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An e-mail sent out to the third district police listserv has touched off quite a debate pitting neighbor against neighbor, resident against cop! Everyone wants to prove their street cred. The subject: What is the meaning of those random pairs of shoes that dangle from trees and telephone wires around the city? Here are a few recorded conjectures:

The marking gang territory theory: “It’s gangs or crews marking territory, similar to graffiti, using sneakers, usually taken from a rival gang member and strung up on light posts or telephone poles. It is important that they be removed quickly…Usually, a certain style of shoe will identify what organization one is affiliated with.”

The street memorial theory: “[Kids hang] shoes on telephone lines to honor the memory of a deceased friend who they held in high regard. Not every little neighborhood kid is in a gang or a crew.”

The identifying drug houses theory: “And in some realms it’s meant as a sign that drugs are available at whatever house they were in front of…”