Though many people may picture the Hollywood hills as atypical California, in reality there is no standard for what life in the state is like. With its drastically different climates and levels of urbanized areas versus open air untouched forest, the state is home to everything from superstar celebrities to bears. Amongst this list are an excessively high number of gangs and gang members. This is due to the highly condensed amount of poverty stricken neighbourhoods which are poorly policed and by association encourage a climate of lawlessness. The list of gangs that operate in the state is lengthy and because of their criminal nature, most gangs don’t intend for their presence to be known meaning that current estimates are likely inaccurate, and the actual number is much higher. Here are some of the most prolific street gangs operating in California.
Starting in the 70’s the Bloods have moved their organisation all over America but California is where it originated and where most of its members inhabit. This African American gang is known for wearing the colour red and being involved with violent crime and drug dealing. Often represented in different media as either violent maniacs or simply peacekeepers, the Bloods have undoubtedly caused harm in their time here. Known for their hand signals or ‘gang sign’ that spells the word blood on their fingers, they are also well known for their persistent rivalry with the next gang.
Infamously in a perpetual battle over territory and revenge killings with the bloods, the Crips also occupy vast areas of California. With a proximity that can be as close as the next street, the constant tug of war between these two heavyweights has caused plenty of bloodshed. Some argue that the eye for an eye mentality that has caused this gang war to last so long is the reason why other gangs have been able to move in, seemingly slipping under the radar while those two draw all the media focus and the gunfire.
This gang has been recruiting members since the 1950’s and the organisation still holds some significant ground in California today. The Latin Kings unsurprisingly are made up of Latinos, bearing regal symbolism often. They can be seen wearing black and gold and graffiti in their name is often finished with a crown. Unlike many of the other gangs which focus simply on territory and money the creeds and conduct within this organisation have many different rules, religion-like rituals and many internally governed forms of punishment.
Otherwise known as Mara Salvatrucha, this gang comprised mainly of Salvadorians are well known for their violent behaviour. Making sure that their violence is public is part of their fear tactic and the gang have been known to be indiscriminate when it comes to killings. They were so well known for their ruthlessness that the infamous Sinaloa Cartel to deal with their rivals. The presence of MS-13 has risen dramatically in recent years stretching to new states and fortifying their numbers in California as seen by tattoos or graffiti bearing their name.