According to Fleisher (1998) the existence of black gangs in Los Angeles can be traced back into 1920, during which gangs like Boozies and Goodlows controlled gambling and prostitution in Los Angeles' central avenue. In 1950s Los Angeles civic leaders encouraged majority of the gang members to become members of car clubs, no sooner had they joined these clubs than the clubs turned into operational grounds for organizations like Gladiators and Businessmen whose members participated in fights with chains, knives, or bats of baseball. Later the members of these clubs were involved in assaults and robberies. After the 1965 Watts riots car clubs were nowhere to be seen. In 1960 most black gangs in Los Angeles claimed some kind of connection with the so called Black Panther party.
Crips and Bloods
The Crips emerged in Los Angeles during the Mid 1960s, and the Bloods were formed to counter the influence of the Crips. Both the Crips and Bloods are characterized by loosely structured sets, majority of which are from given neighborhood. Characteristically, members of each gang dress in a specific fashion, exhibit specific colors (red was associated with bloods and blues were associated with the Crips), display gang names, communicate through graffiti, use monikers etc.
At the beginning of 1980s, both Crips and Bloods emerged in Los Angeles and other parts of California, basically to engage in cocaine business. It is approximated that Crips constitute of more than two hundred loosely associated gangs, majority of which are in conflict with each other and neither of them has authority over the other.
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Crips refers to a Los Angeles based street gang organization that was established by Raymond Washington in 1969 in California, Los Angeles south central region. According to the natives of Los Angeles, the name emanated from the integration of the name crib and the abbreviation R.I.P. (the acronym for Rest In Peace). This acronym denoted the gang's intergenerational membership and nature from the date of birth to the date of death (Green and Gabbison, 1999). Other influential figures of this gang include Stanley T. Williams who established the west side Crips, Jamel Barnes and Michael Concepcion. According to majority the United States security agencies including the Federal bureau of investigation the Crips is biggest, most dangerous, notorious and most violent gang United States of America History. The Crips started as a city trend, hitherto, indications that the gang has spread its wings to other major cities in the United States of America and other urban areas in different parts of the world (Cummings and Monti, 2001).
Structure of the Crips
Due to absence of the codified regulations and rules, the structure of this gang is very malleable and flexible. The Crips started as a small gang and has undergone an evolution resulting in the formation of numerous independent units with similar structure. These independents units or sets of Crips form alliances between themselves in order to wage war against the rival gangs like the arch rivals the bloods and others like Latino and Chicano gangs. Ironically due to the absence of the central authority to govern all the different entities or sets of Crips has resulted in intra-set conflicts. One well renowned conflict between Crips-against-Crips conflict is one that existed between the Rolling 60s and the Eight trays. According to (Connors, 2004) this conflict between the two sets of the Crips resulted in more loss of lives relative to those lost as a result of the rivalry with the archenemies the Bloods and the Chicanos.
These sets of the Crips are territorial and control given geographical regions commonly referred to as 'hoods'.
These sets basically recruit Africa America from the neighborhood and the territory and most of their recruiting grounds schools. Like the Chicanos, the Crips are characterized with intergenerational reproduction i.e. the offspring of some of the gang members follow their parents' or senior sisters' and brothers' footsteps and join the gang when they become of age.
The so called social reproduction of the Crips is undertaken via structural proliferation and cultural dissemination process. Cultural dissemination basically means the adoption of sub cultural values of the Crips by the gang's "wannabe" members. Young members of the gang adapt the Crips slang i.e. uses of the term cuzz as a way of representing their neighborhood or referring to fellow gang members, the Crips Regalia (which constituted blue army belt, blue bandana, British knights tennis shoes that were blue in color), and the Crips walk. After cultural dissemination, the wannable members are free to either start their own sets or join other gangs. They are also free to terminate the habit of imitating the culture of the gang. Movies like C-walk, Colors, boyz in the hood, redemption and Ricochet have circulated gangster stereotypical view across cities in the United States of America outside the Los Angeles (Lloyd, 2002). They are responsible for the emergence of Crips in other regions of the United States of America. According to Green and Gabbison, 1999) gangster rap has played a great role as a medium for introduction and propagation of gang culture into the conventional society. One of the renowned Crips musicians is Snoop Dog. His manners, music, and dress code have greatly influenced the culture of the modern youth. In recent days the World Wide Web has provided gang members the best avenue for spreading their message and culture. Cyberspaces like you tube and My Space are rich sources of information on the Crips' cultural related information. Numerous youths in the United States of America and other parts of the world have imitated the Crips culture, majority of them without prior knowledge (Kontos and Brotherton, 2001)
Structural proliferation takes place when gang members expand their operations to the nearby neighborhoods by starting a gang franchise. This newly opened franchise primarily constitutes of original set members. This new franchise may opt to keep the original set' name but add a unique identifier for example the geographical location's name. For instance Rollin 90s and Rollin 40s are franchises of the so called Rollin 60s Crips. Structural proliferation was mainly common in 1980s when Los Angeles street gangs started participating in drug related businesses. Crips gangs were often involved in violent confrontations in their quest to take control of housing projects and apartment buildings. However, it is of paramount importance to understand that formation of franchises was is not a peaceful event as dissatisfied members may abandon the mother set and establish their own franchises that becomes antagonistic against the mother set (Fleisher, 1998).
