When we think about violent street gangs, we generally imagine rough and tough, often tattooed men as the primary members. However, the past decade has shown a dramatic rise in the rate of women joining street gangs. The epidemic has not always been taken seriously by law enforcement agents, but it should be. In Los Angeles, where there are an estimated 1,200 individual gangs operating, women are a real part of the problem. Out of approximately 100,000 total gang members in the large metropolitan area, 7,000 are assumed to be female.
These numbers are staggering and are only expected to rise. Because women are often not seen as tangible threats, they can more easily get away with crimes such as theft, drug sales, and violent offenses. The women who end up in street gangs are often introduced to the lifestyle by a partner, a family member, or a friend. Once initiated and given full membership, it’s virtually impossible to walk away from the gang. A life of crime, violence, and brutality are nearly inescapable for these ladies unless they end up arrested and inside the confines of a jail cell. Even on the inside, gang life is often unavoidable, as past members flock to each other for support, protection, and loyalty.
The female perspective regarding gang life is generally unknown and shrouded in mystery. Most women don’t speak out about their experiences, usually for fear of being outed and targeted by rival gang members. Here are the 15 Pictures Of Gang Women Their Men Don’t Want You To See.
15. The 18th Street Gang Women Are Ruthless
El Salvador might be the smallest country in Central America, but it’s the most densely populated and is home to numerous street gangs. As one of the most dangerous countries in the world, El Salvador is home to 25,000 street gang members, with an additional 9,000 members incarcerated in the federal prisons. The 18th Street Gang, also known as M-18 or Barrio 18, hosts a large female membership, which is growing by the day. The women, during their initiation process, must prove that they’re loyal, brave, and heartless. They must be willing to do whatever it takes to defend, protect, and honor their fellow members; anything short of complete devotion can lead to some serious problems. Traitors aren’t treated with any respect or dignity and sometimes don’t live to tell their tales.
14. Not All Members Are What They Seem
Gang members don’t all hail from poverty-stricken, broken homes, as stereotypes would have us believe. There are plenty of affluent members who have successful careers, money, and prestige. In 2014, Memphis police officer Paris Glass was placed on probation once it was detected that she had appeared in a music video for rapper P.London; a known member of the Avenue Piru gang. No charges were laid against the police officer, but the video was removed from the original website that had posted it. The APG originated in Inglewood, California and are considered a chapter of the larger Pirus gang, who are among the original Blood Alliance, formed in Los Angeles in the 1970s. They’re natural rivals to all of the Crips charters.
13. Chicago Has A Huge Gang Problem
Chicago is one of the U.S cities with the highest rate of gang membership per capita. The city is host to at least 60 street gangs, while some law enforcement agents would say that the figure is closer to 100. Generally, Chicago’s gang problem revolves around drug possession, trafficking, and distribution. Rival gang members fight over turfs and customers, leading to some pretty grim and violent activity. Women involved in the gangs aren’t exempt from the violence and horror. In fact, many women are used as drug pushers in order to lessen police suspicion. The crime rate in Chicago is much higher than the U.S average, with 61% of all homicides being gang-related. Gun-related incidents are the focal point of the issue; in 2016, there were a total of 762 murders, the highest rate the city has seen since 1996.
12. L.A. Is The Birthplace of American Street Gangs
It’s no secret that Los Angeles has a history of gang activity that is unsurpassed by any other American city. The large metropolis of roughly 4 million citizens is home to over 1,400 street gangs, with a total of more than 120,000 members. This number rises every year, due to fast-growing membership rates. This demographic has made it far easier for Californian women to get involved in gangs. The proximity to the Mexican border has also made L.A. a hub for international immigration; large groups of Central and South Americans have made their home here. Since a lot of these gangs operate on cross-border scales, membership is easily transferable for those who have alliances in other host countries.
11. Chola Girls Have Taken Japan By Storm
The Chicano subculture emerged in Mexican-American demographics in the United States in the 1940s-1970s. The signature style for chola women includes oversized clothing, bandannas, hoop earrings, and exaggerated makeup. The style is now closely linked to Los Angeles street gangs, who adopted the look over time. Surprisingly enough, there has been a surge of chola girl gangs in Japan and East Asia recently, although in Japan, this current obsession with Mexican-American gang culture seems to be a trend and not so much a permanent lifestyle adaptation. The women and men who’ve adopted the Chicano style don’t seem particularly violent or aggressive… it’s simply an interesting example of cross-cultural trends meeting in an unlikely place.
10. The Crips Have A Big Female Population
The Crips are one of the largest and most notable street gangs of our generation. Founded in 1969 in Los Angeles, they’re a primarily African American group of roughly 35,000 members in the United States. High-profile rappers Snoop Dogg, Eazy-E, and Ice T are among their members. The gang has a notorious rivalry with fellow street gang The Bloods. The Crips use blue as their dominant, trademark color. Members are usually seen wearing blue bandanas, blue jerseys, and other articles of clothing in their signature tone. In contrast, the Bloods have claimed red as their gang’s shade of choice. The main activity of the Crips is drug trafficking and distribution, although they meddle with extortion, burglary, kidnapping, and other violent crimes as well.
9. Ladies Can Be In Biker Gangs, Too
Most of us would think that motorcycle gangs are reserved for tough, burly, bearded men. And while the majority of their numbers are made up of such people, there are actually full-patch ladies in the gang as well. Generally speaking, the women who are associated with the Hell’s Angels never actually get membership status. Wives and girlfriends of members might be entitled to certain luxuries, but they can never be fully versed in gang activity (think, the SOA “old ladies”). They’re typically used to deliver messages, handle business-related activities, or serve as watchdogs. Full-patch women must abide by the same rules that the men do. Although it’s super rare for women to be granted full membership, there are some out there.
