Friday, December 2, 2011

The Mexican Mafia Revealed

      The Mexican Mafia, also know as the La Eme, entails the true definition of organized crime.  There are about 100 Mexican Mafia members in the United States distributed through California and Arizona state prisons, Federal prisons, and everyday society (Enriquez).  While relatively small, the Mexican Mafia remains as one of the most powerful and threatening criminal organizations of today.  The Mexican Mafia’s criminal behavior is orchestrated mainly through the California prison system but is widely distributed into the streets.  The reason why The Mexican Mafia has become so powerful is because of their ability to manipulate the prison system through deceitful communication, the flow of money, and Mexican Mafia meetings.  This information is provided through Rene “Boxer” Enriquez, a former elite Mexican Mafia member who removed himself from the organization in 2002 and shared all their secrets with law enforcement.

     The Mexican Mafia uses deceiving communication techniques to orchestrate business.  Understanding that the operational standard of prison systems include monitoring and surveillance, Mexican Mafia members use encrypted communication (Enriquez).  For instance, when a Mexican Mafia member wishes to discuss a drug transaction they meet with an outside member or trusted associate (wife, friend, etc.) through a scheduled visit.  The Mexican Mafia prisoner would ask the trusted individual such as his wife how everything is going at home.  In reply, his wife would respond that everything is fine, Joe came by to help with the garden by planting four rows of bushes, and that Joe will come by every month to help maintain the yard.  To the department of corrections monitoring this conversation it appears as normal, but to the Mexican Mafia member this means that Joe came by to pay four hundred dollars this month, and that Joe will return every month to continue his payments.  This manipulation of communication demonstrates just one way the Mexican Mafia has become organized and powerful within the prison system and on the streets because they can run full operations behind bars.
     The Mexican Mafia has also gained more ground both in prisons and on the streets through their flow of money.  While members are incarcerated in prison, a regular occurrence in the Mexican Mafia involves the laundering of money established though trust accounts (Enriquez).  The money is placed in the Mexican Mafia members trust accounts from a variety of sources where almost all of the transactions include money gained from criminal behavior.  While the payments are often small increments of a few hundred dollars, it becomes cumulative and adds up to thousands of dollars.  All a Mexican Mafia member must do to withdraw or transfer this money is fill out a trust withdrawal application form.  Money put into the Mexican Mafia members trust accounts allow the incarcerated members to open bank accounts where they can even gain interest on their finances.  This system allows members to receive illegal money and release legitimate checks.  Keep in mind these are incarcerated individuals who often have not had a job for years.  The Mexican Mafia has learned to master the art of manipulation to launder money and keep their organization in a position of power in prisons and on the streets.

     Probably one of the most successful ways powerful organizations orchestrate is through meetings; the Mexican Mafia operates with an underground system to hold meetings with members while incarcerated in prison.  The system begins when a Mexican Mafia member from another county subpoenas other members for a court case.  By law, the department of corrections must send the subpoenaed Mexican Mafia members to that county for the court case.  These subpoenas are almost always falsified so that Mexican Mafia members can meet together to discuss operations.  In 1997, up to fifteen Mexican Mafia members met on the expense of California Department of Corrections (Enriquez).  The Mexican Mafia has learned how to manipulate the system for the benefit and power of their organization; the meetings that go on allow the Mexican Mafia to plan out their criminal acts. 

     The Mexican Mafia has proven to be powerful through deceitful communication, the flow of money, and Mexican Mafia meetings.  The only way to slow down or stop the Mexican Mafia is to fix the loop holes in the state and federal prison systems that allow members to abuse the services for the betterment of the Mexican Mafia organization.  These individuals are smart, and they will continue to abuse the prison system if things do not change. 
1.  Gangster Confidential . Youtube. americanradioworks, 18 Mar. 2008. Web. 30 Nov. 2011<>.

