All cities have street gangs. Some can be violent and others can be criminal organizations. Los Angeles, without a doubt, is the world hub of ethnic street gangs. Blacks have the Bloods, Crips and Pirus while Asian Americans have the Asian Boyz, Fullerton Boys, Kkangpae, Menace of Destruction, Satanas. Chinese have the Four Seas, United Bamboo Gang, Wah Ching and White Dragon while Whites have Armenian Power, Aryan Brotherhood, Hells Angels MC, Nazi Low Riders and Public Enemy No. 1. Hispanics have the most gang activity. Some of their larger gangs are 13th Street, 18th Street, 38th Street, Clanton 14, Mexican Mafia (Prison Gang), Mongols MC, MS – 13, Nortenos, Nuestra Familia (Prison Gang), Avenues, The Rascals, Tooner Ville Rifa 13, Varrio Nuevo Estrada and White Fence. Keep in mind these are just the larger gangs and many of them have divisions known as "sets".
Black neighborhoods in Los Angeles experienced the formation of clubs after World War II and lasting until the first Watts Riot (1965). These clubs soon became known as gangs as violence amongst them started to grow. Growing up in the metro area, I can remember the Slausons, Gladiators, Del Vikings and Businessmen. Whites had a gang known as the "Spook Hunters" (in the Hawthorne and Inglewood areas) who would seek Blacks to beat up. The Slausons and Del Vikings retaliated and put them to rest.
After the Watts Riot, a new organization appeared. Bunchy Carter, a charismatic, tall and muscular brother who ran the "Renegades" set of the Slausons founded the Southern California Chapter of the Black Panther Party. He was recruiting 50 – 100 members a week and their mantra was to watch the L.A. Police Department and protect the people. LAPD wasn’t having it. They teamed up with the secret FBI operation known as COINTELPRO. This anti-constitutional concoction of J. Edgar Hoover basically went after Black elected officials but the national rise of the Black Panthers made Hoover decide to literally wipe them out. They encouraged another new group known as Organization Us which was headed by Ron Karenga (founder of Kwanza) to rival the Panthers. It resulted in Bunchy Carter being murdered on UCLA’s campus. Ron Karenga and some of his members came to my neighborhood to recruit us. We thought they were comical and didn’t know this was just a front for another mission. They went away after Bunchy’s assassination (1969).
Many Black youth were depressed and a void was created and needed to be filled. Thus, Raymond Lee Washington, 15 years old, got the boys in his neighborhood and commissioned them as the "Crips". As they grew in South Central, Stanley Tookie Williams was organizing a group on the Westside. They met and decided to merge under the Crip banner. Today, they are the largest Black gang in America.
The Bloods were started from a rebellious set of the Crips. The Pirus, named after a street in Compton, helped start this rival gang. Being smaller than the Crips, the Bloods got a reputation for being very violent and ruthless to any rivals. Today, they too are national with sets operating wherever a large Black population exists. Their largest East Coast set is the United Blood Nation which was started in Rikers Island Prison to protect Black inmates from Hispanic inmate attacks.
L.A. has over 600 Hispanic street gangs. The largest by far is Mara Salvatrucha – MS-13. MS-13 has over 70,000 members and sets throughout the United States, Canada, Mexico and Central America. These guys stay busy with drug trafficking, robbery, larceny, human trafficking, kidnapping, arms trafficking, racketeering and everything that goes with it. They are extremely organized and fear nothing. One of their sets is located right in Washington, D.C. – up in the face of the FBI headquarters.
All of these L.A. street gangs have one thing in common. They are the main distributors of illegal drugs. They are tight with Mexican and South American drug cartels. Drug trafficking is their main source of revenue and it adds up into the billions of dollars per year. The Drug Enforcement Agency seems to be unable to get a handle on how to stop them.
Most run with heroin, marijuana, ecstasy and other illegal pills. The pioneer of crack cocaine was Rick Ross. Rick grew up in Crip territory but his operation furnished his product to both the Crips and Bloods for national distribution. His suppliers were two El Salvadorans with direct ties to the CIA. When Congresswoman Maxine Waters declared CIA meddling in the establishment of Crack in the United States, she knew what she was talking about. Rick eventually got busted. Sometimes he would sell up to $3 million of product in a day. He did only thirteen years in prison.
Harry C. Alford is the co-founder, President and CEO of the National Black Chamber of Commerce.