8. Association With MS-13 Requires Loyalty
The MS-13 gang is also among the largest criminally organized street gangs in the world. With huge populations in Los Angeles and El Salvador, the MS-13 are longtime rivals to the Barrio 18 gang. With similar tastes for brutality and violence, these gangs don’t take loyalty lightly. If you’re not a fully initiated member, you’re still expected to show allegiance to any family members who are. Mothers, girlfriends, and wives of members are indirectly brought into the life of the gang, and going against club rules would be unwise. In the past, many concerned family members got themselves into big trouble when they tried to convince their loved ones to exit gang life. The reality is that there really is no way out.
7. Mob Wives Are The Real Deal
The ’30s were a big decade for Mobsters in New York City. In the aftermath of the Prohibition era, drinking, gambling, and violence were at an all-time high. Actress Alice Granville was married to a mafia hitman, who shot her in 1931 at a nightclub. Pete Donahue shot two bullets into his wife’s arm to prove his affection for her. Well, that’s a very unique way to show someone that you love them! The photo became iconic after she opened her hospital room door to reporters for the Daily News. With more admiration than fear and horror, she explained the story from the Roosevelt Hospital. Witnesses said that she didn’t even wince, and she definitely didn’t leave her bad boy mafioso man after she recovered.
6. Brooklyn Is Still Home To Wide-Scale Gang Activity
In the past decade, Brooklyn’s unfavorable reputation has slowly been cleaned up, with a surge of young professionals settling into red stone walk-ups around the neighborhood. The borough of New York City is still filled with violence, however. Close to thirty chapters of street gangs operate in Brooklyn, many of them with ties to the Crips. Gang violence is not even close to being part of the past, with members being brutally shot and stabbed in turf wars across town. Women aren’t exempt from this violence either. Many gangs of New York have a large number of female members. Some are sisters, girlfriends, or wives of more known members, and some got into the gang life by being introduced via a friend. The reality is that no one is safe from an untimely end when involved in gang activity.
5. Gang Activity In New Orleans Quieted Down After Hurricane Katrina
Before Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans in 2005, the city had the highest murder rate in the country. With a rate of almost ten times the national average, murder and brutality were just par for the course. With significant territory damage, many criminals fled for different cities, and the rate of crime dropped significantly. This, however, doesn’t mean that New Orleans is completely exempt from gang activity. Violent crimes started to rise again in 2011, and there’s been a surge in burglaries, theft, and crimes against women. The crime rate is once again much, much higher than in the majority of American cities but doesn’t make it to the top 10 of most dangerous cities due to its large population, thus resulting in a lower per capita crime rate.
4. Texas and New Mexico Host A Large Number Of Cholo Gangs
Due to the Mexican influence in the states of Texas and New Mexico, a large population of cholo gangs exists. Despite the term “cholo” being widely used in America, many South American countries consider it derogatory and offensive. The official Spanish translation for cholo is “people of indigenous heritage,” so you can see where the offense comes from. Although much of the cholo identity is linked to the style of dress, they also have quite a big concentration of gang membership among their group. Depending on their location, they might be part of small street gangs or bigger, more established chapters with associations to larger organizations.
3. The Latin Kings Are The Largest Gang in The U.S.
The Latin Kings are a predominantly Hispanic street gang that originated in the mid-’50s in Chicago. The original formation aimed to better the lives of immigrants by grouping together and offering resources and support. Over the decades, the group became immersed in criminal activity and now account for the largest gang population in the United States with over 120,000 members. The Latin Kings have also emerged in other countries around the world, including Canada, Colombia, El Salvador, and Mexico. Their prime activity is drug trafficking, but they’re also in the weapons trading business as well as grand theft auto and kidnapping. Their colors are black and gold, and they have a huge female population; the women are aptly called the Latin Queens.
2. Gang Life Comes Above All
Sadly, for women who are members of the brutal Barrio 18 gang, they must remain loyal at all costs. That means that a sudden change in lifestyle, starting a family, or wanting to move away don’t cut the ties that bind you to the gang. Those who have tried to escape or exit the gang in the past have had grim outcomes. Loyalty to your fellow gang members is seen as an absolutely essential part of the membership. If you’re suspected of no longer exercising complete and total loyalty, you and your family can be in danger. The Barrio 18 consider traitors to be even worse than natural enemies. Once you’ve done something to be excommunicated from the gang leaders, there’s very little that can be done to get back into their good graces. This is the sad reality of gang life. You make a choice when you’re young that you must live — or die — with forever.
1. Prison Isn’t A Way Out
Sadly, incarceration is not even an escape from the confines of the gang walls. Many women will try to get themselves arrested, naively thinking that jail will offer some rest from the harsh day-to-day realities of gang life. The unfortunate truth is that many gang members are on the inside of the jails, waiting eagerly for members to meet them there. News travels fast about any type of dishonesty or breach in loyalty, so often, these inmates are ready to punish, beat, and ostracize any traitors. With so many gang members incarcerated in prisons in the U.S., it’s really close to impossible to escape the life once you’ve entered it. This is why many mothers and fathers who’ve lost their children to gang activities are trying to raise gang awareness to the youth before it’s too late.
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