The Most Dangerous Street Gangs in America

Street gangs have contributed to crime and violence in America since the 19th century. The first recognized street gang in the U.S. was the......

Street gangs have contributed to crime and violence in America since the 19th century. The first recognized street gang in the U.S. was the 40 Thieves, a group that was formed in the 1820’s in New York City. Since that time the prevalence of street gangs has exploded, and the FBI estimates that there are now more than 20,000 gangs with more than 1 million members located across the country. While any gang that partakes in criminal activity is a concern, the most dangerous gangs in the U.S. according to the FBI are:

Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13)

Formed in the 1980’s in Los Angeles, the MS-13 mainly consists of Salvadorians, Hondurans, Guatemalans, and other immigrants from Central and South America. The MS-13 relies on using extreme violence and brutality to intimidate rival gangs. Since its inception, the MS-13 has expanded greatly and they have operations in at least 42 states. The gang is known for taking part in murders, drug distribution, rapes, carjackings, kidnappings, robberies, and home invasions.


Another L.A.-based gang, the Crips were founded in 1969. Since then the Crips have expanded, and it is estimated that there are 30,000-35,000 members making up 800 sub-gangs. While the majority of the Crips criminal activity occurs in the Los Angeles area, there are sub-gangs in Texas, Missouri, and Oklahoma. The Crips have received attention over the years due to the supposed affiliation of prominent rappers like Snoop Dogg and Easy-E. The majority of Crip members are African Americans.

18th Street Gang

The 18th Street Gang consists mainly of illegal aliens from Mexico and Central America and has been in operation for more than 50 years. It is estimated that the gang has 30,000 to 50,000 members, and while the gang is based in Los Angeles it has operations throughout the Southwestern states of the U.S. The gang is known for distributing a variety of illegal drugs, as well as creating fraudulent Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) I.D. cards.

Latin Kings

Mainly based in Chicago, many law enforcement officials consider the Latin Kings to be one of the most well organized gangs in the country. They have a strict hierarchy of leaders and “tribes” located all over the country. The gang has a manifesto that outlines rules and punishments for all members. The Latin Kings play a large role in drug distribution in Chicago.


Long known for being rivals of the Crips, the majority of the Bloods reside in Los Angeles, but there are sub gangs in almost every state in the country. The feud between the Bloods and the Crips is a result of fighting over territory for selling crack cocaine in L.A. in the 1980’s. Fighting among the Bloods has caused the gang to lose some of their power, but they are still considered to be dangerous.

Hells Angels

This famous gang that is known for riding motorcycles has existed in America since 1948 and there are now also chapters in Europe and Australia. The gang is known for being violent and partaking in a number of criminal activities, such as drug trafficking, distribution of stolen goods, and extortion.

Mexican Mafia

The Mexican Mafia was born inside California prisons in the 1950’s, and the gang now holds a great amount of power both on the streets as well as behind bars. The gang has amassed large amounts of money through extortion and drug trafficking within prisons as well as on the streets. Since the punishment for not following orders from gang leaders is typically death, members of the Mexican Mafia are extremely loyal.

Aryan Brotherhood

Another gang that originated inside prisons, the Aryan Brotherhood is a violent organization that relies on drug trafficking and prostitution as its main source of income. They are known for their displays of white pride, racist beliefs, and swastika tattoos. While making up only 1% of the prison population, the Aryan Brotherhood is responsible for 18% of the murders that occur in America’s prisons. While there are many Aryan Brotherhood members committing crime on the streets, this gang has been difficult for officials to deal with due to the fact that its highest ranking members are already behind bars serving long prison sentences.