If I am going to be completely honest, I am pretty unstoppable when it comes to the latest Pokemon game or a round of Overwatch, but if a real life gang came after me? I’m probably not going to be picking up that controller anytime soon. And if any of these 16 gangs came after me I wouldn’t be picking up anything ever again.
Below we’ve not only covered the 16 most dangerous gangs of all time but in some cases, we’ve covered how they got to be that or what some of their worst offenses are. Like oh, I don’t know, pulling over a bus full of people and making them fight to the death. Or how about heavily funding underage prostitution rings? These truly are the worst of the worst, and we’ve scanned the globe to bring them all in. Sure you’ve heard of the Crips and Bloods, who will also be below, but don’t be sleeping on the Mungiki gang from Kenya, MS13 out of El Salvador or of course, those lovely Mexican cartels.
No matter where you go in the world, there is a pretty good chance that one (or several) of these gangs are operating nearby. Perhaps you’re better off playing those video games inside.
16. Nazi Low Riders
There are a lot of gangs on here that are not afraid to show their gang pride through symbols, clothing or icons, but the Nazi Low Riders have taken it to a new extreme getting Swastikas tattooed all over their bodies. As you can imagine they are pretty good buddies with the Aryan Brotherhood who you will read about below. If you are in prison and identified as being in the gang, there is a high chance you may be moved away from other prisoners and punished more harshly.
While they were founded in the 70s, in 1996 they only had 28 members. They have grown quickly since then, however, and now have over 5,000 members in and out of prison. Members often commit extreme acts of racist violence in jails in order to move up the ranks, including member William Richie who stole a handcuff key and used it to slash up the face and neck of a black inmate.
On the outside, the gang often hangs out around high schools, video arcades, fast-food joints, and bars to try and recruit (ideally) young potential members for the gang. They earn money through a variety of illegal means but perhaps most notably in the trade and production of methamphetamines.
15. Mara Salvatrucha
Mara Salvatrucha, perhaps better known as MS13, has ties literally all around the world including El Salvador, Mexico, Canada and the United States. When they were getting their start in the 1980s they were mostly comprised of refugees from El Salvador and integrated with the la M (or Mexican Mafia), working as their hitmen.
MS13 is more dangerous in Central America where they often extort bus drivers, kidnap and often take control of local neighborhoods as well as run the drug market. They have also been known to help carry out executions for the Zetas and Sinaloa cartel out of Mexico as well as help with their drug trade.
Entry to the gang often comes with a 13-second beatdown that may sound short but could include several members getting in on it and can absolutely turn fatal. Trying to leave the gang can also often lead to your life ending. While it cannot be confirmed, it was estimated that there were at least 70,000 members around the world.
14. Barrio Azteca
The Barrio Azteca prison gang got their start working as the armed support for the Juarez Cartel as well as helping control the drug trafficking in Juarez. They are said to have roughly 5,000 members in and out of jail in Mexico, as well as over 3,000 inmates in the United States.
Several criminal activities have been linked to the gang since their start in 1986 including, contract killing, torture, arms trafficking, money laundering and people smuggling. There have been several prison massacres organized by Barrio Azteca including 20 inmates dying in 2009 that included several of them being beaten to death or thrown out of second-story windows (and then beaten/killed if the fall did not result in their death).
Their most violent act may have come in 2000 when several members of the gang stormed a party of teenagers and killed all 16 people inside (most of whom ranged from 15 to 20). When the crime was later solved, one of the gang leaders for Barrio Azteca admitted to ordering the attack because he thought there were rival gang members at the party.
13. Hells Angels
If we were ranking gangs based on their names, Hells Angels would probably be pretty close to the top. But if you get past the cool name, what you are left with is one of the most notorious motorcycle gangs of all time.
With chapters all over the world, Hells Angels have grown considerably since its start back in 1948.
While many members claim that they only joined the club to help organize fundraisers, parties, and other social events, there is no denying the criminal nature of the gang.
Violent crimes, drug dealing and trafficking, extortion, and other illegal activities have all been linked to the gang throughout its long history. Their Australian chapter was also noted for their murder-for-hire, but also own many legitimate businesses such as gyms and tattoo parlors.
When police did a raid on 30 properties in Spain, they found military-style weapons and ammunition, a kilo of cocaine, neo-nazi literature, bulletproof vests and $200,000 cash.
