In Los Angeles, “The Mother of Gangs,” there are approximately 150,000 gang members. Less than five percent of this number is female.

Although their ranks are small when compared to the male membership, the influence of women on gangs is very significant. This is true even though the gangs themselves do not acknowledge it.

The traditional gang culture is a “macho” lifestyle where women are only second-class members. Like the cheerleaders on the football team; they wear the colors, and support the team, but they are not allowed to play. When they are given a role, it is often to act as the intelligence unit or spies for the gang.

Gang girls commonly date outside the gang, which sometimes becomes a problem in itself. Their “little black books” become the source that provides the gang with the names, addresses, and telephone numbers of rival male gang members and witnesses. But probably the worst thing they do is create and enable the next generation of gang members.

Female Gangbangers

There have been a few very infamous exceptions to the women as second-class gangster rule.

All the females associated with the East Los Angeles “King Kobra” gang are called “Queen Kobras.” All except a little five-foot tall female called “Shorty” Cortez. Ms. Cortez claimed and was accepted as a “King Kobra” because of her ability to fight like a man.

In Compton there was Sylvia “Rambo” Nunn, of the Luders Park Piru Bloods. Her mother, “Mama” Nunn, helped start the Luders Park gang. “Rambo” Nunn got her nick name because of her Rambo like raids into enemy Crip neighborhoods. Unlike the other females in the gang, she has earned a male position.

There have been other female gangbangers. But most females affiliated with gangs are treated by the male members of the gang as something less than a real member.

The lower life-form role of women is especially evident in gangsta rap music and music videos. Publications like “Low Rider Magazine” and “Teen Angel” also demean the female gang members into sex objects and enablers to their macho male masters. Teen Angel Magazine even provides gang style stationary and the names and addresses of incarcerated gangsters so that young females can write them and become pen pals. The females write to these prisoners and become entangled in their criminal activity, carrying messages, drugs, and generally supporting the gangsters in prisons and jails.

Mother, Wife, Mistress, or Sister

Most women associated with criminal gangs are treated like property of the gang or individual members. The classic example of this phenomena is the “motorcycle gang mamma.” And like these biker mommas, the wife of Mexican Mafia member Adolph “Champ” Reynoso had the name of her man—“Property of Champ”—tattooed on her chest.

Gang females are used and abused, for sex, money, and as “gofers.” They are expected to cook, bear children, and support their husbands, boyfriends, and sons with their welfare and payroll checks while the males languish in prison or bum around in the neighborhood. Even the most macho gang member often winds up living with his mother or girlfriend and mooching off of her a significant portion of his lifetime. Scientific studies show us that the social and sociological damage that gang involvement does to the female is more damaging, and the damage is more long lasting, than gang involvement by the males.

The male gang member can rarely be relied on to fullfill his responsibilities to his children, socially or financially. The male gang member thinks nothing of the consequences of his gangbanging and the problems that it brings to others in his family and home. Although not usually directly a party to the gang violence of her significant other, the repercussions of retaliatory assaults, drive-by shootings, police raids, drugs, and death are often visited on the women and their innocent children.

Making Bad Choices

American women have been taught to choose these loser men over good ones. “Good girls love bad boys” is one of the tenets of our society, and women have embraced it.

This statement often brings objections from the females in my gang classes. So I offer this exercise: Imagine that a famous stereotypical character named “The Fonz” from the “Happy Days” TV show is standing before us and another character named “Urkle” from the “Family Matters” TV show is standing beside him. Directing my question to the females, I ask which character would you prefer to date? Unsurprisingly, 95 to 100 percent of the women choose The Fonz.

We all think we know the character well. But who is this character The Fonz? He is a gang member and gang leader. (On the show he was leader of the Falcons and the Demons.) Do you think he is likely to abuse alcohol and drugs? Yes. Is he the kind of man that would likely be faithful to his significant other? No.

Who is this character called Urkle? He is a nerd, a college student, but he will someday likely own a business someday. Is he likely to be an abuser of alcohol and drugs? No. Is he likely to actually marry and be faithful to a wife? Yes.

So why do so many women choose The Fonz over Urkle? The answer is simple; The Fonz is cool and Urkle is not. The Fonz is a rebel like James Dean, an anti-hero greatly loved by America. Nobody loves nerds.

I witnessed this myself in the 1960s. In Compton, I went to school with African-American Urkle types. Rather than being admired by the less successful students, they were constantly picked on by the other “cooler” blacks. In both the African-American and Latino communities, the nerd kids were victimized for speaking proper English, getting good grades, staying out of trouble, and not dancing or dressing like the crowd. And popular girls avoided dating them. The same is true in the white community.

The Influence of Women

The women, who choose to be gang members and the girlfriends of gang members perpetuate the abuse of women. They become the positive reinforcement for the negative treatment of women and their children by deadbeat gangbanging sperm donors. And they doom their children to the same negative lifestyle.

I have seen these doomed, abused, and neglected children living in the squalor behind the thousands of doors I’ve gone through in gang raids and parole searches. I will always be haunted by the looks on their faces as we cuffed and dragged away Daddy, and sometimes Momma. What chance do they have?

I am often asked if I know of an effective way to impact gangs, and to stop gang violence. Yes, I do have an answer. If American women refused to date and marry gang members, how long do you think the tragedy of gangs would continue?


Richard Valdemar
Richard Valdemar

Sergeant (Ret.)

Sgt. Richard Valdemar retired from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department after spending most of his 33 years on the job combating gangs.

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Sgt. Richard Valdemar retired from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department after spending most of his 33 years on the job combating gangs.

View Bio