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Lifestyle => Train of Thought => Topic started by: Shin on July 20, 2003, 12:59:50 PM

Title: Interesting article about gangs
Post by: Shin on July 20, 2003, 12:59:50 PM

Black Street Gangs in Los Angeles: A History (excerpts from Territoriality Among African American Street Gangs in Los Angeles
by Alejandro A. Alonso, PhD Candidate.

In Los Angeles and other urban areas in the United States, the formation of street gangs increased at an alarming pace throughout the 1980s and 1990s.  The Bloods and the Crips, the most well-known gangs of Los Angeles, are predominately African American[1] and they have steadily increased in number since their beginnings in 1969.  In addition, there are approximately 600 Hispanic gangs in Los Angeles County with a growing Asian gang population numbering approximately 20,000 members.  
Surprisingly, little has been written about the historical background of black gangs in Los Angeles (LA).  Literature and firsthand interviews with Los Angeles residents seem to point to three significant periods relevant to the development of the contemporary black gangs.  The first period, which followed WWII and significant black migrations from the South, is when the first major black clubs formed.  After the Watts rebellion of 1965, the second period gave way to the civil rights period of Los Angeles where blacks, including those who where former club members who became politically active for the remainder of the 1960s.  By the early 1970s black street gangs began to reemerge.  By 1972, the Crips were firmly established and the Bloods were beginning to organize.  This period saw the rise of LA’s newest gangs, which continued to grow during the 1970s, and later formed in several other cities throughout the United States by the 1990s.  While black gangs do not make up the largest or most active gang population in Los Angeles today, their influence on street gang culture nationally has been profound.  

In order to better understand the rise of these groups, I went into the original neighborhoods to document the history which led to these groups.  There are 88 incorporated cities and dozens of other unincorporated places in Los Angeles County (LAC). In the process of conducting this research,  I visited all of these places in an attempt to not just identify gangs active in Los Angeles, but to determine their territories.  Through several weeks of field work and research conducted in 1996, I identified 274 black gangs in 17 cities and four unincorporated areas in LAC.  

Post WWII  to 1965

The first major period of black gangs in Los Angeles began in the late 1940s and ended in 1965.  There were black gangs in Los Angeles prior to this period, but they were small in numbers; little is known about the activity of these groups.  Some of the black groups that existed in Los Angeles in the late 1920s and 1930s were the Boozies, Goodlows, Blogettes, Kelleys, and the Driver Brothers.  Most of these groups were family oriented, and they referred to themselves as clubs.[2]  Max Bond (1936:270) wrote briefly about a black gang of 15-year-old kids from the Central Avenue area that mostly stole automobile accessories and bicycles.  It was not until the late 1940s that the first major black clubs surfaced on the East side[3] of Los Angeles near Jefferson High School in the Central Avenue area.  This was the original settlement area of blacks in Los Angeles.  South of 92nd Street in Watts and in the Jefferson Park/West Adams area on the West side, there were significant black populations.  By 1960 several black clubs were operating on the West side[4] of Los Angeles, an area that had previously restricted black residents during the 1940s.

Several of the first black clubs to emerge in the late 1940s and early 1950s formed initially as a defensive reaction to combat much of the white violence that had been plaguing the black community for several years.  In the surrounding communities of the original black ghetto of Central Avenue and Watts, and in the cities of Huntington Park and South Gate, white Angelenos were developing a dissatisfaction for the growing black population that was migrating from the South during WWII.  During the 1940s, resentment from the white community grew as several blacks challenged the legal housing discrimination laws that prevented them from purchasing property outside the original settlement neighborhoods and integrate into the public schools.  Areas outside of the original black settlement of Los Angeles were neighborhoods covered by legally enforced, racially restrictive covenants or deed restrictions.  This practice, adapted by white homeowners, was established in 1922 and was designed to maintain social and racial homogeneity of neighborhoods by denying non-whites access to property ownership.  

By the 1940s, such exclusionary practices made much of Los Angeles off-limits to most minorities (Bond 1936; Davis 1990:161,273; Dymski and Veitch 1996:40).  This process contributed to increasing homogeneity of communities in Los Angeles, further exacerbating racial conflict between whites and blacks, as the latter existed in mostly segregated communities.  From 1940 to 1944, there was over a 100 percent increase in the black population of Los Angeles, and ethnic and racial paranoia began to develop among white residents. Chronic overcrowding was taking a toll, and housing congestion became a serious problem, as blacks were forced to live in substandard housing (Collins 1980:26).  From 1945-1948, black residents continually challenged restrictive covenants in several court cases in an effort to move out of the dense, overcrowded black community.  These attempts resulted in violent clashes between whites and blacks (Collins 1980:30).  The Ku Klux Klan resurfaced during the 1940s, 20 years after their presence faded during the late 1920s (Adler 1977; Collins 1980), and white youths were forming street clubs to battle integration of the community and schools of black residents.