2.  Blatchford, Chris. The Black Hand. New York: First Harper Paperback Published , 2009. Print.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The Notoriety of the Fresno Bulldogs

     Fresno is in the fifth largest city in California and is located in the center of the San Joaquin Valley; the Fresno Bulldogs gang is proud to call it their home.  They remain the largest Hispanic gang in Central California comprised of over five thousand members and six thousand associates (National Gang Threat Assessment 2009, pg 33).  The Bulldogs have been in existence since the late 1960’s initially in the California prison system.  Originally known as F-14, they were delegated by Nuestra Familia but later broke off in the 1980’s into the Fresno Bulldogs street gang.  The Bulldogs are broken into six different known sets which include Eastside, Northside, Parkside, Calwa, Westside, and County Dogs.  The Bulldogs are a gang tied to an impulsive lifestyle that reflects the demands of respect, with each member sharing the same mentality.  The Bulldogs have discomforted the city of Fresno by orchestrating illegal acts of violence, narcotics distribution, and self identifying and promoting of the Bulldog gang.
     The Fresno Bulldogs have frightened the city with their notorious reputation for outpours of violence and crimes ranging from robberies, murders, sexual assaults, and kidnappings.  According to Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dryer, “We found that 10 percent of the people in our city [Fresno] were committing 50 percent of the crime.  If your talking about robbery that increases to 80 percent” (Cone, 2010, pg 3).  A majority of that 10 percent traces back to the Bulldogs.  The percentages are high, and it is only logical to create a parallel between the crime rates generated by the Bulldogs and the unemployment rate in Fresno at 18.2 percent (Bureau of Labor Statistics 2011).  Bulldog gang members often pursue violent and criminal ways to combat the downward shift of the economy.  Because Bulldogs are an impulsive gang, they are not pursuing positive avenues to create a stable financial environment.  Part of the Bulldogs impulsive nature correlates to the number of shootings in Fresno (Cone, 2010, pg 4).  In Fresno, 314 shootings were recorded in 2006, 226 shootings in 2008, and 231 shootings in 2009.  While the shootings have decreased, they are still significantly high.  Shootings are due in part because of conflict between rivals including Crypts, Sureños, Norteños, and any prison gangs; they target almost anyone representing outside of their own.  Shootings can also be traced to membership requirements that expect an individual becoming a Bulldog to yield to the needs of the group in exchange for protection.  This creates a new found identity that defines friends and enemies.  A member may be asked to “put in work”, meaning doing work for the gang such as drive-bys, hits, or other various missions (Blatchford, 2008, pg 307).  The work put in for gangs in not as simple as yes or no, but must be demonstrated to be recognized as a member.  Because the Bulldogs appeal to youth with broken families and members of society who are often alienated, committing violent criminal acts for the gang is not an issue. 

     Another non-issue for Fresno Bulldogs gang members that has frightened the city is the distribution of narcotics.  According to the Drug Market Analysis 2009, the Bulldogs are connected to mid-level and retail level distribution of methamphetamine, marijuana, cocaine, and heroin (Drug Market Analysis 2009, pg 5).  The location of the Fresno Bulldogs puts them in the Central Valley High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA); this creates a dilemma.  Fresno’s adjacency to illicit drug source areas establishes the area as a national level transportation and distribution center.  The Central Valley HIDTA region's highway and access to drug traffickers along the Southwest Border, Mexico and Canada allows traffickers to bring in substantial quantities to the area (Drug Market Analysis 2009, pg 2).  The Bulldogs prominent accessibility makes the temptations of quick profits into a reality on the streets.  The Bulldogs quick profits through narcotic distribution not only come from outside drug traffickers, but also from illegally grown cannabis plants.  In Fresno alone, the number of outdoor cannabis plants seized in Fresno is a staggering 172, 302 plants with an additional 1,340 indoor grown plants in 2008 (Drug Market Analysis 2009, pg 9).  The Bulldogs distribution of narcotics could easily be contributed from the illegal growing of cannabis plants, or from a local source that works with the gang.  Another reason Bulldogs involve themselves in narcotics distribution deals with gang culture.  Gang culture has much to do with the community, and the idea of respect based on individual accomplishments and what an individual can afford.  A Bulldog gang member may see selling drugs as a path to get where he wants to get, to afford what he wants to buy, and to live what he knows as a normal life.   

