and kill every individual in the vehicle in order to complete his initiation requirements.
Another well-known tale was the “buck fifty.” If new members caught any person wearing a specific color in public, he is required to cut the victim’s cheek from one corner of the mouth up to his or her ear. The cut requires at least 150 stitches, hence the name buck fifty.
The violent rumors sprung fear among many people, although some believe they are nothing more than fictitious stories told to scare everyone. MFA student, and Harlem resident, Vanessa Hernandez heard about gang initiation on Halloween when she was younger. She was warned to be careful but she never personally witnessed any of the gang related crimes on Halloween. “It doesn’t change my day,” she says. “I usually don’t hang out that late in the area to be around those sort of things. There’s also more police on every corner.”
More police officers flood the streets during major celebrations, including Halloween. Given the natural nature of the festival, people generally go out in disguise and vandalize public and private property. Public safety roams about to ensure the least amount of wreckage occurs that night.
Hernandez may not believe the stories but she doesn’t stick around to find out if they’re true either. Like Hernandez, undergrad Kendra Thomas, 18, prefers to be inside during the earlier hours on Halloween. “It does make me nervous.” she says, “Apparently I live next to a gang block and I wouldn’t want anything to happen to me or my family because somebody decided to join a gang and harass innocent people.” She chooses to not go out at night and stays in when necessary.
Thomas recently heard of past tales of gang violence on Halloween, but doesn’t allow the rumors to influence her to leave school earlier. “I’m still staying at school because it’s academics over everything