According to Decker and Winkle (1997) another form of structural proliferation took place through set splitting due to intergeneration fights. When the gang's young members start to socialize among themselves, they may form a set that is age graded and finally may develop an identity for their group that is independent of the mother set; ultimately they set can either violently or peacefully secede from the mother set. In fact, this is how the Crips started that is it begun as the YG, that is, young gangster set from the famous avenue gang, initially calling itself baby avenue and finally changing to avenue Crips before settling for the name Crips.
There may be disparities in the internal organization of the different sets but basically these sets employ a horizontal organization. This kind of structure gives each gang member the freedom to make independent decision but at the same time recognizing the presence of group leaderships. This kind of organization also gives room for age related relationships among its members of a given age graded level. Roles are rotated among members depending skills and needs.
Three major theories or narratives that tend to give an explanation on the possible roots or origin of the Crips. The first one bases the origin of this gang on racial violence that was institutional that the African migrating to Los Angeles encountered. A second theory or narration bases the origin of this gang on the political arena or context and tries to indicate that Crips emerged to fill the political vacuum that was formed by the dejection of community based political organizations such as United Slaves and black panthers .the last narrative or theory views the Crips as a gang of drug dealers and hoodlums who united in order to victimize their own society. These numerous narratives trying to explain the origin of the Crips may be due to either the nature of the Crips structure or the existence of gangs since time immemorial (Kontos and Brotherton, 2001)
Institutional Racial violence
The Crips surfaced at a time when African Americans in the city of Los Angeles were faced with social isolation and economic dislocation leading to the surfacing of the black's hyper ghetto (Lloyd, 2002). Between 1950s and 1960 many African Americans migrated to Los Angeles to work in the manufacturing industries that were booming. But the white communities in the city mistrusted and at the same time mistreated them. In most cases the white used excessive violence in attempt to stop the black communities from moving into their areas. The rising number of blacks forced most whites to abandon these areas resulting in the concentration of the black communities in some specific areas of Los Angeles especially the south central region. By 1965 majority of the manufacturing plants or industries were moved across to border to Latin America for cheaper production costs as well as availability of cheaper human working force after the implementation of the so called Border industrialization program. This resulted in economic decline in the inner cities leading extreme social isolation and decay relative to American mainstream society.
According to Kontos and Brotherton (2001)) gangs were created by African American youths as defensive mechanism to counter the violence committed against them by the by gangs belonging to the white youths.
Political context (that is political mobilization).
According to one of the Black Panther ex-members Abu-Jamal Mumia, claims that the origin of the Crips can be traced back to Relation for the Independent People, a community based organization. This community based organization embraced ideas like Black Nationalism, self-determination and community activism, primary characteristics of many African America organizations of the 1960s and later years. The primary activities of these black organizations were group socialization and cultural affirmation (Cummings and Monti, 2001). But, different government agencies and the police destroyed Crips' initial political roots when they waged war against any black related political activity during this era. African American political leaders were either assassinated or imprisoned. This left both a political and social vacuum in the black dominated neighborhoods.
The Crips proliferated in an era the African America communities were under extreme political, social and economical discrimination. Despite of the different efforts to redirect the Crips towards community and political related goals, some members of the Crips engaged themselves in endless circle of violence with the aim of gaining street supremacy. After sometime the Crips started forcing other black youths to become members. There was also victimization of other black youths by the Crips gang members.
According to Decker and Winkle (1997) the genesis for the formation of the Bloods can be traced by 1972 summer when a conflict erupted between Compton Crips and Original Pirus, another gang from Campton. The Pirus was originally part of the Crips gang but after they were beaten a fairly large Campton Crips along Alondra Boulevard.
