Las Vegas Sun

August 21, 2019

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Las Vegas home to roughly 20,000 street gang members


Las Vegas Sun

Metro Gang Unit Officer Larry Miller looks around an abandoned apartment used as a hangout by the 28th Street Gang on Friday, May 28, 2004, in Las Vegas.

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The Las Vegas Valley is home to more than 300 street gangs, a number law enforcement officials say is growing as members ditch loyalties and create new groups.

Roughly 20,000 gang members — or 6 for every 1,000 Nevada residents — live in the valley, according to the FBI’s 2011 National Gang Threat Assessment. Only five other states have as high a rate: California, Idaho, New Mexico and Illinois.

Local gang members average from 14 to 21 years old, with recruitment typically starting in middle school, Metro Police said.

Many of the city’s more established gangs are subsets of larger, California-based organizations. But there also are “hybrid gangs,” more loosely organized groups that are harder for police to contain.

Hybrid gangs typically are younger, more scattered and more violent. Members can belong to several gangs at once. They don’t answer to a clear leader, and they don’t adhere to explicit rules of conduct. Identifying their rivals can be a struggle for police.

Over the past decade, the valley has seen an increase in gang activity. As of this year there are: 630 criminal street gangs and 18,184 gang members. Of those members, more than 15,000 are known members, while 2,888 are affiliate members, according to Metro Police. Here are some of the known gangs in Las Vegas:

White gangs

White supremacist gangs are relatively uncommon in the valley and are difficult to detect because many don’t identify themselves as gangs. Neo-Nazi gangs tend to use the symbol “SWP,” an acronym for “supreme white power,” and the number 311, which represents “KKK,” the 11th letter of the alphabet repeated three times. Known white gangs include Insane NAZI Lowriders and Aryan Warriors.

Black gangs

Bloods and Crips

Among the most infamous criminal groups in America, the Crips and Bloods are rival gangs founded in Los Angeles. They are widely known for their violent feuding that’s so intense it often permeates every aspect of members’ lives. A Blood, for example, might describe something as “brazy,” swapping out the letter “c” in “crazy,” to snub the Crips. Crips traditionally wear blue, while Bloods wear red.

The Gerson Park Kingsmen is a hybrid gang named for the now-defunct Gerson Park public housing complex near Martin Luther King and Lake Mead boulevards. Members typically identify both with the Crips and Bloods. The gang favors the numbers 369 to honor Gerson Park’s three blocks of apartments, six apartments per block and nine units per building. The gang originally was named the Ace of Spades but members changed the name after Gerson Park was built. They have also sparked several hybrid gangs, including Squadup and HTO (Hustlers Taking Over).

The Woods are a hybrid of the Gerson Park Kingsmen and is named for the acronym for “We on our dollas,” reflecting members’ goal of making money. In 2009, six Woods were linked to the killing of Metro Officer Trevor Nettleton, who died in a gun battle at his North Las Vegas home during a robbery.

Several local Crips gangs are named for the neighborhoods in which they began, although they now spread throughout the city: the Donna Street Crips, Vegas Heights Gangsta Crips (AKA Rolling 50s) and Valley View Gangster Crips.

The Rolling 60s: Loosely tied to the Crips, the Rolling 60s used to dominate Berkley Square near Doolittle Park, running drug houses and terrorizing residents with drive-by shootings. But in May 2004, more than 20 alleged members of the gang were hit with federal charges, significantly diminishing criminal activity in the area.

The Playboy Bloods are one of the older Blood subsets in the valley. Their insignia is an adapted version of a Playboy bunny with one ear up and the other folded down. In 2008, 10 alleged members were indicted on drug and violence charges stemming from accusations they trafficked crack cocaine. Prosecutors said members operated in the Sherman Gardens Annex housing complex, also known as the “Jets complex,” at H and Doolittle streets.

The West Side Piru Bloods originated in Compton, Calif., but trickled into Southern Nevada. The gang’s reach is far; there are dozens of Piru subsets across the West Coast.

Latino gangs

The Sureños

Spanish for “southerners,” the Sureños are a Southern California street gang with many loosely affiliated subgroups in Las Vegas. Members pay tribute to the Mexican Mafia prison gang and use the number 13 to represent the letter “M,” the 13th letter of the alphabet, to pay allegiance to their mentors. Sureños typically wear blue, including clothing featuring the logo of the Los Angeles Dodgers.

The San Chucos are one of the most prominent Sureños subgroups in Nevada. The gang is large and unpredictable. Members identify themselves with tattoos that read “SC” or “Chuco,” but it isn’t always clear whether their loyalties lie with the Mexican Mafia or Nevada 13.

The 28th Streets gang originated downtown, though its members now are spread throughout Las Vegas. The gang originally was a faction of the Sureños, but many of its younger members have ditched ties to the Mexican Mafia. They now pledge loyalty to the recently formed prison gang Nevada 13.

A tattoo of the Stratosphere or pair of dice usually tips police off to members of the Sureños-derived Barrio Naked City gang. The symbols are “a dead giveaway,” said Miguel Chavez, a Las Vegas detention officer and gang specialist. The gang’s roots lie in Meadows Village, also known as Naked City, in the shadow of the Stratosphere. “Their tattoos are very Vegas-oriented — the outline of the Strip, definitely the Stratosphere,” Chavez said. “They’re very proud of the Stratosphere. It’s their own landmark visible to everyone.”

The Norteños

Spanish for “northerners,” the Norteños are a Northern California street gang and the Sureños’ rivals. Members ally with the Nuestra Familia prison gang, the rival of the Mexican Mafia. There are far fewer Norteños in Las Vegas than Sureños. Norteños wear the number 14 to represent the letter “N,” the 14th letter of the alphabet, and favor red clothing from sports teams such as the San Francisco 49ers and UNLV. Some gang members say UNLV’s acronym stands for “Us Norteños Love Violence.”

Asian gangs

Pinoy Boys

One of the most wide-reaching Asian gangs in Las Vegas is the Pinoy Boyz, although the gang’s presence is relatively sparse and unorganized. Pinoy is an informal term for Filipino, formed by taking the last four letters of “Filipino” and adding the suffix “y,” common in the Tagalog language. Police typically identify Pinoy Boyz and other Asian gang members through foreign language tattoos.

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