Los Angeles names top ten gangs
By Alex Alonso (Streetgangs.com)
February 10, 2007
updated: February 18, 2007
Last week the City went in a different direction in their goal of reducing gang violence by naming gangs and putting them on a top ten list as being most violent. This is a radical change by the City and one that is unusual because most law enforcement agencies go out their way NOT to identify specific gangs in their investigations unless absolutely necessary. Now we have the first announcement of the City’s top ten gangs and according to Mayor Villaraigosa its time to try something different.
There are several reasons why the notion of naming gangs can backfire on the police, the community, and the youth of these neighborhoods, but some of the reasons why you want to prevent naming a gang as a target is:
1) you legitimize the existence of the gang and give a sense of pride to the members. Being officially recognized by the government on a public stage can escalate the gang’s normal activities and you give them an additional reason to gang bang and for gangs that are not truly top ten gang may have to live up to their top ten ranking, 2) you create an “us against them” relationship which further strengthens the bonds amongst the members making them a stronger and more cohesive group. Professor Malcolm Klein has emphasized this point for years while talking with City officials and law enforcement are well aware of this possibility, 3) you warn the gang of the preemptive strike awaiting them, rather than just implementing the suppression tactic, allowing them to prepare for the worst, 4) members from gangs that did not make the top ten list may be compelled to act out more violently so that they are recognized. This recognition carries a lot of weight in the neighborhood and can aid in attracting new younger impressionable members, 5) and most importantly, it can serve as a recruitment tool for the gangs that are identified, just like the Robert Ballou murder of 1972 galvanized more youth to join up with the Crips when it was learned they were responsible for the murder. The naming of gangs by City officials can entice at-risk youth who are on the threshold of gang membership to join up with a neighborhood gang, especially if they believe that their neighborhood is a top ten. It gives the youth a sense of power. This is especially dangerous when the top ten gangs are not indeed the most active and violent gangs in the community providing these lesser gangs a recruitment boost.
Although many would think that this tactic would also serve as a deterrent to the younger at-risk youth in the community, only parents can do that task, and with thousands of youth from broken families on the verge of gang membership, the City perhaps just assisted in making ten gangs more popular in the community amongst the vulnerable and naive youth. Although I believe Mayor Villaraigosa and Chief Bratton are trying to do the right thing in combating gangs, this style of suppression will likely fail to solve any long-term gang problems the City is facing.
When the City’s list was published last week, there was a combination of what I call hard-core gangs and lower level gangs on the list. I was expecting to see a list of the “worst of the worst,” but this list did not reflect that. Instead, it appears that an effort to include gangs from all four LAPD bureaus was made, including the valley, an area that traditionally has less active and less violent gangs than in the central and south portions of the city.
Additionally, identifying a gang as more violent than the next gang, a term the City of LA is using, can be a bit misleading and must be put into context. There are three significant variables that make one gang stronger and more violent than another; 1) gangs that are geographically located in neighborhoods with high rates of poverty in socially disorganized communities are going to have a propensity for more violence, (see high poverty gang neighborhoods) because of the scant resources available to them. A more descriptive way to explain these gangs are to characterize these neighborhoods as areas with extreme levels of concentrated poverty, with a host of other social problems,2) the geographic size of a gang’s territory which is established during early formation will impact the level of poverty that a gang is exposed to plus contribute to its size in membership, 3) and the population density of that territory has an indirect consequence to the size and strength of the gang having available a larger population pool to recruit from thus making them numerically larger. I mentioned these points because gang members from different gangs are mostly the same, but it is the gang as a whole that is different, so if one gang has 400 members and another gang has 100 members, we can expect the gang with 400 members to be four times as active than the gang with 100 members, so we will look at the 400 member gang to be more violent when only because it is the larger. Rather than focusing on gangs, we should have enough intelligence to focus on the top 100 gang members that have exhibited violent pathological tendencies, but not the gang.
