The basic idea behind party crews is to have fun. But the possibility of violence should never be ignored.

The term "party crew" refers to a group of young people that at­tends parties. Common identifiers can include monikers, tattoos, hats or jackets. Like other street groups, party crews are affected by changing trends, new members joining, older members leaving and technology. One thing to re­member is that most party crew mem­bers do not seek the violence that is found on the street. In fact, most party crews still attempt to avoid it. However, street gangs have become influencing factors that have effected unwanted changes in many party crews.

Promoter Party

There are several kinds of "flier par­ties" (parties advertised through use of rather elaborate fliers, such as those shown) that crews attend and sponsor. There are legitimate flier parties spon­sored by a promoter or a small group of promoters. These parties can draw from several hundred to several thousand peo­ple. There is a nominal cover charge to get in and the promoters often hire off ­duty police officers or armed security personnel to watch over the crowd. Com­monly, $10 to $20 is the entrance fee.

The parties are held in the true spirit of a pm1y. There may be dress codes that are enforced to prevent gang members from attending. This is done because, as one promoter told me, "If the cholos get in, there are always problems." "Cholos" and "G's" are party crew terms used to describe gang members. Party promoters and party crew members understand the gangster mentality. They are aware of the potential for violence that often accommodates a gang presence.

These parties are normally held at a rented hall, with appropriate paid fees and city permits. The party is a money­making operation for the promoter.

There are usually no problems with gangs at these pm1ies. The music and special effects, which can in­clude lasers, enhance the atmo­sphere. A promoter can easily spend $20,000 to $30,000 if the equipment is purchased.

The promoters are often ex-­members of a party crew. They have learned the ins and outs of the party crew scene and are able to finance and plan par­ties. There may be "battles" (dance contests) in the "mosh pit" (circle of dancers, slam dancing) or a "go-go battle" (dance contest between girls) while the "DJ" (disc jockey) "spins" (plays) and "mixes" (getting a record ready to play) a "set" (set of music) of "house" (a type of music with bass and vocals). The lighting, special effects and smoke make these parties fun to attend. Close friends of the OJ can get "hooked up" (let in for free).

Party Crew Parties

Some parties are sponsored by party crews. The crew will set up the party, just like a promoter would, except on a smaller scale. The purpose is to have fun and make some money.

Many times, there are no armed guards and usually there is no dress code.

Unfortunately, gang-related violence can erupt at these parties. Gang members can crash the party or may have been in­vited by a member of the sponsoring party crew. Don't forget, gang members who attend these parties will not be there alone. Often, they are accompanied by many peers. Some are "strapped" (carrying guns).

Sometimes, several party crews will get together to sponsor a party.

These kinds of parties are referred to as Hip-Hop parties. This simply means there is an open mike and music is played. Hip Hop music is popular, as well as "techno" (electronic music).

Gangster Party Crews

 Around 1995, some party crews evolved into tagging crews and, after a few years, into street gangs. One common cause of this is pressure from existing street gangs on a party crew that is present in the same pm1 of the city. The gang pres­sure can be applied on the streets or the custodial arena. Sometimes in-custody gang members pressure in-custody party crew members to become a gang or they will be "taxed." Since party crews are part of the street culture, it is natural to find the influence of street gangs.

Some gang members will occasionally operate like a party crew, even though they claim membership to and are active in a street gang. Like party-crew-spon­sored parties, the gangster party draws a limited number of people and many are gang members and associates.

Although there are no studies that re­flect the incidence of violence at these parties, street experience as a gang inves­tigator tells me that many times some form of violence erupts. Many homicides or serious assault investigations have begun at these locations. There is no way to tell how many crimes go unrepOJ1ed.

At the gangster flier parties there are no enforced dress codes, however at some parties there is an effort to exclude weapons. Many times, handheld metal detectors are used to screen the people who attend. Even though there is an ove11 effort to exclude weapons, the sponsor­ing gang usually has internal security. This means that one or more members of the sponsoring gang will be armed with guns. It has been my experience that at these parties, alcohol, marijuana and beer are available. After a couple of hours of drinking and blazing (smoking marijua­na), fights erupt. When the "boxing" (fight) continues or increases in intensity, guns come out and there is a shooting.

The other phenomenon recently en­countered is that some party crews have a very close relationship with a street gang. The party crew members are not part of the street gang, however they will associate or socialize with the gang. This can occur when a party crew develops within a turf or operating area of a street gang. Whenever the party crew sponsors a party, the gang usually attends.

Party Scene Drugs

Today, marijuana and "NOS" (Nitrous Oxide) are commonly sold at the party scene. NOS, usually sold in balloons, goes for $2 to $5 a hit. The dealers pose as pay­ing guests and pay to get in. They are not normally part of the sponsor's group. Some promoters and par1y crew sponsors have con tided to me that while they do not request or encourage drug usage or sales at their party, they know drugs are com­mon]y sold and used. One drug to make its debut into the "scene" (party crew parties) is Ecstasy.  Sold for $20-25 a hit, "E" or "X" has become very popular in the scene. Some party crew members admit that other drugs are available at parties. A" few have even confid­ed that they have wit­nessed heroin, crank (methamphetamine) and cocaine sold and used at parties.

Party Types

Flier parties are kind of classified by the time they end, according to several Southern California promoters and party crew members. These classifications are estimations and are pretty accurate for party crews that operate in other parts of the country.

Hip Hop parties have break dancing and are characterized by having an open microphone. The party can end between midnight and 3 a.m.

Club parties are normally held at a warehouse or large rented hall. This al­lows more guests to attend. Typically these parties will end sometime between 3 a.m. and4 a.m.

The third type of party is called a "rave party." Rave parties go all night. They usually end when the sun rises. These parties are usually held in special after-hours clubs. The drug Ecstasy has become very popular at these parties.

Promoters have also told me about a special party called a "pimp- 'n' -ho" party. This 'kind of party is especially popular with the younger yuppy jet set Caucasians. They are normally held at a rented mansion or very large house. The party comes with the typical pro­moter-type music and special effects and there is the usual fee at the door. At these parties the people "dress to im­press." They wear the appropriate style of clothes. For this type of party the men dress as pimps and the ladies dress as "has" (prostitutes). One DJ told me he loves to work these parties for several reasons. First, there are absolute­ly no problems with the guests. Second, he gets paid well and third, and I quote, "The women are scandalous and friendly."

Officer Safety

Officer-safety-wise, all parties should be approached with caution. I would not recommend responding to a flier party by yourself. When gang violence erupts, it usually happens in an unpredictable manner. I f respond­ing to a crime call, try to detain as many guests as possible. Don't forget, you may be detaining suspects. Look for cameras or video cameras. Often, guests will be taking still photographs or videos and could have recorded the crime or participants. Talk with the sponsors of the party and guests. Nor­mally, these people will know what gang was present. Be safe!

Al Valdez is an investigator with the Orange County (Calif.) District Attorney's office and author of the book, Gangs.