12. United Bamboo
The Bamboo Union gang that is based out of Taiwan has nearly 100,000 members, making it one of our largest gangs on the list. While most gangs do not have clear leaders, Yao Yao Huang Shao-tsen has been the official boss/ruler of the gang since 2007. The gang was not afraid to get their hands dirty politically, including assassinating journalist Henry Liu in 1984 after he spoke out against the Kuomintang, which was the ruling part in Taiwan at the time.
The assassins, both Bamboo Union members, had been sent by the Taiwain’s Military Intelligence Bureau to take out Liu.
In 2013 the gang also came under public attention when a Chinese hitman Bai Xiao Ye was arrested and convicted of murder, kidnapping, extortion and conspiracy to commit murder. Bai had been sent by the Bamboo Union to ensure that Li Wen Jun would pay his $10,000 debt, when he did not, Bai stabbed him 32 times. Prosecutors later inferred that Bai earned his living through contract killing for the Bamboo Union
If you were wondering what one of the largest gangs in Kenya is, you’re looking at them. To make the gang all the more terrifying, the 500,000 members tend to prefer doing their dirty work with a machete over a gun.
The gang continues to grow as they target youth that are unemployed and seeking a purpose, that purpose just tends to be a disdain for all things Westernized (such as Christianity). The fact that they get you when you are young is made all the more terrifying when you learn that every member swears an oath that ends with “May I die if I desert or reveal our secrets.” If you betray them in any way, they’ll make that death imminent.
The gang is also known for their advocacy (and implementation) of female circumcision.
In 2007 after a disputed election in Kenya, an incredible massacre occurred leading to the death of hundreds of people that was allegedly led heavily by the Mungiki sect.
There were reports earlier this year that they had also started to make a more visible presence again, including the murder of eight commercial sex workers. One of the investigators on the scene said, “The chopping of private parts; skinning and gouging out the victims’ eyes are a hallmark of a Mungiki killing.”
10. Aryan Nation/Brotherhood
If being sent to prison is not enough to make sure you are in for a bad time, could you imagine getting there and then getting on the wrong side of the Aryan Brotherhood? With around 300 members in jail and 5,000 outside of it, the AB is definitely noted for its violence with around 30% of in-jail murders being linked to them. The original AB was formed in the 1960s in order to fight against the Black Guerrilla Family which was a blacks only gang.
Outside of jail, members waste no time doing activities that would land you in bars including extortion, drug trafficking and murder-for-hire. You also definitely don’t want to be responsible for putting them away. Back in 2013, two prosecutors were found dead after helping feds indict 34 AB members. Prison guards have constantly been a target for members of the AN including one guard who was stabbed to death by former leader Thomas Silverstein who used an improvised knife that was made from a shower key. Silverstein has been convicted of 3 murders behind bars. There is a “Supermax” prison where he was sent which holds 500 of the worst and most violent criminals and includes 23 hours a day of solitary confinement and minimal interactions with the guards when they bring you food.
But Silverstein was so awful he was one of two criminals in Range 13, better known as the Ultramax, in which there is literally no human interaction. Thankfully it was deemed too extreme and they were moved back to regular ol’ awful soul-sucking isolation.
9. Almighty Vice Lord Nation
When you have a name like that, you better hope you have a pretty solid following! But when you learn that the AVLN started in Chicago way back in 1958, you may not be shocked to hear they have 35,000 members.
When they were just getting their feet wet, the AVLN (then known just as Vice Lords) were committing robbery, theft, battery, intimidation, extortion and violent assaults. They then tried to change their public image, instead going by Conservative Vice Lords.
While they started receiving public praise (including establishing recreational areas for children which doubled as meeting houses), of course, the criminal activities continued. Other smaller gangs started to join up and eventually things became even more significant. For example, business owners who did not pay for their protection started ending up dead.
Willie Lloyd (pictured above) who at one point was the primary leader of the Vice Lord Nation quit the drug life in 2001 after he had been arrested several times in his life. Perhaps not shockingly, he has had 3 assassination attempts on his life including one in 2003 that left him paralyzed from the neck down.
The Crips are perhaps most notable for the iconic blue color that was once associated with the gang, as well as for their rivalry with the Bloods. But just for the sake of explaining their power, let’s talk about how they got started back in 1969 by Raymond Washington and Stanley Williams.