     Another issue commonly normal to Fresno Bulldogs is the self identification and promotion of their gang that adds to the fear they create in the community.  The Bulldogs self identify themselves in a number of ways including tattoos of Bulldogs taken from the Fresno State University mascot, the acronyms F-14, BDS, FBD, the color red, hand signs, and their notorious barking (Gangs187).  These self identifiers create tension in the community because the population worries for their safety in whether they accurately or inaccurately identify a Bulldog gang member.  Not only can self identifiers cause tension, but they can be dangerous.  A young woman jogging was shot at from a rival gang of the Bulldogs all because she was wearing red Fresno State University clothing with the school mascot (Cone, 2010, pg 2).  With self identification of the Bulldog gang includes the promotion of the gang through social networks like Facebook and Youtube in order to admit, flaunt, and recruit gang members.  One Youtube video glamorizes the Bulldogs lifestyle by showing images of Bulldog members together as a family socializing with alcohol, wearing the proper red Fresno Bulldogs clothing while the background music talks down on cops and rival gangs members.  The video intends to appeal to youth who are looking for something to be apart of that seems to be missing from their life, but it fails to represent the realities tied to gang membership such as violence for the purpose of the gang and the consequences that follow.     
     It is important to understand why the Fresno Bulldogs operate the way they do to create awareness.  A combination of the downward shift in the economy and gang culture requiring to “put in work” for the gang continues to contribute to the violence.  The Bulldogs prominent accessibility to drug traffickers and the overwhelming growth of illegal cannabis growing fuels the narcotics distribution business for the Bulldogs.  Self identification and promotion of the Bulldog gang through media and social networks has caused tension in the community and has created a dangerous environment for innocent people in the Fresno community.  The Bulldogs are a community problem, and the community must work with law enforcement to help prevent further gang issues. 

1.  "National Gang Threat Assessment 2009 ." National Gang Intelligence Center. FBI,
     n.d. Web. 8 Nov. 2011. <
2.  "Bureau of Labor Statistics; Economy at a Glance." United States Department of
     Labor . N.p., 1 Mar. 2011. Web. 6 Nov. 2011. <
3.  Drug Market Analysis 2009. National Drug Intelligence Center, 2009. PDF file.
4.  Fresno Bulldog Gang. Youtube. LLC, 22 Dec. 2009. Web. 9 Nov. 2011.
5.  Blatchford, Chris. The Black Hand. New York: First Harper Paperback Published ,
     2009. Print.
6.  "Fresno Bulldogs ." Gangs 187. COPYRIGHT 2009-2010 GANGS187, 17 May 2010. Web.
     7 Nov. 2011. <>.
7.  Cone, Tracie. "Fresno Bulldogs." Gangs 187. N.p., 2010. Web. 7 Nov. 2011.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Reducing Gang Graffiti

     Gangs have been associated with graffiti- the most common type of property vandalism at 35% (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2011).  Graffiti clean up is expensive.  12 billion dollars is spent annually in the United States for graffiti clean up (USDOJ, pg 2).  While gangs are not the sole producers of graffiti, gang and tagger graffiti are the most common type found where graffiti is prevalent.   It is important to understand why gangs continue to vandalize property if we want to reduce the frequency.  The motivation for gang graffiti stems from the motivational factors of rebellion, fame, power, challenge, and self-expression.  In responding to the problem of graffiti, it is important to reduce the rewards, increase the risk of detection, and increase the difficulty of offending.   


