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Los Angeles is a sprawling, beautiful city in southern California; it is also one of the most heavily populated cities in the greater Los Angeles area, with a population of 3,792, 621 people. Because of its gorgeous beaches and sunny weather, Los Angeles is also a popular tourist destination. Many people refer to it as the film capital of the world since it is home to half of the United States' entertainment behemoths such as Warner Brothers, Universal, and Paramount Pictures. Since it is a multi-ethnic and multi-racial area, Los Angeles is also rich in cultural diversity. Demographics show the whites at 29%, Asians at 11%, African American at 8% and Hispanic 49 %( Gordon et al., 164).
Over the past decade cities have reported an escalation in gang activities, Los Angeles being one of them with dozen of gangs such as Black Guerrillas Family, Bloods, Crips, 18th Street, Hells Angels, Public Enemy, Sinaloa Cartel, Mexican Mafia, Triads, Peckerwood, Surenos and the MS -13 launching their operations in the city. The gangs are reported as highly organized, secretive and brutal with some such as the Triad having their roots back as early as the 18th century making it hard for the law enforcement to eradicate them as they have active members not only in Los Angeles but other cities of the world. This essay will look into detail gang activities perpetrated members of the Hispanic origins.
The gang is a term used to refer to a group of individuals who control a given territory and collectively engage in criminal behaviors in those areas and their neighborhood. On the other hand, race is the ancestry affiliation of given group of people who possess similar physical traits such as skin color and genetics (Hagedon, 50)
As aforementioned, a wide range of racial groups inhabit Los Angeles ranging from, whites, native Americans, Asians, African Americans and Hispanic, Hispanic refers to all other races such as Cubans, Brazilians, Mexicans and the Philippines. The same racial distribution pattern appears even among the gangs present in Los Angeles city. There are white affiliated gangs, such as the public enemy and peckerwoods Asian groups such as Asian kids and the triad, Hispanic gangs such as Sinaloa cartel and Mexican mafia and the African American gangs such as the Blood and Crips. (Vigil, James, 34)
The essay will have three parts, the first part will focus on the history the Hispanic gangs, their origins, why they exist and why they continue to thrive despite the day by day crackdowns by the law enforcement agencies.
The second part of the essay will compare the number of Hispanic gangs operating in Los Angeles to other gangs and provide concrete evidence why these gangs are by far the number one threat to the civilians of Los Angeles and the state in general.
The third segment of the essay will emphasize more why the law enforcement should prioritize more on controlling the Hispanic gangs and outline some recommendations on how to reduce various gang proliferation in Los Angeles city.
Hispanic (Latino) Gangs History
Hispanic Gangs started to operate in Los Angeles as early as the 1920s, where they existed in small groups bonded by their similar cultural, language and customs background. While in this groups they engaged in, petty crimes such as gambling and prostitution, however with time they started rolling out more advanced crimes such as armed robberies, burglary, and vandalism.
In years 1923-40 gangs with basic organizational structures such as Temple Street 1923, White Fence 1925, and Dog patch 1940 emerged, they had leaders, self-identification codes which they would use to communicate to each other, unique mode of dressing symbolizing some of their gang values. Inflicting of Permanent body marks such as tattoos among various gangs become fashionable around this time.
Early 1980s other gangs with complete organization structures such as MS-13 1980 and Sinaloa surfaced. Unlike their predecessors, they were more organized, sophisticated, secretive and were involved in wide range of criminal activities such as robberies, loan shacking, racketeering, human trafficking, illegal drugs trafficking, counterfeiting, murder, kidnappings, extortion, prostitution among many other felonious activities.(Franco,39)
Comparison of Hispanic Gangs to Other Gangs.
According to Smith (2009), Hispanic gang’s accounts 40% of the entire gangs operating in Los Angeles. For instance, MS -13 already has more than 70000 active members, and since its formation in Los Angeles in 1980, and has continued to expand to other cities adversely, with operations in Compton, California, Boston, Fresno, and Santa Cruz (111)
On the other hand, Sinaloa which the Sinaloa gang which the US referred as the most extensive drug trafficking network in the world was not only operating in Los Angeles but also in other countries such as Mexico, austral, New Zealand, Germany, Colombia, Philippines and West Africa.
One of the significant difference we can note about the Hispanic gangs and other gangs is that they are overwhelmingly huge businesses, most of the other gangs operate locally unlike Hispanic gangs which have influence even on the international platform.