I normally would not publish a top ten gang list of my own, but in challenging the City’s direction by naming their top ten I have to justify my criticism of their list by offering a top ten list of my own and in doing so, I hope to educate those in Los Angeles where gang killings are most prevalent and where poverty is severe. In doing so, I hope to encourage those that are working diligently in prevention and intervention efforts where to focus their resources. Below I assembled a top 20 gang list categorized by neighborhood alphabetically.
- Eight Tray (83) Gangster Crip (77th Division): If you are going to name the Rollin 60s you have to name this neighborhood. Their rivalry is fueled by the hatred they have for each other and by not mentioning this neighborhood in the same context is completely illogical. In 1988, LAPD Lt. Bob Ruchoft said “the Eight-Trey Gangster Crips are considered to be one of the city’s most violent street gangs because they have a reputation for being ruthless with people who oppose them. At least six homicides-including one other case this year-have been linked to the group since the start of 1987 (Los Angeles Times, May 12, 1988),” and not much has changed since then in this community.
- Eight Tray (83) Hoovers (South LA – 77th Division), here are six separate Hoover neighborhoods from 52nd Street to 112th Street, but the 83 Hoovers are the most active and the largest and they fight with all Crips and Bloods. They used to identify as “Hoover Crips” but in 1996 they dropped the Crip label and became Crip killers. They have no allies.
- Eighteen Street SC click (77th Division): This particular click of 18th Street has the strongest rivalry with the Florencia 13 barrio, has one of the largest neighborhoods of the 20 different 18th Street clicks, has the most membership as well.
- Florencia 13 (77th Division): This is the largest single Hispanic barrio in the entire City and County and engaged in a biter rivalry with all Eighteen Street clicks, especially the South Central click. It is also in a racially motivated battle against the East Coast Crips. This gang manages to stay out of media headlines but law enforcement knows how active this gang is. They haven’t killed a 14-year old girl yet, most of their victims are black gang members.
- Rollin’ 60 Crips (Hyde Park – 77th Division): I agree that this neighborhood is a top ten most active gang. They are the first Crip gang to be engaged in a serious rivalry with another Crip gang, the Eight tray Gangsters, and the 60s are the most powerful gang from the N-hood alliance. Back in 2003 there was a gang injunction filed against them but apparently that civil order has done little to slow down this neighborhood.
- Black P Stones (Baldwin Village – Southwest Division): The Black P Stones are actually two seperate gangs, so the City’s list is actually a top 12 list. On the City’s map one can observe the two separate areas of these two neighborhoods, one in the Baldwin Village (the Jungles) and the other in the West Adams area. I do agree that the BPS in the Jungles is a top ten gang, fighting rigorously with the Rollin 30s Crips, the West Blvd Crips, and their racial conflict with the Alsace click of 18th Street, but the West Adams neighborhood, known as the City Stones is not a top ten gang. In November 2005, the BPS in the jungles were target by the 1,000 FBI and LAPD officers in a sweep that arrested 18 people in what was known as “Operation Stone Cold” and there was also an injunction filed against them in June 2006, the LAPD had.
- Eighteen Street (Pico-Union- Rampart Division): This is the second largest 18th Street neighborhood in Los Angeles and the original location where this gang was born nearly 40-years ago. This gang is in the Pico-Union area, the most drug plagued area in the County. I would go as far as to rank the entire Pico-Union in the top ten.
- Rollin 30s Crips (Jefferson Park – Southwest): One of the largest west side Crip gangs in the entire County and engaged in a bitter rivalry with the Rollin 20s Bloods and the Black P Stones.
- Rollin 20s Bloods (West Adams – Southwest): The largest geographical area for a Blood gang in all of Los Angeles engaged in a rivalry with the Rollin’ 30s Crips, which has been responsible for a significant portion of murder in this neighborhood. The 20s also joined with the BPS in their conflict with the 18th Street neighborhood in the West Adams area.
