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Organized Crime - Crips And Bloods: Black American Gangs In Los Angeles

youth central leather occurred

Throughout the twentieth century, two distinct periods of black American gang formation occurred in Los Angeles. The first was in the early 1940s until 1965, the second from 1970 continuing into the early 2000s. Between the early 1970s and 2000 black American street gangs steadily increased in numbers and membership.

During World War II, large numbers of black Americans migrated from the southern United States to Los Angeles for employment in the war industries, chiefly building aircraft. All-black communities in the central part of Los Angeles expanded. The first black gangs developed in the second half of the 1940s and 1950s in defense from white teenage gangs determined to attack and harass black youth.

Members of the Crips and Bloods gangs stand together in Los Angeles, California. (AP/Wide World Photos)

By 1960 the black areas of central Los Angeles—Watts, Central Avenue, and West Adams—had grown together. Whites increasingly moved to the suburbs leaving the area predominately black. The interracial violence among black and white gangs turned into black versus black gangs. The western areas of the black communities were economically better off than the eastern half, so eastside gangs resented westside youths and fought west gangs. Most scuffles were hand-to-hand fights or with knives and tire irons. Murders rarely occurred. In 1960 only six gang-related murders occurred in all of Los Angeles County.

In 1965 poverty, unemployment, harsh Los Angeles police treatment of black Americans, and continuing discrimination boiled over into the Watts race riots the summer of 1965, when the police used batons on two black men being arrested. After the riots, the Watts community directed its youth into local clubs, looking for solutions to social injustices including police brutality. In 1965 the Civil Rights movement was gathering strength in Los Angeles. To lend support to civil rights activism, the Black Panther Party, a powerful black political organization, opened a chapter in central Los Angeles.

Viewed as a threat to the security of the nation, the FBI targeted the Panthers and other black organizations. The Los Angeles Panthers were greatly weakened and their political leadership dismantled. By 1970 Los Angeles youth had lost the adult leadership that had kept them working on community issues. Filling the void was a new gang organization period.

In 1969 fifteen-year-old Raymond Washington, a high school student of central Los Angeles, and a few friends formed a gang patterned after a 1960s gang called the Avenues. They named their gang the Baby Avenues and sometimes called themselves the Avenue Cribs, a reference to their young ages. The Cribs wore black leather jackets, earrings in their left ear, and often walked with canes. Before long, stealing and assaulting became the gang's chief activities.

Because of the canes used by gang members, a Los Angeles newspaper reporting on an assault called them the "Crips" for cripples. The Cribs latched onto the name Crips because a slang word crippin' meant robbing and stealing. Gang members lived the crippin' way of life, often stealing black leather jackets. The desire to obtain black leather jackets led to the first Crips murder in 1972. Crips attacked and murdered a sixteen-year-old Los Angeles high school student, a nongang youth and son of an attorney, for the leather jacket he was wearing. The murder, in addition to continuing Crips attacks, received sensational media coverage. To youth living in poverty, the gangs seemed to be a way to attract attention and through gang activity a way to prove manliness and power over others. More and more poor black youths joined Crips.

South Los Angeles schools were soon filled with gang fights and shootings. By the end of 1972 there were eight Crip gangs and ten others, which were responsible for twenty-nine gang-related murders. The Crips and other gangs were rivals, though the Crips outnumbered the others and constantly terrorized them. As a result, the non-Crips met on Piru Street in Compton and formed an alliance that became known as the Bloods. Los Angeles County reported thirty thousand gang members and 355 deaths in 1980.

By 1996 twenty-one communities in Los Angeles County had 274 gangs. Six communities—Los Angeles, Compton, Athens, Inglewood, Carson, and Long Beach—had 225 of the 274 gangs. The gangs were highly structured and focused on making money much like the American Mafia. The business of choice was drugs. By the 1990s the Los Angeles gang epidemic had expanded into urban areas along the West Coast and across the nation. Many of the gangs were extensions of the Bloods and Crips. Wherever unemployment, poverty, and racism existed, gangs could attract members.

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about 8 years ago

hi guys. I am a south african male, Caucasian, 27 years old. I grew up in a multi-cultural society and my friends introduced me to the likes of 2pac and BIG, I would just like to know, are there ever cross-border friendships between blood and crip members, and how does this impact the activities of gang clashes?

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over 8 years ago

your wrong Joe, you don't know what you're talking about. the ony thing you said that was right was that the BPS came to LA -and helped in the formation of the bloods, but there hood is not even sanctioned from the original BPS in CHI-TOWN. The BPS had to get in line with black Cali bangin' and that's bloods and crips, not peoples and folks.

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almost 9 years ago

I would love to save the history of the two gangs. It's a rich history of L.A.

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over 8 years ago

The L.A. street gangs copied off of the more notorious Chicago Black Gangster Disciple, Black Stone Rangers, and Vice Lords gangs. The were coming up to be a lot like the BGD's so the BPS's came out to L.A. and helped started the Bloods tp check the crips and the Bloods became part of the Black Peace Stone's known as "Peoples Nation" and so the crips came up under the Disciples "Folks Nation"

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about 1 year ago

This was an interesting article. I was in living in LA at the time when this happened. I happened to banging myself but I sho didn't know this was March of 1972. Well soon after that happen at the end of May, my man Lil Country was killed. Here all this time I thought the Hollywood murder occurred 6 months before Lil Country's death. And they all still deceased. SMDH

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almost 6 years ago

Your article is WRONG!!! Robert Ballou was not murdered for any leathercoat he was wearing. He WAS NOT WEAR A LEATHER ON THE NIGHT HE WAS KILLED!!!!! I should know. I was

arrested and convicted of that crime, along with my other crime partners. Roberts Ballou's friend was robbed of his leathercoat. NOT ROBERT BALLOU. Mr. Robert Ballou caused his own death. Committed, not by myself and crime partners. But by some Compton Crimes. PLEASE REPORT THE TRUTH!!!!!!!!!!!

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over 9 years ago

I'm a second generation Crip from Compton and I'm writing a book called Born and Raised in Compton, and a lot of your material is accurate.

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over 9 years ago

Since i want to make a thesis about novel of American Gengsters by Max Allan Collin, so would you like to help me to tell the truth american gengster in 1960-1970 era. thak you