Asians, Blacks, (Afro-Americans), Hispanics, and Whites - they are all part of the history of gangs. History does repeat itself and gangs are not a new or recent phenomenon. Their history has been traced back to the post Revolutionary War days and originally they formed as a means of self-protection and as social clubs. In the early nineteenth century , Irish immigrants formed the first street gangs in New York City. Later with the arrival of immigrants of many ethnicities, other gangs began to form, mostly by race or culture. A Gangs OR Us sample of gangs in each state can be found here - Gangs in the United States

By the 1920's, the city of Chicago is reported to have had over 1300 gangs in the city. Also, about this time, gangs began to form and have a presence in Los Angeles, California.

The gangs of today  wear colors or particular types of clothing and come from every ethnicity, Asian, Black (Afro-American), Hispanic, and White (Caucasian). They use nick names or "monikers" to identify themselves. They use drugs and alcohol. They conduct criminal activity to include assaults and murder. The gangs of today did not originate any of these identifiers or criminal activities. They have simply increased and expanded that which was required to be a "gang banger" of yesteryear.

An extensive study about gangs in America has been published by the U.S Department of Justice, National Gang Center. 

The 3 R's - Reputation, Respect, Reputation-

In order to better understand the gang mentality, the following are considered the "Three R's" of gang culture:

(1) REPUTATION/REP: This is of critical concern to "gang bangers" (gang members). A rep extends not only to each individual, but to the gang as a whole. In some groups, status (or rank) is gained within the gang by having the most "juice" based largely on one's reputation. While being "juiced" is very important, the manner by which the gang member gains the "juice" is just as important.  Gang members may embellish their past gang activities in an attempt to impress others.  Gang members may freely admit crimes to enhance their feeling of power.

(2) RESPECT: This is something everyone wants and some gang members carry their desire for it to the extreme. Respect is sought for not only the individual, but also for one's set or gang, family, territory, and various other things, real or perceived in the mind of the "gangbanger". Some gangs require, by written or spoken regulation, that the gang member must always show disrespect to rival gang members. (Referred to in gang slang as dis). If a gang member witnesses a fellow member failing to dis a rival gang through hand signs, graffiti, or a simple "mad dog" or stare-down, they can issue a "violation" to their fellow posse member and he/she can actually be "beaten down" by their own gang as punishment. After dis has been issued, if it is witnessed, the third "R" will become evident.

(3) RETALIATION/REVENGE: It must be understood that in gang culture, no challenge goes unanswered.  Many times, drive-by shootings and other acts of violence follow an event perceived as a "dis" (disrespect). A common occurrence is a confrontation between a gang set and single rival "gangbanger." Outnumbered, he departs the area and returns with his "homeboys" to complete the confrontation to keep his reputation intact. This may occur immediately or it may follow a delay for planning and obtaining the necessary equipment to complete the retaliatory strike. It must also be understood that many acts of violence are the result of bad drug deals or infringement on drug territory. Some question the authenticity of gang rivalry in shootings and other acts of violence. However, if a group of individuals are together committing either random or pre- planned violence, aren't they a gang? If the gang aspect is learned about, many crimes can be solved through the use of accurate intelligence gathering techniques by law enforcement agencies dealing with this problem. In gangbanging, today's witness is tomorrow's suspect, is the next day's victim.


The following video is an example of gang retaliation - An example of "no challenge goes unanswered."

I8th Street Gang member shoots civilian 6 times for bumping into him


Most of what you read and learn is about the West Coast and Chicago gangs.  However, not all of the major gangs originated in those areas.  From those early gangs, others have emerged.

In the early sixties, two west coast Hispanic gang alliances emerged; the Sureños, representing Southern California gangs and the Norteños, representing Northern California. Most Hispanic gangs align themselves with one of these two alliances, depending on their geographic location. Both the Sureños and the Norteños have now spread to many parts of the United States.

Following the emergence of the Sureños and the Norteños, two other alliances were formed. In the early 1980's The Folk Nation was formed in the Illinois Prison system. This formation was an attempt to bring all Chicago street gangs under one umbrella. The attempt failed and as a result the People Nation was formed. Many gangs align or claim allegiance to one of the two nations and the nations are now established in most states.

There are many rivalries in the gang culture. Even among gangs or sets with the same name or gangs with the same ethnicity and culture. This has been demonstrated through the violence and bitter rivalry between the Sureños and Norteños.

As a result of these often predictable rivalries, two recently formed Hispanic alliances have now appeared on the scene on the east coast of the United States; La Gran Raza (The Great Race) and La Gran Familia (The Great Family.)

Although they have only existed since the 1990's, these alliances have already shown their propensity for major criminal activity.

Originally they were primarily located in the Northeastern United States, but they are spreading rapidly and have reached as far south as Georgia. In December, 2002, the United States Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia (Atlanta) indicted 51 gang members who allegedly were members of five gangs aligned with La Gran Familia.

The suspects were members of:

  • Brown Side Locos
  • Latin Kings
  • Malditos-13
  • Pachuco-21
  • Riverside Locos 

These gang members were reportedly indicted for a variety of crimes including at least five murders.

Please note that newly formed gangs or gangs that have formed in your area, frequently assume a gang name that may be only known locally. However, they may adopt signs, colors, symbols, or other identifiers of a nationally known gang.


Gangs always have, and always will, continue to grow in numbers as long as Community Leaders, Law Enforcement, School Districts, and Parents turn their heads or UNTIL A TRAGEDY Occurs!

A look into the history of gangs

The following link is an excellent source of information for the history of gangs, trends, backgrounds and gang violence.

Gang Race Wars

Originally, gangs formed in order to protect themselves and their neighborhoods from others. The evolution of gangs later turned from protecting the neighborhood to the sale of drugs and violence. Today, in Los Angeles, as predicted years ago, by gang members themselves, a race war exists between Black and Hispanic gangs. Unfortunately, in their quest for power and control, the race wars have now reached beyond gang member against gang member, they have now begun killing totally innocent children and adults.

The following series of videos about gang violence, originated on the History Channel as a one hour television documentary.


The links below provide you with other background information as to how and why various gangs formed or evolved from early in our history to the present day.

Other Chicago gangs information

Cabrini Green Video - A Chicago public housing project and a breeding ground for gangs

Advisory - This video contains violence and profane  language

Click the arrow at the left bottom of the screen to start the video

Click the small box located next to "Google" to open the full screen. 


Hell's Angels


A new threat


Hispanic Gang Information


U.S. Military report - MS-13

The following link is an unclassified document presented by a U.S. Military Group (USMILGP) working with the U.S. Embassy in El Salvador.

WARNING:  Some photographs in the presentation contain very graphic images of persons who have been murdered and decapitated.

Los Zetas - A relatively new Hispanic threat

About 2002, many members of an elite Mexican army unit deserted and formed a drug gang, using their military training to launch a violent battle for control of the city of Nueveo Laredo (Tamaulipas) , Mexico's top anti-drug prosecutor said.

The group calls itself Los Zetas; also known as the "Z's." They are known for their viciousness and violence and they appear to be taking on the old, traditional drug cartels of the area. They use heavy weapons and will not hesitate to kill , even in broad daylight.

According to a law enforcement source in Georgia, members of Los Zeta have been encountered "running interference" for the drug runners (apparently arriving from the Mexican border) in the Atlanta area. 

Thus far, a tattoo of the letter "Z" on the individuals body is the only known identifier.




Canadian Gangs

A snapshot of Prison Gangs and Youth gangs in Canada: Well-known Gangs, Membership, Offenses, Risk and Reconviction

  • Canadian Prison Gangs


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    This page was last updated on 03/14/2014

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