Gang History

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18th Street Gang

The 18th Street Gang, named for a street in the Rampart section of east Los Angeles, formed in the late 1960s. It was also known as the “Children’s Army” because of their recruitment of elementary and middle school kids.

Their tactics include threatening harm to member’s families when they try to leave. Failure to show proper respect of a gang leader or fellow member may result in an 18-second beating, or even execution for more serious offenses.

The gang’s criminal activities include auto theft, carjacking, drive-by shootings, drug sales, arms trafficking, extortion, rape and murder for hire.

18th Street has been linked to Mexican and Columbian drug cartels and the Mexican Mafia. They’re also believed to work in co-operation with rival black street gangs.

The reach of the 18th Street Gang extends across North America with a membership tally of more than 30,000. It was the first Hispanic gang to cross racial barriers after a heavy recruitment effort in the early 1990s. What began as a Hispanic gang now has members that include African Americans, Asians, Caucasians, and Native Americans.


American Gangster

Gangsters Frank Lucas and Nicky Barnes went from street punks to the top of New York’s high-flying drug market. They were considered the drug czars of Harlem at the height of the drug-fueled decade of the 1970s.

Lucas claimed to have grossed $1 million a day selling drugs on 116th Street. He is particularly known for the “Cadaver Connection,” in which he smuggled heroin from Vietnam in the caskets of fallen American soldiers.

Lucas was convicted in 1976. After turning State’s evidence he was in and out of prison during the next 15 years.

Barnes, the leader of a cartel of African-American drug dealers called “The Council,” made the cover of New York Times Magazine with the headline “Mr. Untouchable.” President Carter was reported to be so incensed, he personally ordered the Attorney General to go after Barnes.

Both are subjects of the 2007 biopic, American Gangster.


Black P Stones

The Black P Stones street gang was formed at the St. Charles Juvenile Correctional Facility in 1960. It was originally known as the Blackstone Rangers because members were based on Blackstone Avenue in the Woodlawn neighborhood of Chicago’s South Side. The gang’s name eventually evolved into the Almighty Black P. Stone Nation (often abbreviated BPSN).

The BPSN controlled South Side neighborhoods through various incarnations and even legitimate businesses. They were once considered community protectors and their leader, Jeff Fort, was seen as “Robin Hood” for the downtrodden. By the early 70′s, they were the most powerful and organized street gang in Chicago..

In 1986, after he converted to Islam and gave the gang an Islamic doctrine, Fort, along with other high-ranking BPSN members, was indicted for attempting to purchase high-powered rocket launchers from Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi. Fort is currently in prison under a no human contact order.

More than 600 people, gang members and civilians, have been killed as a result of the activities of the Black P Stones. Members can be found in almost every state in America.


Hells Angels

The Hells Angels Motorcycle Club (HAMC) was formed in California during 1948, the name inspired by daring bomber pilots of World War II. Bored by post-war, suburban conformity, the Hells Angels hit the road on shiny, impressive, ear-splitting Harley-Davidson motorcycles.

The Hells Angels seemed tailor made for the youth culture of the 1950s and 1960s: longhaired, rebellious, and always ready to party. But those parties invariably turned sour.

One of the biggest parties of all sealed their reputation for murder. At a Rolling Stones concert outside of San Francisco in December 1969, the Hells Angels stabbed a spectator just a few feet from Mick Jagger. A Hells Angel member, Alan Passaro, was later acquitted of murder on grounds of self-defense.

Law enforcement agencies classify the gang as one of the “big four” outlaw motorcycle gangs, contending members carry out widespread violence, drug dealing, trafficking in stolen goods and extortion.

But Hells Angels advocates assert that bikers as a whole are decent, but that one percent of them are bad apples hiding behind the promise of a free-wheeling lifestyle.


Latin Kings

The Latin Kings is a Chicago/New York-based street gang consisting of mainly of Spanish-speaking or Hispanic members. It began in the Chicago area in the 1940s as a means for Hispanics to protect themselves, their neighborhoods and their families.

By the 1970′s, the Latin Kings came to be dominated by individuals engaged in criminal activity, and in particular, narcotics trafficking. The Latin Kings have since spread through all of Latin America and into Europe, specifically Spain.

In 1986, Luis Felipe, calling himself “King Blood,” started a new chapter in New York while at Collins correctional facility. The Latin Kings grew into the thousands by the mid 1990s.

