Tattoos are commonly seen on TRG members, as well as the popular shaved head. The most common tattoo is "TRG," but the three dot- and five-dot tattoos have also been noted. The clothing styles vary depending on where the TRG gang is located, but commonly seen is Hispanic gang styles of dress.
In 1996, national TRG gang membership was estimated to be over 2,000. That figure is sure to be low, especially when African-American, Caucasian, Filipino, Hispanic, Hmong, Korean, Laotian, Samoan, Cambodian and Vietnamese TRG gang members have been contacted. During criminal investigations, Cambodian TRG gang members have been misidentified as Hispanic gang members by civilian witnesses. Inaccurate and under reporting have also played a role in the underestimation of the gang population.
At one time, Asian street gangs had no formal ritual to establish membership. Another sign of Hispanic gang influence is seen in the methods that TRG uses to formally establish membership to their gang. The method may vary from individual to individual. For example, if you are well liked and have a history of supporting the gang, especially by participating in criminal activity with other gang members, you are "walked in." In other words you are just formally recognized by the gang as an official member. It would not be uncommon for one or more TRG gang members to act as sponsors, especially those who were crime partners.
The other common method used for membership is the "jump in." A prospective member has to fight two or three gang members for a specified time. The fight is symbolic, as it is supposed to show whether or not the prospective member has the heart, attitude and guts to back up the gang.
Females get in the same way or can join the gang by being "sexed in." The prospective female ahs to have sex with a number of gang members in order to be recognized as a member. Many times, females will choose this form of gang initiation because it is the least violent. Sometimes the number of sexual partners is determined by rolling dice. Sexing in a female gang member has become more popular in the last couple of years for many street gangs.
TRG is monetarily motivated. Any criminal actions that will bring in money to the gang member or gang are utilized. The gang has been involved in extortions, home invasion robberies, robberies, burglaries, auto thefts, assaults, drug sales, attempted murders and murders, and has been known to issue death threats toward peace officers. At one time it was believed that TRG gang members had access to military C-4 explosives and grenades.
Uniquely, TRG members from different parts of a state of from outside the state will work together as a team to commit a crime. A July, 1995 home invasion robbery in Sacramento, Calif. ended up with two members of a Vietnamese family being killed and third wounded. Sacramento law enforcement was able to identify the four TRG gang members who were involved. One was from Portland, Ore. The other three were from California.
This inter- and intrastate cooperation helps solidify the TRG gang and can make field investigations difficult. More recently, intelligence information showed that TRG members are maintaining a working relationship with the Asian Boys, another Southeast Asian street gang based in California. These two gangs have connections to the Ghost Shadows, a New York-based Chinese gang operating on the West Coast. It appears that the TRG and Asian Boys are receiving weapons from the Ghost Shadows in exchange for services at prostitution and illegal gambling locations.
You can expect some more unique relationships to form as the gang members grow up. Narcotics sales, prostitution and illegal gambling will continue to draw Asian street gang members to a more sophisticated criminal life. Be safe!
Al Valdez is an investigator with the Orange County (Calif.) District Attorney's Office and author of the book, Gangs. He is a regular contributor to POLICE.