In Huntington Park, Bell, and South Gate, towns that were predominately white, teenagers formed some of the early street clubs during the 1940s.  One of the most infamous clubs of that time was the Spook Hunters, a group of white teenagers that often attacked black youths.  If blacks were seen outside of the black settlement area, which was roughly bounded by Slauson to the South, Alameda Avenue to the east, and Main[5] Street to the west, they were often attacked.  The name of this club emphasized their racist attitude towards blacks, as “Spook” is a derogatory term used to identify blacks and “Hunters” highlighted their desire to attack blacks as their method of fighting integration and promoting residential segregation. Their animosity towards blacks was publicly known; the back of their club jackets displayed an animated black face with exaggerated facial features and a noose hanging around the neck.  The Spook Hunters would often cross Alameda traveling west to violently attack black youths from the area.  In Thrasher’s study of Chicago gangs, he observed a similar white gang in Chicago during the 1920s, the Dirty Dozens, who often attacked black youths with knives, blackjacks, and revolvers because of racial differences (Thrasher 1963:37).  Raymond Wright was one of the founders of a black club called the Businessmen, a large East side club based at South Park between Slauson Avenue and Vernon Avenue.  He stated that “you couldn’t pass Alameda, because those white boys in South Gate would set you on fire,”[6] and fear of attack among black youths was not, surprisingly, common.  In 1941, white students at Fremont High School threatened blacks by burning them in effigy and displaying posters saying, “we want no niggers at this school” (Bunch 1990: 118).  There were racial confrontations at Manual Arts High School on Vermont and 42nd Street, and at Adams High School during the 1940s (Davis 1990:293).  In 1943, conflicts between blacks and whites occurred at 5th and San Pedro Streets, resulting in a riot on Central Avenue (Bunch 1990:118).  white clubs in Inglewood, Gardena, and on the West side engaged in similar acts, but the Spook Hunters were the most violent of all white clubs in Los Angeles.

The black youths in Aliso Village, a housing project in East Los Angeles, started a club called the Devil Hunters in response to the Spook Hunters and other white clubs that were engaging in violent confrontations with blacks.  The term "Devil" reflected how blacks viewed racist whites and Ku Klux Klan members.  The Devil Hunters and other black residents fought back against white violence with their own form of violence.  In 1944, nearly 100 frustrated black youths, who were denied jobs on the city’s streetcar system, attacked a passing streetcar and assaulted several white passengers (Collins 1980: 29).  During the late 1940s and early 1950s, other neighborhood clubs emerged to fight the white establishment.  Members of the Businessmen and other black clubs had several encounters with the Spook Hunters and other white clubs of the time.

In Watts, several of the clubs were organized geographically by the housing projects in the area.  The projects were built for war workers in the 1940s and were intended to be interracial.  The first public housing project of Watts was the Hacienda Village: single-story units, built in 1942.  In May 1944, the Imperial Courts (498 units) was built, and in September, Jordan Downs (700 units) was completed.  In 1955, the most massive of all public housing projects was completed and named the Nickerson Gardens (1,100 units) (Bullock 1969:14-15).  By the end of the 1950s, over one-third of the population of Watts lived in public housing (Bullock 1969:16).  Clubs like the Huns and the Farmers were active in the Watts housing projects.  Several of these groups fought against the established white clubs for several years.  As black clubs began to negotiate strategies to combat white intimidation and violence, the effectiveness of whites to fight against integration and residential segregation began to fail.    

Eventually "white flight" occurred, as white residents began to move into the growing suburban areas that flourished in the 1950s, leaving the city areas of South Los Angeles behind. This left the central city of Los Angeles as a primarily black enclave, with blacks accounting for 71 percent of the inner-city population (Brunn et al. 1993: 53). By 1960, the three separate communities of Watts, Central Ave, and West Adams had amalgamated into one continuous black settlement area where low, middle, and upper class black neighborhoods were adjoined into a single community.  