This forced recruitment and victimization of other black youths le to the establishment of antagonizing gangs like the Bloods gang in 1970s. That is the Bloods gang was established with the aim of countering the influence of the Crips gang. After this conflict, the Pirus called an emergence meeting at Campton's Piru Street. This meeting was attended by the so called Lueders park hustlers and numerous independent gangs that wanted to put the Crips dominance to an end. Some of these gangs include the Denver Lanes, the bishops, the L.A Brims and the Athens Parks Boys. The L.A Brims leader had been murdered earlier by the Crips. They meeting ended up with formation of an alliance. The newly formed alliance decided to counter Crips' blue railroad handkerchiefs by introducing a red color and referred to themselves as the Bloods (Green and Gabbison, 1999).
These two gangs used different ways to identify from one another. For instance Crips started substituting letter "B" with letter "C" in whatever they wrote or said and in place of "I" they introduced "oh" (Decker and Winkle, 1997). The Bloods countered this by starting signing their graffiti "CK" which stood for Crips Killer.
Within a very short period, the Bloods had turned to be the second largest gang in Los Angeles. This gang had the ability to mobilize members from all over the south central region.
The subculture of the Bloods was established via "affirmation by negation", a process of strategy whereby some gangs develop or affirm their specific identity through negation of their rivals' symbolism. The antagonism between bloods and Crips touches every aspect of Bloods' subculture. The Bloods' regalia involve wearing a bandana which is red in color in the pants' right back pocket. They also wear Calvin Klein, with emphasis on the acronym CK, Crip Killer. Bloods "flame up" by dressing in complete red attire. In case they dress in blue, they wear it in underwear or pants with the primary aim of "dissing" the Crips. Bloods use the word relative in place of cousin since cousin represents Crips. They also never use letter C and when there is no otherwise, they can either substitute it with a B, or add letter K to as disrespect to the arch rival the Crips. The Bloods have adopted a specific walking dance and walking style referred to as Blood-walk (Fleisher, 1998).
The Bloods' first social reproduction took place via structural assimilation. Subgroups or sets from various neighborhoods joined the Bloods voluntarily for protection. During this first phase, active recruitment was not all that encompassing; but, in the 1980s, when the drug business was promising; they started active recruitments in various places including local parks and schools. The 1980s crack cocaine economy resulted in friction between Bloods sets.
Bloods was also characterized with structural reproduction through the establishment of franchises.
Sets like Rolling 20s Filipino Bloods, Rolling 20s avenues Bloods and Rolling 20s Demon Soldiers all emerged from their mother gang the Rolling 20s (Lloyd, 2002).
The incarnation or transfer of inmates belonging to the Bloods resulted in other states stimulated structural proliferation of Bloods in other cities outside Los Angeles. For example the 1993 transfer of a member of the Los Angeles bloods, O.G. Mack, to Rikers Island, led to establishment of the United Blood Nation, with him as the founder. Like the Los Angeles Bloods, the New York Bloods were established to protect Latino gangs such as Association Neta, Queen Nation and Almighty Latino King (Cummings and Monti, 2001).
Expansion of the Bloods and the Crips
In 1970s the Crips had adapted a dress code for their recognition in the society. They commonly wore black leather jackets and roamed round wielding canes. The black jacked became the Crips identity. Within no time the Crips were involved in various robberies, assaults, smuggling, extortion of merchandise, ripping the weak and mugging elderly.
By mid of 1980s the membership of Bloods had increased significantly. They normally dressed in red as their identity. The bloods were also involved in drug related business earning them large sums of money which they to purchase advanced weaponry and recruitment of new members. Narcotic business became their basic life style.
Due to the expansion of both the Crips and Bloods, the levels of violence in the ghettos or inner cities reached alarming levels. War on drugs and gangs became major concern for the federal government. In 1992 there was a national gang peace summit of gang leaders from more than twenty eight cities in Chicago, to call for a cease fire in the gang violence.
In the 1990s, music (rap music), provided the best medium for the propagation of gangster lifestyle. The youths in the poor inner cities sent their messages through this genre music. Many gang members used this music not only express their way of life but also earn large sums of money through music recordings. Through record sales they were able to expand their illegal drug business (Decker and Winkle, 1997).
Presently Crips and Bloods are involved in illegal activities such as drug trafficking, immigration trafficking, robbery, intergang wars, assaults etc. it is of great importance to understand that Black gangs such as Crips and Bloods are still very stable and are presenting the mainstream society a very big challenge. Abandoning illegal drug related businesses and starting other illegal activities like home invasion, auto theft, property crimes , some of the gangs in the east coast have even started trafficking fraudulent identification documents that terrorists might be able to use.
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