Photo courtesy of www.dosomething.org
Gangs have plagued the fabric of American society, in some form or another, for centuries. In the United States today, there are a staggering 1.4 million gang members spread over an estimated 33,000 violent gangs.
Despite the general ruthless and violent nature of a gang’s collective consciousness, a fascinating aspect of many street gangs is that the group’s genesis is often innocuous. The idea is simple: people from the neighborhood (guys mostly) want to socialize and unify. The fundamental problem, however, is that this brotherly love is usually coupled with poverty and disenfranchisement.
And then, you sprinkle in some boredom, and there you have it – an organized group of young, angry and bored men with limited financial resources.
What’s the inevitable outcome? Crime. And, with that said, here are some of America’s most notorious gangs.
As one of the nation’s most dangerous prison gangs, the Mexican Mafia originated in the late 1950’s. The gang formed by uniting rival gang members that were serving time in California’s prisons. This unification led to the Mexican Mafia gaining significant control, and forcing its dangerous and lethal agenda on non-members.
The gang is heavily involved in extortion and drug trafficking, both inside and outside of prison. Although the Mexican Mafia has a bloody rivalry with another Latino prison gang, Nuestra Familia, the group has aligned itself with several other non-Latino prison gangs in order to maintain an unobstructed flow of its’ illegal moneymaking schemes.
The Mexican Mafia is known for its loyal members. Because, if a member is found to be disloyal, death is the penalty.
A notoriously ruthless and sinister gang, the Aryan Brotherhood (or “Brotherhood”), can be found menacing and lurking in the prisons and streets of Arizona, California, Texas, New York, Ohio and Indiana. Proudly displaying despicable swastika tattoos and other racist ink, the Brotherhood has a relatively small membership number; yet, the gang is responsible for a disproportionately large number of prison deaths over the past few decades.
Earning their cash mainly through drug trafficking and prostitution, the Brotherhood is a force to be reckoned with, as evidenced by law enforcement’s inability to weaken them. Many believe the Brotherhood is difficult to subdue due to its highest ranking members already serving extreme prison sentences.
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In the desert of Southern California, in 1948, the outlaw motorcycle club Hells Angels was formed. Despite being heavily involved in the trafficking of drugs and stolen goods, as well as prostitution and extortion, “Hells Angels” is surprisingly an incorporated brand that sues entities for copyright infringement.
The members of Hells Angeles consistently maintain that they are simply a fraternal organization of motorcycle enthusiasts, which has gotten a bum rap over the years.
Although its membership includes 2,500 bikers spread across six continents, Hells Angels’ remains true to its California roots, where its strongest presence is felt, and where the gang is constantly engaged in turf wars with its rival – the Mongols.
The Crips and Bloods
Notorious rivals and two of the largest street gangs in the country, the Crips (known for their blue attire) and the Bloods (known for the red attire) have a total collective membership of approximately 50,000 violent criminals.
Formed in predominately African-American neighborhoods in Los Angeles in the late 1960s – early 1970s, the Crips and Bloods are now nationwide street gangs, which have been, and continue to be, involved in murder, robbery and drug dealing. The gangs each have a loosely based network of smaller neighborhood crews (or “sets”) which follow the same customs, but have independent leadership. Over the years, the open turf warfare between the Crips and Bloods has led to the gangs’ pop-culture notoriety.
Many believe that traditional street gangs have moved “indoors” and are more low profile then they were during their prior heyday (1960s – early 2000s). This more discreet behavior is allegedly attributed to the need for gangs to be more covert with their drug trafficking and other illegal activities, due to more community policing and federal RICO crackdowns.
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