Gangs continue to incite violence and fear within our communities. With the pervasiveness of gangs today, we are seeing more sophistication and the brazen tactics of intimidation, drugs, weapons and increased criminal activity. Communities are challenged by confronting these types of issues. Facing them jointly with law enforcement, citizens are adapting strategies including education and awareness as their best defense against gang violence. This paper will address two prominent Los Angeles crime gangs, the 18th Street Gang and the Crips. Historical Perspective – 18th Street Gang
The 18th Street Gang is primarily a Hispanic gang formed in the 1960’s in Los Angeles (The National Alliance of Gang Investigator’s Association, 2005). It is thought that the origin of the name stemmed from the older Clanton 14 Street gang because of the area where the gang made its’ home base. Although some members are of a mixed racial composite, it is considered one of the oldest and largest of the Hispanic gangs. Because of the acceptance of immigrants, the 18th Street Gang has grown considerably and has expanded throughout California, to the Midwest and to the East Coast. Some of their recruitment techniques involve solicitation in elementary and middle schools that has increased their membership significantly, along with their ties in Mexico and South America (The National Alliance of Gang Investigator’s Association, 2005).
Membership and Hierarchy
It is estimated that there are approximately 8,000 to 15,000 members of the 18th Street Gang in Los Angeles alone. The gang may be as large as 30,000 or more when considering the Central American factions. The gang is divided into sub-sets: North, East, South, West and South Central Los Angeles; however, there are affiliations in other countries such as El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, Nicaragua and Mexico (National Public Radio, 2008). According to law enforcement, there is no known central leadership, either domestically or internationally. The groups appear to work independently but will join forces when they are countering rival gangs. Identification/Markings
The gang members of the 18th Street Gang have tattoos such as the number 18 which can be identified in the Spanish language or through Roman numerals. There is also a combination of numbers that is used to equal the number eighteen such as 666 or 99. Officers in Los Angeles have also seen tattoos bearing the word BEST which stands for Barrio Eighteen Street (National Public Radio, 2008). Culture and Criminal Activity
LAPD gang detective Magdaleno Gomez says that the gang, “is known for murders, kidnapping, robberies and selling dope” (Los Angeles Times, 2008). They have also been involved in producing fake immigration cards and food stamps. They are also known to take kickbacks from rival gang members in exchange for protection (National Public Radio, 2008). Across the spectrum of crime, there are very few areas that the 18th Street Gang does not participate in.
Historical Perspective – Crips
Raymond Washington, a 15 year-old student from Fremont High school started the Crips in 1969 although the original name of the gang is thought to have been the Baby Avenues or the Avenue Cribs (Street Gangs, 2008). Around 1971, the group had grown significantly and Raymond met Stanley “Tookie” Williams, who lived on the west side of Los Angeles and recruited Washington. Washington was murdered in 1979; however, no one was ever arrested or prosecuted for his murder (Street Gangs, 2008). It was not uncommon for young black to cultivate political and social clubs in the 60’s; however, the Crips became far more violent than Washington anticipated. Many groups like the Black Panthers and the Sons of Watts tried to practice the ideology of protecting their communities against racism, brutality and social injustices in the beginning of their formation (Gangsta King: Raymond Lee Washington, 2003)....