After a rampage in 1995 throughout New York City, dozens of members were arrested and charged with everything from arson to murder. Most plead guilty. “King Blood” was found guilty of all charges, including 8 counts of murder.

Through the late 90s, the Kings tried to polish its image, but was still teaming with crime. Latin King violence still runs amok in the prison system.


Mexican Mafia

The Mexican Mafia, also referred to as La eMe, (Spanish for the letter “M”), was formed in 1957 by Chicano street gang members incarcerated at the Deuel Vocational Institution in Tracy, California.

Approximately thirteen Mexican-Americans from East Los Angeles, including gang members from the Maravilla street gang, formed the original core of the gang called Mexikanemi, Aztec for “He who walks with God in his heart.”

Initially, they banded together over religion and to worship an ancient pre-Hispanic cultural heritage. But their main focus was to protect themselves against African-American convicts, other inmates and the prison staff.

Deuel was called “Gladiator School” by the inmates. Prisoners there honed their fighting skills, and learned the business of drug dealing. They also learned how to maim or murder with handmade weapons.

As the organization grew, it rapidly evolved into a criminal organization involved in extortion, narcotics trafficking and murder, both inside and outside the prison system walls. Today, the Mexican Mafia has spread from California to at least seven other states including; Texas, Arizona, and New Mexico.


MS-13 Suburbia

MS-13 was organized during the 1980s in Los Angeles by Salvadorans. Having grown up with violence, members fled their country’s civil war.

When they arrived in Los Angeles, Mexican gangs preyed on them. The response was to band together in a mara, or “posse,” composed of salvatruchas, or “street-tough Salvadorans” (the “13″ is a gang number associated with southern California).

Once confined to the inner city, MS-13′s reach now extends across 42 states. The gang also now contaminates the most unexpected turf: suburban communities unaccustomed to deal with MS-13′s ruthless brand of violence. Experts say there are currently 3,000 members in Northern Virginia.

Membership has risen to 60,000 between the U.S. and Central America. It’s criminal activities have expanded to include drug smuggling and sales, black market gun sales, human trafficking, assassinations for hire and assaults on law enforcement. Experts say most of their crimes are done on a whim.

MS-13′s notoriety exploded in recent years, fanned by bone-chilling reports of its machete attacks, beheadings and the fatal stabbing of a pregnant teenager after it was discovered she was a federal informer.


Nuestra Familia

Nuestra Familia (Spanish for “Our Family”) was organized in Northern California’s Soledad Correction Training Facility in 1968. Chicano inmates had grown tired of the abuse at the hand of the Mexican Mafia.

Most of the original members of the NF were Northern and Central California. As the NF and Mexican Mafia engaged in a bitter prison war, new prisoners from Northern California were recruited into the NF while Southern California inmates joined the Mexican Mafia. By the late 1970s, after numerous prison riots and murders, an official dividing point emerged between the gangs in Delano, California. Footsoldiers of the gang living outside of the prison are typically called Nortenos (Northerners in Spanish).

The NF has a formal written constitution and claims about 200 inmate members with an additional thousand members on the outside. Their main enterprises are selling drugs and committing murder. Their motto is “blood in, blood out.”

In April 2001, a three-year, top-secret investigation involving thirty agencies and code-named “Operation Black Widow,” resulted in multiple arrests. Law enforcement indicted thirteen La Nuestra Familia members on charges of drug trafficking and murder.


The skinhead phenomenon emerged in the mid 1960′s among Great Britain’s working class youth. Drawn together by the upbeat tempos of Ska music and reggae, early skinheads developed a look drawn from their blue-collar origins – steel-toe boots, straight-leg jeans, button down shirts and suspenders. The close-cropped hairstyles may have been in defiance of the more bourgeois, hippie culture popular at the time.

By the early 1970s, the skinhead movement had splintered into numerous subcultures. Many formed violent gangs with close ties to white supremacist groups like the National Front and the British Movement, playing on underlying resentments held by some who blamed non-white immigrants for economic and social problems. In response, anti-racist skinhead gangs begin to form.

In the late 70s, embraced by the emerging punk rock scene, skinhead culture began to spread to other countries – including the United States. By the mid-80s, American skinheads numbered in the thousands. As in England, their views encompass the entire political spectrum. However, they become notoriously known – and feared – for their most racist and violent subculture, the neo-Nazi skinheads.