     Reducing the rewards for gang graffiti includes detecting and removing the graffiti rapidly and routinely.  In detection of graffiti, it is important to monitor gang graffiti prone areas on a routine basis through photographs, video, Neighborhood watch, and employees located in areas vulnerable to graffiti with access to immediate reporting capabilities (Weisel, pg 1).  Programs like Neighborhood watch can have productive results if it is organized and constant observational alerts are being sent through e-mail or another messaging system.  In removing of graffiti, it is important to do it promptly whether it is painting over graffiti or replacing signs and other property with gang graffiti on it (Weisel, pg 2).  By removing gang graffiti, it reduces the rewards because it eliminates the motivation for the gang member to graffiti which is rebellion, fame, power, and self-expression.  The gang member’s work has disappeared and all credit for it has vanished.  The gang member will forcibly think twice about reoffending because he knows that he will not receive any glory. 

     Reducing the rewards is important in reducing gang graffiti, but increasing the risk in detection is vital.  Increasing the risk can include increasing natural observation though simple improvements like increased lighting (Weisel, pg 2).  Motion-activated lighting and the removal of trees or shrubbery is a good place to start because graffiti is often done in dark places where chances of being seen are slim.  If the gang members chances of being seen increase, the risk of getting caught also increases.  Increasing the risk also helps eliminate the motivational factor of challenge because increased lighting is an obstacle that may not be worth the challenge for the gang member.      

     Increasing the difficulty of offending is also an important aspect in reducing the frequency of gang graffiti.  Vandal proofing vulnerable areas of gang graffiti tremendously increases the difficulty (Graffiti Hurts, pg 1).  Installing texted surfaces, dark or colorful surfaces, or using paint-like products resistant to graffiti all reduce the frequency.  A gang member will not tag an area that already has colorful or dark surfaces that will take away from his self-expressions through graffiti.  Gang members want their work to be seen, and these types of surfaces will only hinder their creation.  Techniques like this are simple tasks that can be done with planning and awareness.

     As gangs increase, gang graffiti will also increase.  It is important to understand ways to reduce the frequency of this vandalism.  The beauty of these approaches that reduce the rewards, increase the risk, and increase the difficulty is that it can be applied to all forms of graffiti, not just in gangs. 


1.  Weisel, Deborah. "The Problem of Graffiti." Popcenter. N.p., 2011. Web. 17 Oct. 2011. <>.

2.  Bureau of Justice Statistics; Economy at a Glance." United States Department of Justice . N.p., 18 Oct. 2011. Web. <>.

3.  "Facts About Graffiti." Graffiti Hurts. N.p., 2011. Web. 17 Oct. 2011.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Why Do Women Join Gangs?

      The study of women in gangs is relatively new and was not examined until the 1980s.  Before then, gangs were primarily associated with men and tied to crimes involving vandalism, violence, and other serious offenses.  Today there are an estimated 70,000 female gang members in the United States (Gangland, 2009).  It is important to understand that female gang population has increased due to dysfunctional home situations, alienation, and a deterioration of economic conditions.

     Today, many women join gangs as an alternative to their dysfunctional home life.  A major contributor is the amount sexual abuse female gang members receive at home.  In Los Angeles where there are an estimated 5,000 female gang members, 29% of those gang members had been sexually abused in their home (OJJDP, p3).  A separate study found that two-thirds of female gang members in Hawaii were also sexually abused at home (OJJDP, p3).  Joining a gang allows women to escape their abusers to find protection.  Gangs fulfill the need of “family” for women who fail to get this from abusive and stressful home life.  The independence that gangs provide can be empowering and convince women that gang life is the solution to their broken home life.  Gangs provide a "home away from home" for women who gravitate toward negative lifestyles to cope with their problems.    
     While dysfunctional home situations play a key role in why women join gangs, alienation is also a major contributor.  When women are treated as outcasts and excluded from society, it creates frustration that attracts them to gangs.  Many targets of alienation come from the illegal immigrant population.  As of 2010, there are 4.64 million female immigrants living in the United States (Homeland Security, p2).  Many of these women come to the United States speaking hardly any English, having little or no family ties, and often having a limited education.  Because of these factors, these women are prone to exclusion from society.  Alienated women, such as immigrants, see joining gangs as an alternative to their separation.  Gangs fulfill their need of identity and status in society. 