During the 1960s, conflicts among the black clubs were growing and, as more white residents continued to move and the white clubs began to fade, the black clubs moved from interracial violence to intraracial violence.  The Gladiators, based at 54th Street and Vermont Avenue, were the largest black club on the West side, and clashes between other black gangs were increasing as intra-racial violence between black club members was on the rise. By 1960 several clubs emerged on the West side and rivalry between East side and West side clubs developed, along with infighting among clubs organized on the same side of town (Figure 4.1).  The  Businessmen  (an East side club)  had  a  rivalry  with  both  the  Slausons  (an East side club) and the Gladiators (a West side club).  Even though more than 50 percent of the gangs active in Los Angeles were Hispanic, black gangs represented a significant proportion of gang incidents that were rapidly increasing in numbers (Study of Delinquent Gangs 1962: 1).  During this time, disputes among these were handled by hand-to-hand combat and by the use of weapons, such as tire irons and knives, but murders were rare.  In 1960, the six gang-related murders that occurred in Los Angeles were considered an extremely high number.  At that point, black-on-black violence between the clubs was becoming a serious concern in Los Angeles.  On the surface, the rivalry between East side and West side clubs was associated with altercations on the football field, disputes over girlfriends, and disagreements at parties, but most of their clashes were rooted in socioeconomic differences between the two.  East side youths resented the upwardly mobile West side youths, because East side residents were viewed as economically inferior to those residents who lived on the West side.  On the other hand, West side youths were considered less intimidating and lacking the skills to be street savvy and tough.  In an effort to prove themselves equally tough, West side youths engaged in several confrontations with East side youths during the early 1960s.  

Several of these clubs fought against each other during this period, but in 1965 after the Watts Rebellion and under the leadership of several socially conscious organizations, most of the rivalry was eradicated.  Young black youths moved towards being more politically aware and having greater concern for the social problems that plagued their community.  Alprentice “Bunchy” Carter, a member of the Slausons, was successful in transforming several black youths of South Los Angeles into revolutionary soldiers against police brutality (Hilliard & Cole 1993:218), and several other organizations were also contributing to the change.  The Watts Riots of 1965 were considered “the Last Great Rumble,” as members of these groups dismissed old rivalries and supported each other against the despised Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) (Baker 1988:28; Davis 1990: 297).  Paul Bullock wrote that a result of the riot activity in Watts was a movement to build organizations and institutions which were led by and entirely responsible to the  community (1969:69).

Social-Political Period, 1965-1970
In the aftermath of the rebellion, young people, namely former club members from the community, began to build political institutions to contest social injustices, specifically police brutality, which sparked the 1965 Watts Riots.  Following the Watts Riots, and throughout the rest of the 1960s, black groups were organizing and becoming politically radical.  

For nearly five years, beginning in 1965, there were almost no active black street gangs in Los Angeles. Several reports that black gang activity was on the decline began to circulate (Klein 1971: 22).  According to Sergeant Warren Johnson, “during the mid and late 1960s, juvenile gang activity in black neighborhoods was scarcely visible to the public at large and of minimal concern to south-central residents” (Cohen 1972).  It was the formation of these new movements that offered black youths a vehicle of positive identification and self-affirmation that occupied the time and energies that might have been spent in gang activity.  A sense of cohesiveness began to form, along with self-worth and positive identification, as pride pervaded the black community (Los Angeles Times 3/19/72).

After the Rebellion in 1965, club members began to organize neighborhood political groups to monitor the LAPD and to document their treatment towards blacks.  Ron Wilkins (ex-member of the Slausons), created the Community Action Patrol (CAP) to monitor police abuses (Davis 1990:297), and William Sampson (ex-member of the Slausons), along with Gerald Aubry (ex-member of the Orientals), started the Sons of Watts, whose key function was to “police the police” (Obtola 1972:7).  The B started a chapter in Los Angeles shortly after Huey Newton, and Bobby Seale started the Party in Oakland, California, in 1966.  The BPP in Los Angeles also organized both the black on several high schools campuses in Los Angeles and the black, a meeting place for black residents concerning community issues on Florence and Broadway in 1967.  Ron "Maulana" Karenga organized a nationalistic group called US Organization, and Tommy Jacquette organized the Self Leadership for All Nationalities Today (SLANT) in October of 1966 (Bullock 1969:67; Tyler 1982: 222).  After splitting away from the US Organization, Hakim Jamal started the Malcolm X Foundation in 1968, and Robaire Nyjuky founded the Marxist Leninist Maoist (MLM) which had an office on 78th Street and San Pedro (Tyler 1983:237).  Student Non-ViolentCoordinating Committee (SNCC), a national organization of black nationalists visited Los Angeles and opened an office on Central Avenue in 1967. Also during this period, Ron Karenga created Kwanza,  a non-religious holiday that celebrates African heritage.  