- 118 East Coast Crip (South LA – South East Division): There are about 11 active East Coasts Crip neighborhoods in LA County and this area is perhaps their most active hood engaged in a rivalry with the Athens Park Bloods and a racially motivated conflict with Florencia 13.
- Bounty Hunters (Watts – Southeast Division): Arguably the largest Blood gang in LA occupying the largest public housing in in the City, the Nickerson Gardens. Their rivalry with the Grape Streets is perhaps the second most deadliest rivalry in LA gang history. A gang injunction was filed against this neighborhood in August of 2003 and the City was correct by listing this neighborhood.
- Grape Street Crips (Watts – Southeast Division): The largest Crip gang in Watts and perhaps the largest on the eastside occupying the Jordon Downs housing project. The City got it right naming this gang. They are engaged in a rivalry with the Bounty Hunters after several years of a truce. There was a gang injunction filed against this gang, but this is another testament of the ineffectiveness of a gang injunction when you still make the top ten gang list.
- Watts Varrio Grape (Watts – Southeast Division):
- Eighteen Street
(Pico-Union- Rampart Division)
- Mara Salvatrucha (Pico Union – Rampart Division)
- 38th Street (South LA, Newton Division)
- 52 Pueblos (East Side, Newton Division)
- Blood Stone Villains (South LA, Newton Division)
- Mad Swan Bloods (East Side, Newton Division)
- Play Boys, South Side (South LA, Newton Division)<
There are six gangs on the City’s list that I would not make my top ten or even top 20 list.
- Mara Salvatrucha is the most mentioned gang in the last year because of its international presence in Central America, but many gangs throughout the country decided to take on the MS name expanding its reputation. Several of these over night clicks have appeared in dozens of cities but they do not have roots in Los Angeles. MS did make my top ten list, but not the click in Hollywood. Additionally this Hollywood click had an injunction filed against them in 1998 but apparently the injunction is having little impact on this neighborhood if they managed to make LA’s top ten.
- Rollin’ 40s Crip gang is certainly a major gang, but how it made it into the top ten I cannot explain. They actually have a truce with the Rollin’ 30s Crips whom they have been feuding with since 1997.
- The 204th Street gang is one of the smallest gangs in the entire city, and the only reason why they have been the most discussed gang in the last two months is because of the racial killing of 14-year old Cheryl Green. They have been involved in a couple of other racial killings during the last five years, but they don’t even make my top 50 list of most active violent gangs in Los Angeles.
- The Avenues is definitely an active gang with a violent reputation, but there are other gangs that carry stronger reputations. It makes my top 25 for sure but remember that City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo grew up in this neighborhood so he is going to cater to his core constituents and make sure that extra law enforcement resources are directed to this neighborhood. So I understand why this neighborhood made the list; I want my neighborhood safe to. This choice demonstrates to me that this gang naming process is certainly political. And did we forget that the Avenues had an injunction filed against them in December 2002 with a safety zone covering 9.7 square miles, far bigger than it’s actual turf, realy putting a clamp down on this gang, but as I have been advocating for years, the injunction does little to reduce crime long term in this community.
- Canoga Park Alabama has a large west valley barrio, but there is not one gang neighborhood in the valley that has a level of gang activity that compares to the typical neighborhoods in South and East Los Angeles for the last 30 years. If I was doing a top ten valley list CPA would make that list, but it does not make my top 50 list for Los Angeles, but there are several prominent people and neighborhoods that live a “stone throw” from this barrio. Can we say “not in my back yard?”
- What have the LaMirada Locos done? I almost forgot that this neighborhood existed, and if you drive through there, you will be hard luck to find the gang hanging out in public. Even on the City of Los Angeles; official map of the area, the turf is shaded with dashes to suggest some uncertainty about its boundaries. This neighborhood does not make my top 100.
Other neighborhoods that are facing serious gang violence as a result of other failures within the community are; Avenues, Athens Park, Big Hazard, 74 Hoovers, 97 East Coast Crips, and all of the Pico-Union area.