     While gangs fulfill the need of identity, they also serve as an opportunity for women to make quick money in deteriorating economic conditions.  With a 9.1% national unemployment rate, it is no surprise that female gang membership has increased for search of financial profit (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2011).  Along with unemployment, welfare reforms implemented in the mid 1990s has depreciated or eliminated payments (OJJDP, p3).  Gang life offers alternative ways for women to make money in areas such as the drug distribution business.  In a Milwaukee study, half of female gang members were drug distributors (OJJDP, p6).  The drug business is such a wide and profitable market in areas with high criminal gang activity, and women claiming their piece of the pie. 


     It is important to understand why women join gangs because their numbers are increasing and their influence in communities has only scratched the surface.  Alternatives are what can provide hope for women in gangs or women prone to joining gangs.  Programs need to target the needs of these women such as their stressful home life, alienation, and economic conditions. 


1.  Gangland: Girls in Gangs. History Channel. N.p., 2009. Web. 3 Oct. 2011.
 2.  Moore, Joan, and John Hagedorn. "Female Gangs: A Focus on Research." Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. OJJDP, Mar. 2001. Web. 6 Oct. 2011. <>.
 3.  "Bureau of Labor Statistics; Economy at a Glance." United States Department of Labor . N.p., 1 September. 2011. Web. 3 October. 2011. <  eag.ca_fresno_msa.htm>.
4.  "Unauthorized Immigrant Population Estimates ." Homeland Security. N.p., 2011. Web. 4 Oct. 2011. <>.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The STEP Act- One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

     Today’s street gangs are notorious for discomforting their communities with homicides, narcotics distribution, gun possessions, and other serious criminal behavior.  In an attempt to dismantle criminal gang activity, California enacted The Street Terrorism Enforcement and Prevention Act (STEP) in 1988 and amended it in 2000 with Proposition 21 (Orange County DA, pg 1).  The STEP Act creates harsher punishments for those involved in gang activity.  Depending on the severity of the underlying felony, an additional 2-10 years is added for those who actively participate in a gang with knowledge that the gang engages in patterns of criminal behavior, and promotes or assists criminal conduct for a member of the gang.  An additional and consecutive term of 10 years, 20 years, or 25 years to life in state prison will be added in the event that a firearm is used in certain felonies such as a robbery or carjacking; all accomplices will also be held liable for the usage of the firearm.  Sentences are based on whether the firearm was discharged, and if the use of the firearm resulted in injury (Orange County CA, pg 1).  The STEP Act has produced a number of consequences in California such as prison overcrowding, a lack of reduction in criminal gang activity, and targeting youth who have a higher probability of reforming. 