All these groups were formed in the wake of the 1965 rebellion to provide political support to the civil rights movement that was gaining strength within the black community of Los Angeles.  There were several other black nationalist groups in Los Angeles, but the Panthers and US Organization were considered to have the largest following and the most political influence in the black community of Los Angeles following the Watts Rebellion.  The BPP heavily recruited members from the Slausons, an East side club, while the US Organization had a large a following from the West side clubs, including the Gladiators, but members of both political groups came from a variety of different clubs from all over Los Angeles.  _____________Carter was elected president of the Los Angeles Chapter of the black Panther Party (BPP), whose sole purpose was monitoring the actions of the Los Angeles Police Department. Several members of the black Panthers and the US Organization[7] headed by Ron “Maulana” Karenga, were at one time members of the black clubs of Los Angeles during the 1950s and early 1960s.  Some experts have suggested that the rivalry between the BPP and US was rooted in previous club rivalry, but it was actually associated with the opposite philosophies of the two groups.  

After the formation of several progressive groups in Los Angeles, local and federal law enforcement agencies began to target those groups that they viewed as a threat to society and the nation as a whole. The emerging black consciousness of the 1960s, that fueled the political movement, was viewed as hostile.  The efforts of these political and militant groups to organize young blacks against police brutality were repressed by the FBI, because they specifically viewed the actions of the Panthers and other groups as subversive and a threat to the security of the nation.  Chief Thomas Reddin of the Los Angeles Police Department retained the military model and police tactics that his predecessor (Chief Parker) had employed for sixteen years.  Reddin believed that the black Panthers represented a major threat to the safety of his officers and their authority on the streets (Scheisl 1990: 168).

By 1967, the Panthers were one of the strongest black political groups in the nation, and by November 1968, J. Edgar Hoover dispatched a memorandum calling his field agents to “exploit all avenues of creating ...dissension within the ranks of the BPP” (Churchill and Wall 1990:63). This was accomplished by the use of counterintelligence (COINTELPRO) which are tactics designed to divide, conquer, weaken, and to make ineffective the actions of a particular organization.  COINTELPRO tactics that the FBI began to use against the BPP to weaken its power base, were previously used during the 1940s and throughout the 1950s against the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) and the Communist Party (CPUSA) in the United States (Churchill & Wall 1990:37). From 1968-1971, these tactics were used against the BPP to control and neutralize what was believed to be “a dangerous black political group.”  The most vicious and unrestrained application of COINTELPRO techniques during the late 1960s and early 1970s was clearly reserved for the BPP (Churchill & Wall 1990:61; Horne 1995:13).        

 After several confrontations for over two years, the disputes between the BPP and US continued to the campus of UCLA resulting in the murders of BPP leaders. There are several versions of the events in the described oral histories of those who were present and those who knew the victims personally, but US members were ultimately arrested for the murders.  The years of 1969 and early 1970 marked the end of any forward progress by black political groups in Los Angeles.  

Gang Resurgence, 1970-1972

The attack on black political leadership in Los Angeles, and the power vacuum that remained, created a large void for young black youths in the late 1960s that coincided with the resurgence of black gangs.  A generation of black teens in Los Angeles saw their role models and leadership decimated in the late 1960s.  Raymond Washington, a 15-year-old student at Fremont High School, started the first new street gang in 1969, shortly after much of the Panther power base was eliminated and as other social and political groups became ineffective in Los Angeles. Washington, who was too young to participate in the Panther movement during the 1960s, absorbed much of the Panther rhetoric of community control of neighborhoods (Baker 1988:28) and fashioned his quasi-political organization after the Panther’s militant style, sporting the popular black leather jackets of the time.  Washington got together a few other friends and started the first new black gang in Los Angeles on 78th Street near Fremont High School called the Baby Avenues.

In addition to emulating the Panther appearance, Washington also admired an older gang that remained active throughout the 1960s called the Avenues.  He decided to name his new quasi-political organization the Baby Avenues, to represent a new generation of black youths.  They were also known as the Avenue Cribs, and after a short time they were referred to as the Cribs, which was a comment on their youthfulness.  Their initial intent was to continue the revolutionary ideology of the 1960s and to act as community leaders and protectors of their local neighborhoods, but the revolutionary rhetoric did not endure.  Because of immaturity and a lack of political leadership, Raymond Washington and his group were never able to develop an efficient political agenda for social change within the community.  

