While the Crips are not an actual prison gang they are recognized as part of the 11 Security Threat Groups identified by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.
Black gangs first appeared in downtown LA in the 20's, this was consistent with the large black population in that area. As the urban LA area grew more populated, blacks began to migrate south from the downtown area around the Lynwood, Watts, Slauson and Firestone/Manchester area of South LA. At the time, this area was mostly white, as blacks grew in numbers, the modern day urban phenomena known as "White Flight" began to occur, whites packed up and relocated, leaving the area for good. According to a modern day study done at the University of North Carolina, this phenomena is partly explained as an "avoidance", predominately among whites. Whites become dismayed by the changing demographics and the high volume of new immigrants/minorities. People who grew up in these areas are often unhappy to find their neighborhoods (and industries) dominated by minorities. "White flight" is occurring today in almost every large US city and in large numbers, in the future I'll have a separate page devoted to White Flight and how realtors will move in black families resulting in residents to sell their houses at huge losses, thus lowering property values. Today South LA is almost 90% non white, some areas are said to be as high as 95%, ghetto cops will tell you a white person in the hood after dark is cause for suspicion.
The 1920's and 30's, saw gangs like the "Goodlows", "Kelleys", "Magnificents", "Driver Brothers", "Boozies" and "Bloodgetts" roaming around the area of the Imperial Freeway. They committed various crimes and fought over "term". The "Boozies" were a family of brothers and friends whose hobbies included prostitution, forgery and robbery. The "Magnificents" were misunderstood youths from East LA who shared similar criminal interests as their "Boozies" counterparts. In this era of black gang evolution, the members often distanced themselves from the gang lifestyle after they reached 20 years old. Today we (the police) sometimes find 30-40 year old gang members, provided they live that long, most hard core gang members are dead well before their 35th birthday. Older black gangsters are known today as "OG", for "Original Gangster".
By the 40's, black gangs were on the rise in relation to previous years. The more well known gangs were the "Purple Hearts", "31st Street" and "28th Street" gangs. These gangs were also engaged in prostitution, forgery, gambling, extortion and robbery. They were very effective in forcing local merchants to pay the gangsters for protection, which amounted to paying the gang not to burning the merchants store.
The 1950's saw car "clubs" become all the rage, remember "American Graffiti"?. Names included: "Low Riders", "Coasters", "Highwaymen" "Road Devils", "Businessmen, "Gladiators", "Slausons", "Rebel Rousers" "Huns", "Watts Farmers" and "Blood Alley". These clubs were very territorial, but poorly organized and had few members. Their recreational activities remained unchanged: petty theft, robbery, assaults, extortion, murder and gambling, however back then murders were rare, differences were settled by fist fights. Many of the assaults occurred when a rival "club" members that strayed into an enemies hood. Usually both gangs would rally support and meet the rival gang in an empty lot, or park to fight it out. The winner was the gang that had the most members left standing. Generally, most gangsters would go home and lick their wounds, they survived to fight another day. Some weapons were used on occasion, unlike today's gangsters who use AK-47's and semi-automatic handguns, these hoods used chains, bats, and the occasional knife. Local police departments began identifying these clubs for what they were; criminal gangs. Despite the gangsters claims the clubs were non violent "car clubs" that had no disputes with other clubs. Some of these clubs actually tried to gain political power, but they existed to commit crimes NOT to take part in the political arena.
The 1960's saw car clubs began to fade in favor of more organized political groups. After the Watts Riots, many black gangsters expanded into the social change / black pride movement joining the extremely violent militant group, "The Black Panthers". Joining a group for social cause didn't change their behavior, in several famous incidents, including several shoot-outs, police officers were injured and killed as were Black Panthers. A Renegade Slauson gangster named Bunchy Carter, became the leader of the Los Angeles Chapter of the Black Panther Party.
In the late 60's, a 15 year old who attended Fremont and Locke High Schools named Raymond Washington, started a gang called the "Baby Avenues", named after another gang of older gangsters called "The Avenues", or "Avenue Boys". He dubbed his newly formed gang the "Avenue Cribs", or "Baby Avenues". The "Cribs" are also believed to be an off shoot of the "Slausons", which at one time was thought to be the largest street gang in South Central LA. How they became the "Crips" is debatable. "Crip" is thought to come from the word "Crib", according to notes from LT. Taylor from Compton PD, "Crip" is a reference to "Tales From The Crypt", LT Taylor indicates spelling wasn't Raymond Washingtons strongest subjects.
