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History of Most Famous Criminal Street Gangs in the Us Report

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Updated: Sep 9th, 2021

Gangs are everywhere in the world. Some were formed many years back while others are formed in the current times. Governments are spending lots of their resources in trying to fight the outlawed gangs. Some of these street gangs are discussed below.

18th Street Gang

This street gang started in 1965 at the West of Los Angeles. The gang was mainly made up of the 2nd generation of Hispanic immigrants. Because the 18th Street gang was fighting with well-established Chicano gangs, they decided to widen their base through recruiting outside of the Hispanic group of people. The gang is now spread in over 120 cities in the United States with its membership being estimated at 20,000. Recent estimates from the Department of Justice show that sixty percent of its members are illegal immigrants. The gang grew bigger such that, many of its members did not even know each other! To counter this gang commenced their websites to improve communications as well as identify each other. They also had a gang dressing style which enhanced their identification. (Tom, 2006) They may either wear blue or wear black and grey (commonly referred to as the “raiders” colors). The gang members may also have tattoos spelling out the words Eighteenth Street, or with alphabetical and roman numbers that sum up to eighteen i.e. 666, XVIII, and XV3.

According to Tom (2006), in July 2000, the 18th Street gang faced a federal RICO indictment by Los Angeles prosecutors. Its members were accused of being behind a major drug trafficking syndicate in and around the MacArthur Park area of the Pico-Union district at the west of Los Angeles. According to a senior FBI official The Columbia Li’l Cycos also known as CLCs, are the most financially successful and violent 18th Street cliques in Los Angeles. The official claimed that the Federal Bureau of Investigation had apprehended a total of half-million dollars in cash from the associates of this gang member. The cash was believed to be collected from the sale of cocaine

Texas Syndicate

Another notorious street gang was the Texas Syndicate (TS) which was formed in the early 1970s at Folsom and San Quentin Prison. Its pioneers were inmates from Texas who were imprisoned in the California Department of Corrections (CDC). These prisoners regularly came from the El Paso Tip (EPT) but did not refer to themselves as TS until the 1970s. At the time the Texas Syndicate though a small tight-knit group, was the most feared due to their tendency for violence and serious assaults. Despite being formed in California, the TS has never been led by any prisoner in California for many years now. Convicts joining the gang will often have a specific tattoo (the “Copia”)

As noted by Marshall (2000), The Estelle vs. Ruiz lawsuit which dismantled the state’s inmate boss trustee system saw the rapid growth of TS in the TDC. Between 1980 and 1983, there were numerous assaults and killings all of which the TS was believed to be responsible. In 1984 and 1985 alone, there were 52 gang-related killings, many of which were attributed to the dreadful Texas Syndicate in their war with the Texas Mexican Mafia (“Mexikanemi”). From the 1990s, the TS no longer controlled El Paso, due to its internal problems with “Barrio Aztecas” a newer independent home-grown gang.

In the late 1990s, there were close to a dozen attacks and slayings on the streets of Austin in Texas. It was later revealed that the Texas Syndicate was behind the killings. At the time Texas Syndicate gang was fully established as a major drug supplier in Austin. The gang was collecting a 10 percent “tax” from every drug trafficker in Texas. This included even those traffickers who didn’t sell for the prison gang. An FBI-led multi-agency investigation dubbed “Operation Texas Style” was started. Finally, 22 Texas Syndicate members were indicted by prosecutors on a RICO, the arraigned included some of its leaders. Most of the accused had overwhelming evidence, they pleaded guilty in federal court and were sentenced to longer jail terms ranging from 10 years to life imprisonment. In 2004, other members of TS from Austin were imprisoned in another RICO case. (Marshall, 2000)

Mara Salvatrucha

The Mara Salvatrucha gang traces its roots to the Los Angeles area and is predominately made up of Salvadorans. The gang was imported to El Salvador shortly after its formation. The need to protect its members from the 18th Street gang was the main reason for its formation. MS gang is also believed to be very violent. Very few MS members participated in the Salvadoran “Civil War” as army officers since it comprises of teenagers who were too young at the time of the conflict. Many of their Veterans have been killed. The gang fights “Salvadorans With Pride” (SWP) and refers to them as their deadly enemy on the East Coast. Initially, many MS wore long hair and black for their “Santanas” roots, they were known as “Stoners”. Originally, Mara Salvatrucha did their own thing, a reason why many of the Veteranos would claim MS. Later on, they fell under the Sureño umbrella, which explains why many of the younger ones wearing blue and possessing a cholo look. Some will also wear white and light blue or even0 beads from the colors of the Salvadoran flag. (Larry, 2006)

It is surprising that some people today mistakenly consider all Salvadoran gang members to be from Mara Salvatrucha and that Salvadorans cannot be from Mexican barrios. Several Salvadorans may even believe that MS is all Salvadoran. This is misguided thinking. Recently, we have seen Guatemalans, Hondurans, Mexicans, and other Central Americans join MS, though not exclusively. Central American kids may choose to join MS more than other barrios. It all depends on whether they feel Mexicans or Salvadorans have done something against them. They may either join MS or may join other Latino gangs. When deported, the MS has sustained its illegal activity in El Salvador, and later in Honduras, Guatemala, and Mexico. Several Central American governments have recently outlawed them a thing that has stirred more violence. They have been spotted in Texas, New York, Seattle, Washington D.C., and Vancouver. (Larry, 2006)

Female Gangs

Female gangs have been a very interesting phenomenon. They are increasingly involved in gangs and the female population being imprisoned is increasing. The most common reason as to why girls join these gangs is to seek protection from physical or sexual abuse inflicted by their fathers, protection from other girls, and at times as a result of rebellion towards their parents. They either did not want to follow rules and regulations laid down by their parents or else were at perpetual loggerheads with their parents. They, therefore, wanted the freedom to do whatever they wanted and the gangs had a provision for the same. Their gang members provided a sense of belonging and often replaced their families. (www.criminology.utoronto.ca ) Other factors that resulted in the needs for females to join these gangs include:

First, many young women found it difficult to obtain a stable marriage. They were used to seeing gang members from the opposite sex being held all the time most of whom were their boyfriends or brothers. Others are aggressive and like the excitement and violence found in gang life. Secondly, young girls want to be independent. There are increased cases of girls having children at an early age and without proper parenting skills. This has resulted in the children becoming felonious thus posing a generational gang problem. Third, drug trafficking has turned out to be a very profitable venture. Drug trafficking has been the most common offense a female is found guilty of after theft crimes. Many females are taking active roles in these gangs and may have large tattoos, battle scars, and teardrops just like the guys. There have been recognized cases of all female gangs, but generally, the females are a fraction of the larger male gang. For example, Cripettes are part of the Crip set that they belong to.

Future of Gang Activities

Efforts by many governments of the world, to contain criminal street gangs have not been successful. Any efforts to wipe the outlawed gangs have been violently opposed by the gang members. The gang membership continues to swell thus making it had to control them. www.criminology.utoronto.ca

Many females are giving birth at an early stage in life. Their kids are poorly brought up and they end up joining the said criminal gangs. The increased cases of drug trafficking are largely contributing to the expansion of these groups.

Media reports have revealed that many boys are owning guns illegally and unless interventions are made to stop illegal gun use by the boys then street gangs will be a continued phenomenon taking different shapes by years.


Larry, S. (2006): Juvenile Delinquency; theory, Practice and Law, New York, Pearson.

Marshall, B. (2000): Sociology of Deviant Behavior, New York, McGraw-Hill.

Tom, H. (2006):“Street Wars” (gangs and the future of violence), New York, New York Press.

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