The Cribs were successful in developing a style of dress and a recognizable appearance.  In addition to their black leather jackets, they would often walk with canes, and wear an earring in their left ear lobe. Some were also avid weightlifters.  The Cribs began to venture into their own criminal behavior, committing robberies and assaults.  In 1971, several Crib members that were assaulting a group of elderly Japanese women were described by the victims as young cripples that carried canes.  These young cripples were the Cribs, but the local media picked up on this description, and referred to this group as the Crips (Los Angeles Sentinel, 2/10/72).  The print media first introduced the term Crip, and those that were involved in a life of crime were considered to be Crippin’ by other Crib members who were still trying to be revolutionary, with the same political thinking of the 1960s.  According to ______________ Danifu, an original Crib member, the Cribs was the original name of the Crips, but the term Crips was substituted by the use of the word C through a newspaper article that highlighted specific individuals who were arrested for a murder.[8]  Because some of the early Cribs carried canes, the entire notion of Crip as an abbreviated pronunciation from crippled caught on.  Jerry Cohen wrote that Crip members wore earrings in their left lobe, in addition to carrying canes, but the walking sticks were not the source of the gang’s name that many believed (1972: C3).  Danifu continued to add that Crippin’ was a separate thing from being a Crib… “Crippin’ meant robbing, and stealing, and then it developed into a way of life.”[9]  

As mentioned earlier, these youths tried to emulate the fashion of the Panthers by developing a style of dress that included black leather jackets.  Those youths who had the crippin’ mentality, became excessively concerned with imitating the Panther appearance.  By 1972, most Cribs had been completely transformed into the Crippin’ way of life, which often led into criminal activities.  For example, the acquisition of leather jackets by unemployed black youths was accomplished by committing robbery and strong-arming vulnerable youths for their jackets.  Jerry Cohen (1972) described the early Crips as:

 a group of juveniles that committed extortion of merchandise, mugging the elderly, and ripping off weaker youths, particularly for leather jackets that have become a symbol of Crip identity. (p C3)

Ironically, three days after this article was published, the desire for leather jackets led to perhaps the first Crip murder, when a sixteen-year old son of an attorney was beaten to death over a leather coat.  The victim, who was not a gang member, was a West side resident who attended Los Angeles High School and played cornerback for the football team.  According to the Los Angeles Police Department, the group that assaulted him fled the scene with five leather jackets, two wallets, the victim and his friends.  A few days later, nine youths, including members of the infamous Crip gang, were arrested for the murder.  The previous month there was a similar incident where 20 black youths had attacked and beaten a 53- year-old white man to death on Figueroa and 109th Street in South Los Angeles.  It was believed that the Crips were responsible for this killing, but no arrests were ever made (Los Angeles Sentinel 2/10/72).    

The sensational media coverage of the event at the Hollywood Palladium, plus continued assaults by the Crips, attracted other youths to join the Crips.  For youths that have been marginalized along several fronts, such gangs represented manliness to self and others (Vigil & Yun 1990:64).  Many youths joined the Crips, but others decided to form their own gangs.  The increased attention the early Crips received by the police and from the community, because of the violence they were involved in, actually attracted more youths to join these early gangs.  The violence was said to have been committed to attract attention and to gain notoriety (Rosenzweig 1972).  In addition, several other youths formed other non-Crip gangs, in response to continued Crip intimidation.  The idea of Crippin’ had taken over the streets of south Los Angeles, and Mike Davis stated that “Cripmania” was sweeping South side schools in an epidemic of gang shootings and street fights in 1972 (1990:300).  In three short years, the first Crip gang on the East side on 78th Street had spread to Inglewood, Compton, and the West side, totaling eight gangs, as ten other non-Crip gangs formed.  By years end, there were 29 gang-related homicides in the city of Los Angeles, 17 in unincorporated areas of Los Angeles County, and nine in Compton (Rosenzweig 1972).  Gang violence was in the early stages of what would soon become an epidemic in Los Angeles.  


