Sneakers on a Wire

Have you ever seen sneakers hanging from a wire while driving around neighborhoods in New York and wondered if the rumors were true?  Is it a gang sign symbolizing a death, a place to buy drugs, or the work of careless kids messing around?

Recently, while searching for a parking spot near Washington Park in Albany, I approached a light, and it was red. Naturally, I stopped and looked up, waiting for it to change colors. In doing so, I noticed a pair of sneakers, tied together by the laces, had been flung over the wire, but I didn't overthink it.

Two days later, I noticed a second pair of sneakers had also been tossed up at the same intersection.

They looked like pretty decent sneakers; they weren't all raggedy and worn. This seemed odd to me; in all my years living in the "center square" part of Albany, I hadn't noticed it was a "thing." A guy who lives in my building happened to be walking alongside my Jeep. I rolled down my window to say, "Hey," and he ( without hesitation) pointed at the wires.
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Is This 'Gang Code'?

"Been seeing this a lot down here, Brian," he said. "You know what that means, right?" "Not really," I said. "Google it," he told me.

The light turned green, and then he was off, and so was I.

I wondered, "What's happening here that I need to know about?"

I always just assumed this was the work of some bored kids. But the way he told me to "Google it" led me to believe this was something more profound, darker, and more sinister.

So, what does it mean?

I searched about "sneakers hanging from wires" and even added "Albany" as a keyword Zero results. So, while I can't say for sure what the true meaning is, some of the theories people have come up with over the years are, at the very least, interesting.

So I turned to the website debunking rumors, old wives' tales, urban legends, and Fox News for years: good old

According to Snopes, here are the six most common theories, none of which Snopes will say is the most likely reason.

  • Gang members mark their territory or create a makeshift memorial where someone lost their life.
  • Drug dealers alert others that this is a place to buy.
  • Bullies take them off a kid and then taunt them by tossing the sneakers out of reach. 
  • Graduating seniors leave something behind as they take the next step in life.
  • Someone losing their virginity 
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It's crazy because until now, I never really thought this was a big deal, let alone something sinister like a gang or drug activity.  I just assumed it was the work of bored kids or someone playing a little prank.

I'm not entirely sure it's the work of bullies, gangs, or drug lords, but I'm not willing to completely rule it out, either.  What do you think?


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