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Departments : In the Hood

New Gang Trends?

Everything undergoes change and gangs are no exception.

November 01, 2000  |  by Investigator Al Valdez

Did you know that California is celebrating its 100th year of street gang influence?  Believe it or not, several sates have 100-year-plus street-gang histories.  So the street-gang phenomenon is not new.  As we all are aware, most street-gang customs and practices are based on established tradition.  Expected behaviors and customs are passed down from the older gang members to the younger ones.  However, the subculture practices are also subject to current societal influences and law enforcement pressures.


Street and prison gangs have responded to these pressures in various ways.  Some gangs have developed a crime specialty.  The country has experienced this with gangs that specialize in car thefts, drug sales or non-violent crimes, such as fraud.

Our country's demographics are always changing.  Mixed-race marriages are now common.  In the past, youths with mixed-race backgrounds weren't allowed entry into street gangs that were traditionally race based.  This demographic change became the impetus for a change in membership rules.  Today, for some gangs, membership is not based on race and gender.  Remember, this was the main reason why the 18 Street gang formed.  The gang now has national and international status.

In addition to these factors, some street gangs have also been influenced by attitude and philosophical changes.  Today, most street gangs base "respect" on fear.  The more you fear me the more you respect me.  The traditional rules of not involving innocent women and children in gang warfare are gone.  For lack of a better way to say it, the "gang ethic" has changed.

The courts, corrections and law enforcement have also responded to these changes.  New suppression and enforcement strategies are employed.  Gang enforcement laws have been written and passed.  The courts have responded by handing down more severe sentences.  Corrections has been impacted by the number of new inmates and their gang affiliations.

All of these factors collectively fuel additional changes within the street-gang subculture and the impact can extend throughout the entire U.S. street-gang population.

Hybrid Hispanic Gangs

For example, most gang specialists are hardly surprised to encounter new gang behaviors or customs.  For those of us who work the streets, we always expect to be surprised by what street gangsters do.  However, the unexpected could be the forerunner of future gang trends.  The illegal drug industry has caused some unique relationships to form between rival Hispanic gang members.  Rivals in Southern California, these Hispanic gang members form alliances with each other outside of the state.  Their purpose: to establish a drug business.  Working together and supporting each other, they have become known as "Sueno" or "Sueno-13" gangs.

As you are aware, traditional Hispanic gangs throughout the country are turf oriented.  They claim a specific geographical area with a city or county.  Usually, the turf boundaries are marked by the gang graffiti.  The graffiti acts like a welcome, warning or challenge, depending on whether you are a member or ally of the fang, a non-gang member living in the area or a rival gang member.

Across the country, some Hispanic gangs claim the entire city they live in as their turf.  For these gangs the concept of turf is fluid, as the gang changes specific gathering locations in the city over time.  These hybrid Hispanic gangs will often allow anyone, including females, to be a member.

Mobile Hispanic Gangs

Another type of gang recently encountered in Southern California has been mobile Hispanic gangs.  This Hispanic gang still maintains traditional membership rules and claims specific geographical areas within the city in which members live.

In one rapidly growing Southern California city in Riverside County, homes are still in an affordable price range, the schools are good the climate is warm.  The location of the city even allows for a tolerable drive to Los Angeles, San Diego and Orange Counties.  There is only one Hispanic gang in the city, but it is divided into eight different cliques (sub-groups or sets).  Most of the time the cliques get along with each other. 

What is most unique about this gang is that members from different cliques will get together, drive into the adjacent counties and commit robberies.  Then they will drive back to their city, divide the loot and return to their individual cliques.  This is behavior that is very similar to what law enforcement has seen with Southeast Asian street gangs.  Could this be a preview to future Hispanic gang practices?  This is the first mobile Hispanic gang I have encountered.

CONTINUED: New Gang Trends? «   Page 1 of 2   »

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