Between 1973 and 1975, several the non-Crip gangs decided to form a united federation, as many Crip gangs began indulging in intra-racial fighting with other black non-Crip gangs.  Because of the sheer numbers that the Crips were able to accumulate through heavy recruitment, they were easily able to intimidate and terrorize other non-Crip gangs, resulting in one of the first Crip against Blood gang-related homicides.  A member of the LA Brims, a West side independent gang, was shot and killed by a Crip member after a confrontation (Jah & Keyah 1995:123).  This incident started the rivalry between the Crips and the Brims. The Piru Street Boys (non-Crip gang) in Compton had severed their relations with the Compton Crips after a similar confrontation, and a meeting was called on Piru Street in Compton where the Blood alliance was created.   Throughout the mid-1970s the rivalry between the Bloods and Crips grew, as did the number of gangs.  In 1974 there were 70 gang-related homicides in Los Angeles, and by 1978, there were 60 black gangs in Los Angeles, 45 Crip gangs, and 15 Blood gangs.  By 1979, at the age of 26, the founder of the Crips was murdered, Crip infighting was well-established, and gang crime became more perilous.  The county reported 30,000 active gang members in 1980 (Table 1.1), and gang murders reached a record high 355 (Table 1.2).  The Los Angeles District Attorney’s office and the Hard Core Gang Unit began to focus their resources on prosecuting gang-related offenses during this time (Collier & Horowitz 1983: 94).  From 1978 to 1982, the number of black gangs grew from 60 to 155 (See chapter 5), and by 1985 gang homicides were reaching epidemic proportions after a brief lull of activity during the Olympics of 1984.  The epidemic of gang-related crime and homicides continued to soar throughout the 1980s, peaking in 1992 with 803 gang-related homicides.

In three years, after the first Crip gang was established in 1969, the number of black gangs in Los Angeles had grown to 18.  Table 1 reveals that in each year where gang territory data was available, the growth in the number of gang territories was significant.  In the six years between 1972 and 1978, 44 new black gangs formed, and only two gangs became inactive.  In the 14 years between 1982 and 1996, 150 new gangs formed.  However, the most dramatic growth was in the four years between 1978 and 1982 when 101 new gangs formed.  In addition to the number of gang territories increasing, the spatial distribution of gang territories changed during these years, penetrating several new places within Los Angeles County.  

In 1972 the Crips and the Bloods were operating in three cities; Los Angeles, Compton, and Inglewood (Figure 1).  Eight Crip gangs, eight Blood gangs, and two independent black gangs were firmly established within the south-central area of Los Angeles, including Compton and Inglewood.  Six gangs had territories that went beyond municipal boundaries into the adjacent unincorporated areas of Athens, Florence, Rosewood, and Willowbrook. The gang territories of these 18 gangs represented a contained and continuous region of gang territories in the south Los Angeles area of 29.9 square miles (Figure 1).  

By 1978,  the number of gangs in the city of Los Angeles doubled.  By 1982, 17 places within Los Angeles County had observable gang territories, with the most significant gains occurring in Los Angeles, Compton, Lynwood and Inglewood.  Twenty-one places within Los Angeles County had identifiable gang territories by 1996.

To summarize, the research presented on gang territories for the four different years shows a growing trend in both the number of gang territories and the spatial extent of these territories.  Not only did gang territories expand from the original regions of Los Angeles and Compton, but territories were being formed in several communities outside this area in the periphery of the county.  Black gangs developed first in the central area of Los Angeles during the early 1970s, then spread to the adjacent suburban areas by the late 1970s and early 1980s.  During the 1980s, black gangs appeared in peripheral suburban areas of the county.  The increases in black gang territories from Los Angeles to suburban areas of Los Angeles County coincided with the out migration of blacks from Los Angeles County that increased in the late 1970s (Johnson and Roseman 1990:209).  Migration patterns within Los Angeles County have, to some degree, influenced the spatial distribution and growth of gang territories within Los Angeles County.  In nearly thirty years, gang territories spread to cover over 60 square miles of the county.

The number of black gangs in Los Angeles dramatically increased from 18 gangs in 1972 to 60 gangs by 1978.  This trend did not cease, and by the 1990s, there were close to 300 black gangs in Los Angeles County.  The accompanying expansion of gang territories led to the inevitability that gang conflict would spill into non-gang communities.  black gangs along with Latino gangs were no longer confined to the inner city of Los Angeles. By the 1990s, the changing geography of these gangs, which were once confined to the inner-city during the 1970s, became bizarrely juxtaposed with the affluent landscape of Los Angeles suburbia by the late 1980s and early 1990s.  As the gang epidemic was unfolding in Los Angeles, other urban and suburban areas in the United States began to see the formation of street gangs. During the 1980s, a number of cities reported street gang activity, with many reporting the presence of active Los Angeles-based Blood and Crip gangs.  In 1988 police departments from all over the country, from Shreveport, Louisiana, to Kansas City, Missouri, to Seattle, Washington, were reporting that California gang members were extending their operations (Skolnick et al. 1993). Some of this was due to migration of gang members from Los Angeles, and some gang formation was the result of indigenous youths emulating Los Angeles gang culture, which was partly facilitated through the media and films.

