There are around 2,000 gang homicides every year, which is about 13 percent of all homicides in the U.S.
Interestingly, the gang homicide rate in the U.S. exceeds the TOTAL homicide rate in nearly every European Union country.
MS-13 might be the gang that occupies the most space in our brains. They are outrageously brutal in their crimes. They don’t just kill people; they dismember them and leave body parts in public places, to be discovered piece by piece. They don’t just prey on competitors; they kill women, children and the elderly.
MS-13 has been placed front and center in the immigration debate, it is widely reported by some news media and is often referenced by politicians– yet there is misinformation circulated about the group.
How does MS-13 compare to the Crips, the gang in which Hussle had been a member?
Let’s take a look.
where it all started
The MS-13 was created in Los Angeles in the 1980s by youth fleeing the violence of the civil war in El Salvador.
In the 70’s and 80’s, asylum seekers from El Salvador were denied asylum in the US and often immigrated illegally. Communities of these illegal immigrants set up in Los Angeles, San Francisco and other cities that had large illegal populations, creating a fragile group with few legal protections that faced enormous prejudice.
From this, the gangs developed–often to protect El Salvadorans from other competing LA gangs.
The Crips got their start in LA too.
In 1960’s Los Angeles, economic decline, joblessness and poverty, along with segregation and discrimination that precluded black youth from clubs like the Boy Scouts of America, led to the formation of black “street clubs.” With the hard times also came heavy-handed police policies.
Lack of respect, lack of jobs, limited access to good housing, racial profiling and harassment marked the lives of many young black men from LA.
And, in the Crips, young men found a family, status and even protection.
where they get their money
The more money a gang has, the more dangerous it will be.
Members participate in the retail drug market, street robberies and extortion, but profits remain small probably because the group remains largely unorganized. Federal raids of MS-13 residences usually uncover knives, some loose cash and occasionally a gun–but not much more.
Dues range from $15 to $30 a month, and most MS-13 members work day jobs as laborers, construction workers or dishwashers.
“The way they are acting right now, they are not going to reach the level of organization of, say, the Mexican Mafia or the Italian mob,” said George Norris, an investigator with the Anne Arundel County, Md., State’s Attorney’s Office. “They are just too violent. As other gangs have discovered, newsworthy violence is bad for business.”
Crips and their rivals the Bloods control crack cocaine distribution in a whole bunch of cities around the country, and have formed ties with the Mexican drug cartel for supply. When one city gets too crowded, gang members move on to a new zip code, assess the narcotics demand, identify the dealers, and take over.
The money through the drug trade brings a steady source of income to a marginalized and underemployed group members.
In 2012, the Department of Justice ended funding for the most important national data source on gang activity, the National Youth Gang Survey.
So, recent publicly available numbers on gang membership are limited.
President Trump has said that there is a “surge in MS-13 gang members.” There’s no evidence of this.
In the US, in 2018, NBC reports there were about 10,000 MS-13 gang members in 2018, which is about the same number of gang members in their group over the past decade.
NBC also reports MS-13 makes up less than 1% of total gang members in the United States (1.4 million according to FBI data), and about the same number of gang murders.
The Crips are one of the largest gangs with numbers estimated at about a steady 35,000 members. They occupy cities across the country, although they are most prevalent in Los Angeles.