Latin King gang member showing his gang tattoo, a lion with a crown, and signifying the 5 point star with his hands
The Latin Kings are said to be the largest and most organized Hispanic street gang in the United States of America. The Latin Kings first emerged in Chicago, Illinois in the 1940s after several young Puerto Rican males on the north side—and later, Mexican males on the south side—organized into a self-defense group to protect their communities. The initial intention was to unite "all Latinos" into a collective struggle against "oppression" and to help each other overcome the problems of racism and prejudice that newly arriving Latino immigrants were experiencing. Hence, the name "Latin Kings and Queens", which as it denotes, is a reference to members of all Latino heritages. They organized themselves as a vanguard for their communities.
Like the Black Panthers, the Young Lords, and many other groups perceiving social injustices directed at their kind, the Latin Kings were broken as a movement. They lost touch with their roots and grew into one of the largest and most infamous criminal gangs in the United States. The group's members became involved in crimes including murder, drug trafficking, robberies and other organized criminal activities...
Mara Salvatrucha (commonly abbreviated as MS and Mara, and MS-13) is a criminal gang that originated in Los Angeles and has spread to Central America, other parts of the United States, and Canada. MS-13 is one of the most dangerous gangs in the United States. The majority of the gang is ethnically composed of Salvadorans, Hondurans, Guatemalans, and Nicaraguans.
Their activities have caught the eye of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), who in September 2005 initiated wide-scale raids against suspected gang members, netting 660 arrests across United States. ICE efforts were at first directed towards MS-13, in its Operation Community Shield. In May 2005, ICE expanded Operation Community Shield to include all transnational organized crime and prison gangs. ICE's Operation Community Shield has since arrested 7,655 street gang members. In the United States, the gang's strongholds have historically been in the American Southwest and West Coast states. Membership in the U.S was believed to be as many as about 50,000 as of 2005. MS-13 criminal activities include drug smuggling and sales, arms trafficking, auto theft, carjacking, home invasion, assault, aggravated assault,
assault on law enforcement officials, drive-by shootings, contract killing and murder.
...although Los Angeles is considered the Gang capital of America, with an estimated 120,000 gang members, Chicago (which has approximately 1 million fewer people than Los Angeles) actually has a higher rate of gang membership per capita than Los Angeles, with an estimated 100,000 gang members. Also, the state of Illinois has a higher rate of gang membership (8–11 gang members per 1,000 population) than California (5–7 gang members per 1,000 population)