     The STEP Act has contributed to the escalating problems of prison overcrowding in California.  The current prison population in California is 143,435, and at one point was nearly double the number that buildings were designed to hold (Biskupic, pg 1).  It is by no means inexpensive to incarcerate the number of inmates California holds.  In 2008-2009, California spent an average of 47,000 dollars to incarcerate one inmate (Legislative Analyst Office, pg 1).  Without the STEP Act, California would have a surplus of money that could be put into education, roads, levees, or other important issues.  Aside from cost, prison overcrowding has created unsafe conditions for inmates.  In May of 2011, the Supreme Court ruled that California has violated the 8th Amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment due to a failure to produce minimal care to prisoners with serious medical and mental health problems (Liptak, pg 1).  The STEP Act has created longer prison sentences without contemplating the effects it has on the safety of prisoners.  In California an inmate needlessly dies every 6-7 days due to unconstitutional practices (Liptak, pg 1).  While these are serious offenders, they still deserve professional care.  The STEP Act has setback California’s ability to properly incarcerate prisoners.        
     The STEP Act contributes to the problems that come with prison overcrowding, but it also raises the question of whether the STEP Act actually reduces criminal gang activity in California.  Even with the STEP Act, gangs still contribute to 80 percent of the crime in certain areas (FBI Gang Threat Assessment, pg 8).  Gang violence in California has increased tremendously in urban areas like San Diego with a 56 percent increase from 2006-2007, and Salinas with a 125 percent increase in gang related homicide from 2006-2007 (FBI Gang Threat Assessment, pg 9).  The STEP Act is not effectively delivering the message to gang members.  A portion of the STEP Act targets gang or associated gang members who commit particular crimes with the use of a firearm, but statistics show this has no effect.  From 2002-2007, 94.3 percent of gang related homicides in California involved the use of a firearm (FBI National Gang Threat Assessment, pg 9).  Criminal gang activity has shown no sign of slowing since the STEP Act was enacted; instead percentages are rising without Californians realizing the overall affect it has on the state.                 
     Californians may also not realize that the STEP Act manages to target youth who have a higher probability of reforming their lives.  Juveniles account for almost 40 percent of the gang population (OJJDP, pg 1).  The STEP Act victimizes juveniles with harsh punishments even though they are more likely to reform than the adults.  The reason many youth enter a gang is because they are often outcasts and easily influenced into joining a gang to obtain a sense of belonging (Hernandez, 2011).  Juveniles are just as capable of being influenced out of gang life.  The years gang youth still have to live gives them “light at the end of the tunnel”, meaning the ability to identify the positives in reforming before it becomes too late.  Incarcerated gang youth are at a fragile point in their lives, and California must handle them carefully while still being effective because if they serve long enough sentences they will become a product of their environment.      
     The STEP Act has shown that not only gang or their associates are affected by harsh punishments, but the consequences have migrated into California’s problems ranging from prison overcrowding, a lack of reduction in criminal gang activity, and targeting youth who have the ability to change.  The future of reducing criminal gang activity relies on reducing the number of gang members.  Individuals, especially youth, gravitate towards gangs because gangs fulfill a need of belonging and acceptance.  Gang members tend to be less committed to school, less attached to parents, and experience more stressful events (Hernandez, 2011).  Programs need to be designed to attack youth who meet these characteristics so that they have alternatives to gang life.  A good start would be with implementing more after school programs, free tutoring, counseling, or whatever it takes to get youth more involved in school, family, and having a sense of belonging.  If the number in gang members can be reduced, criminal gang activity will reduce.  The STEP Act does not successfully aim at reducing criminal gang activity; instead, it has put California one step forward and two steps back by implementing harsh punishments.        

1.  Liptak, Adam. "Justices, 5-4, Tell California to Cut Prisoner Population." New
     York Times. N.p., 23 May 2011. Web. 18 Sept. 2011.
2.  "Violent Crimes-Law." Office of the District Attorney-Orange County . N.p.,
     2011. Web. 18 Sept. 2011. <
3.  Biskupic, Joan. "Supreme Court stands firm on prison crowding." USA Today. N.p.,
     25 May 2011. Web. 19 Sept. 2011. <
4.  "Criminal Justice and Judiciary How much does it cost to incarcerate an inmate?"
     Legislative Analyst Office. N.p., 2009. Web. 17 Sept. 2011.
5.  "National Youth Gang Survey Analysis." OJJDP. N.p., 2007. Web. 17 Sept. 2011.
6.  "2009 National Gang Threat Assessment." FBI. N.p., n.d. Web. 19 Sept. 2011.
7.  Professor James Hernandez. "Class Notes; Gangs and Threat Groups in America."
     Notes. 2011. Print.