Both Washington and Williams were each running their own local gang when the decision was made to join together. The gang grew and by 1978 there were 45 Crips ‘Sets’ that were all operating in Los Angeles.
Much of their income came from the production of PCP, marijuana, as well as amphetamines. Don’t think things are all peaceful in the Crip world though just because you’re in the same overall gang, doesn’t mean it’s all happiness.
In 1979 Raymond Washington was gunned down, which only increased the amount of in-fighting.
In the 1980s, both the Bloods and Crips grew in power through the distribution of illegal substances and by 1999, it was reported that roughly 30,000 members were transporting drugs throughout the United States.
Perhaps fittingly for a gang that is most known for its rivalry with the Crips, the Bloods were formed in order to try and help provide protection for their members against the Crips who had grown more violent.
It started in 1972 with the formation of the Piru street gang as well as the West Piru-street gang that were formed by Sylvester Scott and Benson Owens. As more violence was occurring between other gangs, the Pirus were able to convince other gangs such as The Brims to unite and create The Bloods.
While they were still outnumbered 3:1, the Bloods were also known for their love of extreme violence and by 1978, there were 15 sets.
One of the more intimidating things may be that once you join a set, you are in it for life, as you are also forbidden to flip to another set (even another Blood set). Initiation may vary based on the set, but most East Coast Bloods are also known to receive 3 cigarette burns on their right shoulder once entry.
6. Latin Kings
Organized back in 1954 out of Chicago, The Latin Kings remain the largest and most organized gang in the Hispanic community. In fact, they may be one of the most organized street gangs there is. When asked about it, a former detective said, “When you compare them to other street gangs like the Bloods and the Crips, none compare to the organization of the Latin Kings.”
There are two factions of the Latin Kings: the Motherland faction, which operates in 158 cities in 31 states and contains 20,000 to 35,000 members, and the Bloodline faction which was founded in 1986 and operates in 15 cities in 5 states and includes roughly 7,500 members.
To make them seem all the more intimidating, one of the Latin Kings’ main sources of income comes from contract killing as well as various operations surrounding drugs. If you are a member and happen to violate one of their rules, there are a variety of punishments that they dole out including T.O.S (Terminate on Sight) or something less severe like a Five Minute Physical, in which 5 members will beat you up for 5 minutes.
As well as one of their main areas being Chicago, where 25,000 members are, the Latin Kings are worldwide. They also have setups in Puerto Rico, Peru, Mexico, Canada, Italy, Puerto Rico, Portugal, Brazil, the UK and other prominent countries.
5. Sinaloa Cartel
With El Chapo as a leader, who was considered to be the most powerful drug trafficker in the world by the US Department of Treasury, you start getting a picture of how powerful the Sinaloa Cartel is. When Guzman was arrested in 2014 it was reported that his cartel was responsible for more than 450,000 kilograms of cocaine to the United States. That is far from the only drug that the Sinaloa Cartel gets their hands on, as they also import large amounts of heroin, opium, marijuana and in 2011 were described by the Los Angeles Times as Mexico’s most powerful organized crime group.
The Sinaloa Cartel itself has been in operation since 1989, features 500,000 members and as well as owning large areas of Mexico, has territory all over the world including: 11 countries in Latin America (like Brazil, Argentina, Colombia), as well as Australia, New Zealand, Spain, Philippines and West Africa.
When they kill (and believe me, they kill often) they also have a tendency to post the videos online as a warning to rival gangs. When you also consider they love dissolving bodies in vats of alkali and beheadings, you can imagine it’s probably not too pleasant to watch.
Earlier this month Jorge Martin Torres, one of the main money launderers for the cartel, was sentenced to 44 months in prison. Torres was allegedly responsible for helping buy planes for El Chapo by wiring him $300,000 in drug proceeds, as well as purchasing another aircraft worth $890,000. On top of that, Torres also bought Maseratis, BMWs, Mercedes, Lamborghinis and other exotic cars for El Chapo and his brother Alfredo.
4. Los Zetas
Above you read about the Sinaloa cartel, but you may be even more scared of one of their biggest rivals, and that’s where the Los Zetas come into play. Organized out of Mexico since 1999, with over 3,000 members the gang has made a significant impact on the 22 Mexican states that it has territory in, as well as territory in Guatemala and the United States.