Another reason to note is the motive behind the formation of various gangs, gangs such as African American came as a counter to the white supremacist in the Los Angeles. The blacks felt mistreated due to their racial affiliation thus saw the need to protect themselves by organizing themselves into gangs which brought a sense of protection among the members.
White gangs were formed for similar reasons as the whites felt threatened too by the rapid emerging black gangs. On the other hand, Hispanic gangs motive was the business; some of them were already operational in other places years before commencing their operations in Los Angeles, for instance, the Sinaloa was founded in the year 1960 in Mexico but expanded its services to Los Angeles in 1980.
Why it’s Hard to Defeat Hispanic Criminal Gangs in Los Angeles.
One of the reasons it’s hard to defeat Hispanic cartels is because most of this gangs are not local and Los Angeles is just a tiny part of their operations territory thus their eradication calls for a lot of other international players where the gang is operational.
Another reason is that the gangs have instilled fear among the people, people are not willing to share any information regarding this gangs as they are known to be very brutal when dealing with informers. Drug kingpins such as El Chapo and Guzman used to torture their victims before killing them together with their families.
Some police officers have also been found to be on the payroll of the same cartels they are fighting; this is probably one of the main hindrances in rooting out the gang problem in Los Angeles.
Illegal immigration, Mexicans who are the leading Hispanic gang members continue to get to the US before dispersing to other US cities. Some of this immigrants find their way to Los Angeles city, and since they can’t find regular jobs as that would risk being apprehended by immigration police, most of them opt to take jobs that do not require any form of government documentation such as drug peddling.
Another cause of the proliferation of Hispanic gangs is because of their organizational structure. Removing the top management does not mean the gang will collapse, another person in most cases the second in ranks takes over, and business runs as usual.
With so many gangs in Los Angeles today, Hispanic gangs have proved to be the biggest threat. They are organized, brave, brutal and resourceful. The Los Angeles authorities will have to device other new techniques to approach the danger posed by these gangs.
Los Angeles authorities and other individuals holding government stakeholders should ensure that they work towards reducing some of the factors that are drawing youths into this gangs, through the creation of employment, equal distribution of resources and fair treatment for all under the law.
The government should also step forward and fund organizations and programs such gang risk intervention programme and Los Angeles city gang reduction development which are trying to fight against gang proliferation in Los Angeles city.
The community can also play a crucial role in curtailing gang proliferation through liaising with the police in identifying known members of various gangs; the city should be the first to show intolerance to gangs and drugs.
Intervention according to Bendizen (2011), response is one of the best measures to undertake in an attempt to prevent escalation of a particular situation (698). Intervention programs such as A better Los Angeles, Intervention Program of Los Angeles and Advancement project for Los Angeles can be used to woo recently recruited members out of the gangs, more so those below 18 years of age. If some members break up with the gang and succeed in life, then that may make other members quit too. Thus an excellent intervention programme should not just persuade members to leave; it should also guide them off on where to go and what to do.
Enforcement, despite so many of proactive and active measures put in place, the number of gangs has continued to spike. However, the Los Angeles police department has come up with various enforcement strategies.
Some of this enforcement include gang abatement legislation, placement of a Los Angeles gang members on the FBI's most wanted list, identification of city's top targeted street gangs, patrol proliferation strategy, the convergence of local, state and federal law enforcement agencies and community awareness bulletins.
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Franco, Celinda. "The MS 13 and 18th Street Gangs: Emerging Transnational Gang Threats?." Congressional Research Service, Library of Congress, 2007.
Gordon, Peter, Harry W. Richardson, and Hung Leung Wong. "The distribution of population and employment in a polycentric city: the case of Los Angeles." Environment and Planning A 18.2 (1986): 161-173.
Hagedorn, John M., and Perry Macon. People and Folks. Gangs, Crime and the Underclass in a Rustbelt City. Lake View Press, PO Box 578279, Chicago, IL 60657 (paperback: ISBN-0-941702-21-9; clothbound: ISBN-0-941702-20-0)., 1988.
Smith, Robert C. "Gender, ethnicity, and race in school and work outcomes of second-generation Mexican Americans." Latinos: Remaking America (2002): 110-125.
Vigil, James Diego. Barrio gangs: Street life and identity in Southern California. University of Texas Press, 2010.
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