Crip activity started on high school campuses like Freemont High. Feemont had the "East side "Crips"", on the other side of the 110 Harbor Freeway were the "West side "Crips"" and in Compton, the "Compton "Crips"". Several existing gangs incorporated the Crip name into their gang set, for example the the "Main Street Gangsters" became the "Main Street "Crips"". Other sets included "Kitchen "Crips"", "5 Deuce "Crips"" and the "Rolling 20 "Crips"". Although these gangs adopted the Crip name, some remained independent and maintained their own leadership and members, because of this, Crip sets were well known for fighting each other. "Crips" hobbies included extorting money from non gang members, assaults and robberies, most of which occurred on the school grounds making school a very dangerous place to be.
With all these gangs roaming in a relatively small section of the city, gangsters needed a method in which to ID each other, they wanted to avoid attacking gangsters from different sets, but same gang. "Crips" identify themselves with the color blue, this is believed to originate from the colors of Washington high school in south LA. Crip gangsters wear articles of blue clothing, blue handkerchiefs, shoelaces, hair rollers, hats, belts or sweat shirts. A blue article of clothing in a blood hood, can and will get you killed. Other dark colors have been used as well, such as black, brown and purple. If they are unsure of ones gang affiliation, they'll flash a gang "sign" which is basically a form of sign language made with the hands, they also refer to each other as "Cuz" or "Blood" depending to set affiliation.
Crip gangsters refer to each other as "Cuzz", "Wuz up cuzz?", in their conversations and writings.
By the 1980's, there were 30,000 gangsters
in and around LA. The 80's also saw the explosion of crack cocaine, criminal
street gangs were quick to jump on the crack bandwagon which grew into
today's gang cancer. The majority of these gangsters were from the inner
city ghettos where unemployment is very high and families are living at,
or under the poverty level. It's near impossible to tell a 15 year old
gangster that joining a gang was a bad thing because it was the gangsters
that are making $300-$500 a day selling crack. The gangsters have what
many ghetto youths don't, expensive clothing, new expensive cars, gold
"rope" jewelry, wads of cash in their pockets and lots of girls. A common
comment I hear is "Why should I work at Mac-Donald's when I can make more
money than you?", rebuttals of being a good citizen and about responsibility
go in one ear and out the
Black gangs have to formal structure to speak of, the older members in their late 20's early 30's, are called the "Shot Callers". Most "Shot Callers" have done hard time in prison where they made "business" contacts, they are the ones who deal in the major acquisition of drugs, the youngsters are often the foot solders who do the selling, fighting and dying. The young members are generally the most dangerous because they're willing to prove their gang loyalty by committing extremely violent acts, which often times includes shooting at, or otherwise fighting with police officers. We find the juveniles are often used to commit violent crimes because they face little, or no jail time and they know it. More than a hundred times they've bragged to me "I'll be home before you're done writing the report", which is true, by law we must release juveniles to their guardians. The juveniles are also the ones who are driving the "G" rides, in my experience 90% of the time.
Because of the large sums of cash made by dealing, these gangs are able to arm themselves with expensive, high quality weapons. Some gangs have actually purchased legitimate businesses to launder the money, one South Central liquor store reported $500,000 in profits one year, that's a lot of bubble gum and Old English 800. Were finding that more and more professionals like CPA's, accounts and what we call "dope lawyers" are willing to assist these gangs because they are rewarded handsomely for their services. Most gangsters are poorly educated and ill prepared to thrive in the real business world, add a CPA, investment banker and lawyer to help manage the large amounts of cash generated by gangs and they have almost unlimited potential. An unfortunate side effect is that some black owned business from South LA are cynically viewed as dirty, "Death Row Records", a rap music publisher, has long been suspected as a major drug laundering business.
We're also finding more and more dope lawyers defending these gangsters in criminal proceedings, I often wonder how a 18 year unemployed Crip can afford a $500 per hour Ivy League attorney. Some of these dope lawyers operate under the guise of wanting to give the poor black inner city youth the best defense possible and claim to be working "pro bono" (for free), more than once they've been found with large sums of un taxable cash in backpacks or duffel bags. These attorneys risk falling victim to the short fuse and violent tendencies of these gangsters, which offers an added motivation to make sure their client is acquitted. Rival gangs, or even disgruntled fellow gangsters have more than once ambushed a dope lawyer and stolen his cash reward.