Klein’s research revealed that there were one hundred cities reporting gang activity in the United States in 1970 with a significant cluster of jurisdictions reporting gang activity in Southern California.  Cities on the East Coast were believed to have a contained pattern of gang formation, while California’s spatial distribution of “gang cities” reflected a pattern of regional proliferations.  By 1992, Klein’s survey showed that 769 cities in the United States were reporting street gang activity.  By the 1990s, several cities in the Midwest were reporting gang activity while California led the nation in the number of cities reporting gangs.  Only four states in the 1992 survey did not report any gang activity (See Klein 1995:193-195).  Research by Walter Miller showed that by 1975, Los Angeles was en route to becoming the gang capital of the nation, with an estimated 580 gangs being reported in Los Angeles, the largest number reported in this survey.  New York led the nation in gang membership with 24,000, but Los Angeles was second in the country with 13,500 estimated gang members.  

The dramatic increase in the number of gangs from 1978 to 1982, which was most evident in Los Angeles, Compton, and Inglewood, occurred during the same time when unemployment was rising because of plant closures.  A major phase of deindustrialization was occurring in Los Angeles that resulted in 70,000 workers being laid off in South Los Angeles between 1978 and 1982, heavily impacting the black community (Soja et al. 1983: 217).  Unemployment at the expense of base closures and plant relocations has been linked, among other factors, to persistent juvenile delinquency that has led to gang development (Klein 1995: 103,194). Spergel found that gangs where more prevalent in areas where limited access to social opportunities and social disorganization, or the lack of integration of key social institutions including youth and youth groups, family, school, and employment in a local community, were found (1995:61).  Also the type of community was believed to influence the prevalence of gangs, and neighborhoods with large concentrations of poor families, large number of youths, female-headed households, and lower incomes were key factors (Covey et al. 1997:71).  In addition, poverty that is associated with unemployment, racism, and segregation is believed to be a foremost cause of gang proliferation (Klein 1995: 194).  These conditions are strongly associated with areas plagued by poverty, rather than the suburban regions identified in this study.

By the mid 1990s there were an estimated 650,000 gang members in the United States (U.S. Department of Justice 1997), including 150,000 in Los Angeles County (Figure 1.1).  In addition, in 1996 there were over 600 Hispanic gangs in Los Angeles County along with a growing Asian gang force of about 20,000.  With gang membership increasing, gang-related homicides in Los Angeles County reached epidemic proportions for black and Hispanic males that represented 93 percent of all gang-related homicide victims from 1979 to 1994 (Hutson, et al. 1995).  From 1985 to 1992, gang-related homicides had increased in each of the eight consecutive years (Figure 1.2).  However, the year following the Los Angeles Civil Unrest of 1992, there was a ten percent drop in  homicides, the first reduction in gang-related homicides in Los  Angeles since 1984.  This drop in killings was the result of a gang truce implemented by the four largest gangs in Watts, the Bounty Hunters, the Grape Streets, Hacienda Village, and PJ Watts (Perry 1995:24).  In 1992, shortly before the urban unrest of April 29, 1992, a cease-fire was already in effect in Watts, and after the unrest, a peace treaty was developed among the largest black gangs in Watts.  Early on, the police started to credit the truce for the sharp drop in gang-related homicides (Berger 1992).  Homicides remained relatively stable for the two years following 1993, and in 1996, there was a notable 25 percent drop in gang-related homicides from the previous year. By 1998 gang-related homicides were at their lowest rate in over ten years despite the increasing number of gang members over the same period.  It is not known if the gang truce of 1992 is still responsible for the low number of homicides, or if some other factors such as an increase in police officers, a changing economy, or the implementation of new anticrime legislation have had an effect on the drop in gang crime.  Additionally, the growing number of antigang programs may have had an influence on the reduction of gang-related crime.

[1]  A majority of the Crips and Bloods in Los Angeles are African American with the exceptions of a Samoan Crip gangs active in Long Beach, a Samoan Blood gang active in Carson, an Inglewood Crip gang with mostly members of Tongan descent, and a mixed Samoan/black gang active in Compton.  With the exception of these four gangs, Crips and Blood gangs are predominately African American.

[2] The groups during this time identified themselves as clubs, but the police department often characterized these groups as gangs.

[3] The East side of Los Angeles refers to the areas east of Main Street to Alameda in the City of Los Angeles. This area includes Watts, and the unincorporated area of Florence.  It does not include East LA, Boyle Heights, or other eastern portions of the city.  Those areas are usually referred to by their specific names.      