The Zetas don’t just murder, they get super into the torturing element as well and often post their videos online. In 2011 Mexican authorities came across 193 bodies that had been brutally tortured by the Los Zetas gang prior to execution. The people were allegedly taken from numerous passenger buses and the women were sexually assaulted, while the men were given knives, hammers, machetes, and clubs and told to fight another male to the death.
The winners were then entered into the gang and forced to go on essentially suicide missions trying to shoot up rival cartel gangs. A survivor from the day also revealed that the bus driver was forced to literally drive over people that had been tied up and laid in a line in front of him.
That is far from the only time they have been linked to a wide scale attack. In 2011 there was a massacre in Allendale, Coahuila in which 300-500 civilians were murdered. There were was also a notable prison riot in 2012 in which 44 Gulf cartel (a rival gang) were murdered and 37 Zetas escaped. The above photo is also taken of one of their vans after they engaged in a shootout on the streets that resulted in 4 fatalities and 15 people being wounded (many of whom were innocent casualties).
3. 14k Triad
You may not hear as much about gangs (better known as Triads) out of Hong Kong, but you better believe with close to 25,000 members that the 14k Triad is one of the largest gangs in the world.
The 14k is most notable for their role in drug-trafficking, including several startling numbers. In 2012, Hong Kong Customs noted that there was a jump from 30kg pounds of cocaine in 2011 to 600kg in 2012.
One of the main men involved with running the operations was Wan Kuok-Koi (better known as Broken Tooth Koi) who is pictured above and was in charge of the Macau branch of the 14k. Wan was not afraid of violence, including eliminating his former boss in order to move up the ranks. Wan (and the triad by association) was also able to run a successful casino business, including amassing over $6 million a month at one point.
To make the triad all the more dangerous, they have also been heavily linked to working with the Sinaloa cartel out of Mexico. In 2014, they were connected (along with the cartel) to a shipment of meth from China was obtained in Belize that was estimated to be worth $10 billion. Makes Walter White look like a peasant!
2. Solntesvkaya Bratva
When it comes to crime syndicate families in Russia, there is none bigger than the Solntesvkaya Bratva. Founded back in the 1970s, they currently only have around 5,000 members but they definitely make their presence around the world.
And while you may not be able to pronounce their name, by the time you finish that sentence you will definitely be dead. If there is a crime, they do it, but they make most of their profits off of heroin sales and human trafficking. They have also been known to link up with Colombian drug cartels to help move cocaine. More of their income can also be linked to their heavy involvement in both stock market, as well as credit card fraud. There were also links between Semion Mogilevich and the mafia. Mogilvich is known by the FBI as being the most dangerous mobster in the entire world with links to contract murders, extortion, weapon and drug trafficking on an international scale.
This list has taken you all around the world, but it would not be complete if we did not take a stop in Japan where we look at the brutal mafia known as the Yakuza. The Yakuza was founded way back in the 17th century and currently comprises of over 100,000 members. There are 3 primary syndicates of the Yakuza, with the biggest being the Yamaguchi-gumi family that has 55,000 members. Back in 2014, Forbes announced that they had a revenue of $6.6 billion.
Typical inclusion into the Yakuza includes you cutting ties with your loved ones and family ties, as all of your loyalty must be to your gang boss.
If you commit an offense that requires forgiveness from your boss, tradition says you will cut off the tip of your left finger. The origin of this goes back to how if you were to hold a sword, not having that part of your finger would weaken your grip and thus make you more reliant on your group for help.
The tattoos that often adorn gang members (that also includes genitals) are often done using the irezumi style, which requires hand-poking ink using handheld tools made of sharpened bamboo or steel and can take years to complete.
There are several things that make the Yakuza dangerous, but one of the most daunting is their heavy role in human trafficking. They have been known to go to impoverished areas and lying to convince women to come with them to Japan where they are then prostituted. They have also been heavily known to influence the political spectrum, including having the Japan justice minister resign in 2012 after it became clear that he was linked to the yakuza.
Japan has also been led by the Liberal Democratic Party almost exclusively since its foundation in 1955 which also has heavy links to the Yakuza. This includes the first LDP Prime Minister bailing out a member of the Yamaguchi-Gumi family that was in jail for murder.