Shoes dangling from a power line could spell neighborhood danger

Those shoes may mean more than just a prank. (Steven Depolo)

Trend is spreading across America

Chicago, Los Angeles, New York and other urban police know it could mean something serious

The next time you see shoes dangling from a power line or telephone wires, consider what it means. It may be more than just a bad prank. Police and crime experts have knowledge about this that just might be important to your community or the neighborhood you are visiting.

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According to some law enforcement professionals, shoes thrown over power lines is to signal the location of a crack house or prime drug dealing spot. Dangling shoes can also be the symbol of gang members claiming territory, especially when the shoes are hanging from power lines or telephone wires in an intersection. Gang and drug police units use such signs as indicators of where gang, drug and violent activity may be.

Los Angeles undertook a huge shoe removal process one year when citizens voiced their concerns that the shoes indicated “sites at which drugs are sold or worse yet, gang turf.” Then Mayor James Hahn addressed the community, stating that overhead shoes would no longer be tolerated.

Chicago receives thousands of calls each year from residents complaining about the hanging shoes clogging up lines. Calls to remove over 1,000 pairs in 2008 and 2009 have reduced down to less than 300 in recent years.

Police are quick to point out that seeing a hanging pair of shoes may not always be a sign of gang activity. Here are other possibilities:

Remembering The Death Of A Loved One

The death of someone in a community incents friends, family and loved ones to throw shoes over power lines, tree branches and around other public places. Some gang members also practice this tradition, creating an informal memorial in the location where a close connection lost his or her life.


Celebrating Life Milestones

Completing basic training, passing a driver’s test or losing their virginity has been the reason some have indicated they threw shoes up to hang. Some graduating seniors mark their milestone moment by tossing sneakers over power lines. The act is said to be done as a way of leaving a part of themselves behind, similar to carving a name into a tree or wet cement.



In many cases, shoes flung over power lines has nothing to do with gang activity and more to do about just plain boredom or bullying. Sometimes, the shoes belong to drunks, homeless or defenseless children.

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