[4] The West side of Los Angeles refers to the areas west of Main Street, an area that was off limits to blacks in the 1940s. Through time, though, the border between east and west has moved slightly west in the “mental maps” of those who lived in this area. Later Broadway became the infamous border, and later again the Harbor 110 freeway became the border.  Some today consider Vermont Avenue the division between the West side & East side. Gangs have always identified geographically to either East side or West side and they have maintained the use of Main Street as their point of division between the two.

[5] Main Street was the street that bounded the Central Avenue community to the west, but over time, this boundary would move further west.  Success to move out of the ghetto occurred in a westerly direction, and over time, Broadway became the boundary, then later Vermont.

[6] Personal interview with Raymond Wright.

[7] Organization was a Los Angeles based black political cultural group from the 1960’s that was under the leadership of Ron Karenga (also known as Maulana Karenga).

[8]  Interview with Danifu in 1996.

[9] Miller’s data was presented in two sets of figures for both the number of gangs and the number of gang members with one a high estimate of gangs and other a low-end estimate. I averaged the two figures for Table 1.1.

Title: Re:Interesting article about gangs
Post by: Don Seer on July 20, 2003, 03:21:00 PM
so it all started as a defensive response to white racism. :/

Title: Re:Interesting article about gangs
Post by: ZILLA THA GOODFELLA on July 20, 2003, 04:20:37 PM
Watch out for tha documentary entitled "Frisco Gangs" directed by Spike Lee comin to Show Time soon....They just finished filimin it 2 dayz ago....It's sicc!
Title: Re:Interesting article about gangs
Post by: UnstoppableForce on July 20, 2003, 10:51:07 PM
Watch out for tha documentary entitled "Frisco Gangs" directed by Spike Lee comin to Show Time soon....They just finished filimin it 2 dayz ago....It's sicc!

East Bay Koonies.... jk  ;D
Title: Re:Interesting article about gangs
Post by: Trauma-san on July 20, 2003, 10:58:15 PM
so it all started as a defensive response to white racism. :/

Yup.  Another thing for whitey to be ashamed about... DAMN YOU WHITE MAN
Title: Re:Interesting article about gangs
Post by: Shin on July 21, 2003, 10:18:46 AM
so it all started as a defensive response to white racism. :/

Yup.  Another thing for whitey to be ashamed about... DAMN YOU WHITE MAN

that's not even the point. ironically, the crips used to be an activist group. that's what i was aiming at.
Title: Re:Interesting article about gangs
Post by: Don Jacob on July 21, 2003, 07:02:56 PM
hmmm so if the crips started off as an activist group............hmmm ::ponders the thought of a gang called the jane fondas who beef with the Susan Surandon::

"what set you claim east side day glow wrist band JF's Beeeyotch" : does arobics:

"Fuck that i'll die for my red wig, West side Surandooooooooon" :: throws up ganster S's"
Title: Re:Interesting article about gangs
Post by: ZILLA THA GOODFELLA on July 22, 2003, 12:06:54 AM
Watch out for tha documentary entitled "Frisco Gangs" directed by Spike Lee comin to Show Time soon....They just finished filimin it 2 dayz ago....It's sicc!

East Bay Koonies.... jk  ;D

lol.....suck it!

Correction, it will entitled "SUCKA FREE CITY" Documentary about Gangs in San Francisco, CA directed by Spike Lee.....Soundtrack on Get Low Records and possible appearence by tha man himself RODZILLA!

Title: Re:Interesting article about gangs
Post by: UnstoppableForce on July 22, 2003, 12:16:52 AM
Watch out for tha documentary entitled "Frisco Gangs" directed by Spike Lee comin to Show Time soon....They just finished filimin it 2 dayz ago....It's sicc!

East Bay Koonies.... jk  ;D

lol.....suck it!

Is that your guys' slogan? LOL. Rod reppin EBK 8)
Title: Re:Interesting article about gangs
Post by: ZILLA THA GOODFELLA on July 22, 2003, 12:24:39 AM
lol......I'm in da west bay anyway.......
Title: Re:Interesting article about gangs
Post by: UnstoppableForce on July 22, 2003, 12:26:20 AM
Oh shit that's even worse. Dub-B KR.... WestBay Keer Riders... :-X

Title: Re:Interesting article about gangs
Post by: OpTiCaL on July 28, 2003, 04:41:53 AM
Watch out for tha documentary entitled "Frisco Gangs" directed by Spike Lee comin to Show Time soon....They just finished filimin it 2 dayz ago....It's sicc!

Yeah read about that...can anyone cap it for me please ;)

Title: Re:Interesting article about gangs
Post by: CRAFTY on August 09, 2003, 05:37:25 AM
Interesting article, I learned some new things  ;) Thanks.