New data gathered on local street gangs provides a demographic snapshot into this criminal culture. Detective Jon Ringer gave a presentation on the topic during the Oct. 14 meeting of Tacoma City Council’s Joint Municipal Action Committee.
The data identifies 357 Crips, 192 Bloods, 86 Surenos, six Nortenos and 112 individuals in other gangs living within the city limits of Tacoma, for a total of 753. This data excludes outlaw motorcycle gangs, prison gangs and white supremacist groups.
There are 16 female gang members, or 2.1 percent of the total.
The data shows 412 gang members are black, 175 are white, 91 are Asian/Pacific Islanders and 75 are American Indian/Alaskan Native.
Several committee members inquired about the number of Hispanic gang members. TPD Captain Pete Cribbin explained that this category was not included because it can be difficult to define Hispanic in terms of whether it is an ethnic group or a language group.
The data breaks down the main gang affiliations by race. For example, of all the Bloods sets, there are 79 blacks, 28 whites, 49 Asian/Pacific Islanders and 36 American Indian/Alaskan Native.
Gang members are mainly between the ages of 15 and 29. The median age for Bloods is 28, while for Crips it is 25, for Surenos 23 and 21 for other gangs.
Hilltop Crips remains the largest gang in town, with 115 members. Rounding out the top 10, with their affiliation and membership, are: East Side Pirus (Bloods), 62; Original Loko Boyz (Bloods), 41; Juggalos (other), 41; Knoccoutz (Crips), 37; Surenos 13, 32; Black Gangster Disciples (other), 26; Loc’d Out Crips, 25, Native Gangster Bloods, 24; Native Gangster Crips, 24.
Ringer said Crips have been the primary gang in Tacoma since the late 1980s, when Los Angeles street gangs arrived. He joined TPD in 1986. When L.A. gangs arrived soon after, he was put on a special task force assembled to stop gang activity. Law enforcement thought they had the problem solved when many gang members went off to prison to serve long sentences. The task force was disbanded.
Hilltop Crips may be tops in terms of membership, but Ringer said they were impacted significantly by a crackdown aimed at the gang last year, when Pierce County Prosecutor’s Office came after them on criminal conspiracy charges.
As of last December, 19 alleged members of East Side Lokotes Surenos had been charged in 2010 in three separate gang-related murders.
Jury selection is underway for the upcoming trial of several young men accused of fatally shooting Camille Love and seriously injuring her brother in a drive-by shooting on the East Side on Feb. 7, 2010. The young woman did not have any gang connections.
“That has pretty much gutted that gang,” Ringer said of the legal actions.
Ringer said reaching youth in junior high and high school is key to curbing the gang problem. “They are just loaded with gang members,” he said of schools. “They have not hit the ground running yet.”
He noted some are second-generation gangsters. “I knew their moms and dads 20 years ago.”
Hilltop was notorious for gang activity 20 years ago. “Right now Hilltop is great,” Ringer said. However, gang activity has spread around the city, notably the East Side. Apartment complexes in the vicinity of South 96th and Hosmer streets, near the border with Parkland and Lakewood, have been a problem. Search warrants were served in several apartments last week.
Ringer told the elected officials in the room that suppressing gang activity requires an on-going commitment. “I caution you, do not claim victory like we did before,” he remarked.