The Department of Justice estimates there could be as many as 65,000 African American gang members in California today. The majority of them are still Crips and Bloods gang members. They now range in age from 12 to 35, with some as old as 40. The gangs vary in size from 30 members to as many as 1,000. They continue to fight each other for narcotic-related profits and in defense of territory, and many remain unstructured and informal. A few of them are becoming organized with some definitive gang stru cture.
Some of the older gang members--known as "Original Gangsters"--who have been in the gang for a long time are often the recruiters and trainers of new gang members. Many are second- and third-generation gang members and have been incarcerated in the Calif ornia Youth Authority or the California Department of Corrections. Due to their propensity for violence, prison and jail officials have found it necessary to house hardcore members in high-security cell blocks or separate facilities.
Some of the more experienced gang members are beginning to abandon established characteristics, such as wearing the colors blue and red, and are now trying to disguise their gang affiliation by wearing nondescript black and white clothing. Other members continue to rely on the gang trademarks, and neighborhoods abound with graffiti signifying the presence of Crips and/or Bloods gangs.
Some of the gangs have formed alliances with other ethnic gangs, and some Crips and Bloods gangs include Hispanic or Asian gang members. Female gang members are rare, but those who do participate play a minor role in gang activity and are used to rent cr ack houses or traffic in narcotics.
The Crips and Bloods continue to control the distribution of crack cocaine in several California cities and other states. Federal and state law enforcement authorities report Crips and Bloods gang members in 33 states and 123 cities. Once they arrive in a city, they determine the demand for narcotics, the identity of major narcotic dealers, and the existence of established narcotic operations. They then recruit new gang members and take over the selling of crack cocaine. Sometimes, the takeover is wit hout violence if there is little or no resistance from rival gangs. Other times, there will be a great deal of violence if existing gangs have already established narcotic operations, which compete for the narcotics trade.
Two examples of their involvement in crack cocaine include:
Operation Blue Rag focused on three San Diego gangs: the West Coast Crips; the Neighborhood Crips; and the Linda Vista Crips. When the operation was completed, the San Diego County District Attorney's Office filed criminal complaints against 35 gang memb ers. A dozen more were arrested for probation violations or new charges developed during the investigation.
Operation Red Rag was a five-month undercover operation, which targeted six Bloods sets but soon expanded to include eight of San Diego's ten African American gangs together with a hodgepodge of gang members from Los Angeles. When Operation Red Rag was o ver, it resulted in the arrest of 112 gang members and narcotic dealers.
A member of the Los Angeles-based 87th Street Gang Crips had been identified as a principal suspect in a Denver case, which involved the trafficking of narcotics by the Los Angeles gang. The gang member, a convicted felon, was on probation at the time as the result of a 1987 arrest when police officers uncovered $265,000 in cash; an undisclosed amount of crack; and a firearm in his residence. This gang member also had previous arrests for assault with a firearm, robbery, carrying a concealed weapon, and battery. He was known by local police officers to be a major narcotics dealer in the south central area of Los Angeles who used other gang members to sell narcotics and to provide protection for his narcotics trafficking enterprise.
As events later developed in Los Angeles, the gang member and another suspect were apprehended in the gang member's garage area. When both suspects were ordered by police officers to the ground, the gang member opened fire on them. During the ensuing gu n battle, the gang member was seriously wounded; and one police officer received a bullet wound in the left foot. During a search of the gang member's apartment, 1,100 grams of cocaine; 267 grams of rock cocaine; 28 grams of black tar heroin; $25,000 in U.S. currency; and a 9mm pistol were seized.
Besides crack cocaine, African American gang members also sell marijuana and PCP; and some have purchased chemicals for their own production of PCP.
Their use of weapons has evolved to high-powered, large-caliber handguns and automatic and semi-automatic weapons including AK-47 assault rifles and Mac-10s with multiple-round magazines; and they sometimes wear police-type body armor. Gang attacks on po lice officers have escalated. Gangs--such as the '89 Gangster Crips, Project Crips, Neighborhood Crips, Southside Compton Crips, and the Pueblo Bishop Bloods--have shot at officers during vehicle pursuits, narcotic investigations, robberies, and response s to family disturbances.
Their other crimes range from robberies, burglaries, grand thefts, receiving stolen property, and witness intimidations to assaults with a deadly weapon, drive-by shootings, and murders. In Los Angeles during 1990, there were 135 homicides; 1,416 assault s and batteries; and 775 robberies attributed to Crips and Bloods gang members.
Some specific targets of criminal activities include jewelry stores. A series of armed robberies, which has been connected to Crips' gang members from the Los Angeles area, have occurred in several Central Valley and San Francisco Bay Area cities. These armed robberies target jewelry stores and are committed by the "One-Minute Gang"--based on their ability to complete the robberies in one minute. Many robberies have occurred in California; and similar robberies are being reported in Nevada, Oregon, and Georgia. Some of the robberies have resulted in the theft of $150,000 to $250,000 worth of jewelry. An estimated combined loss of $4.7 million has been reported thus far.
Another area of emerging criminal activities for the Crips and Bloods is theft of personal computers from stores and warehouses. In 1991, there were 19 such thefts in the Los Angeles and Orange County areas attributable to these gangs.
During the April 29 to May 1, 1992, riot in Los Angeles, some of the violence was attributed to the Crips and Bloods. The riot was the worst civil disorder in modern American history. Sixty persons died; some 2,500 were injured; 750 fires were set; 14,0 00 people were arrested; and upwards of $700 million in damage was done.
Gang members were involved in assaults, attempted murders, murders, arson, and looting. During the riot, two members of the 8-Trey Gangster Crips and two other individuals were seen on national television beating and robbing a truck driver. Twenty-two m embers of another Crips gang were arrested for looting approximately $80,000 worth of merchandise from electronic stores.
Other Crips and Bloods gang members were responsible for looting many of the 4,500 weapons from gun dealers, sporting goods stores, and pawn shops during the riot. Gang members have indicated they will use the weapons to kill police officers and parole a nd probation officers via drive-by shootings and ambushes. Gang members have graffitied walls with "187 L.A.P.D." (187 is the California Penal Code Section for homicide); and other gang members have circulated flyers stating, "Open Season on LAPD."
A temporary truce between some of the gang members of the Crips and Bloods occurred in the Los Angeles area following the riot. Many of these gang members are wearing articles of red and blue clothing interweaved to show their unity. These gangs claim t he truce will unite their forces to target law enforcement officers; however, to date, there have been no attacks against the officers resulting from this gang alliance.
Some of the gangs have also indicated they will seek "protection" money from business owners to safeguard them from further crimes. This form of extortion is another effort by the gangs to continue controlling and intimidating their neighborhoods.