Baltimore has earned a reputation for crime. Some call it Charm City; others call it Bodymore, Murdaland. Some students were aghast at the level of gang activity here. Having worked in just the womens’ prison, this was no surprise.
Detectives Smith and Miller began their presentation on gangs with a gangsta rap video to demonstrate the culture and point out lyrics that signaled gang activity and singing about “G-Checks,” basically who to tell someone is really a gang member or not. The detectives explained that they will often ask “Who’s your big homey?” as in, who is their “boss” within the gang. If one does not pass a G-check, there are often consequences, one of which is “termination on site.”
How does law enforcement define a gang? A gang has three or more people with a common identifier who collectively engage in criminal activities.
What are theses common identifiers and how does law enforcement keep track of who is in a gang or not? Most gangs have hand signs, specific clothes and colors they wear (e.g. Bloods wear red, Crips wear blue). They can also be identified by prior police contacts, tattoos, witness statements, self-admission, associates, and behavior.
The officers also gave examples of graffiti and social media with gang references, including crossed out C’s (because Crips are their enemies) and B’s replacing numbers or letters, 5-point crowns and pitchforks pointing downward, to name a few. An arrow pointing up shows respect, while an arrow pointing down shows disrespect.
Some fellow cadets were aghast to learn that many gang members do not in fact live in the city. They live in nice houses out in the county, send their kids to private schools, and go into the city to do their business. Where do they get their money? Drugs, of course.
Overall, there are an estimated 4-5 thousand gang members in Baltimore. Of those thousands, 545 are documented Blood gang members in Baltimore City, though the PD suspects there are three to five times more gang members that they do not even know about.
Demographically, bloods welcome all races and both men and women (1 in 10 are female). They have over 900 code words. I had not realized until this class that the name Blood also stands for Brotherly Love Overcomes Oppression and Destruction. Sounds pretty nice right? Their color is red and one symbol they use is the 5 point star (coinciding with the 5 parts of their name).
There are about 348 known Crips in Baltimore. Their identifying color is blue. They use a 6-point star to symbolize their 6 main tenets of Love, Life, Loyalty, Respect, Honor, and Courage.
Black Guerilla Family (BGF)
The BGF colors are black and silver. Many members have tattoos with the numbers 2, 7, 6 to signify the the place of their letters in the alphabet. Demographically, the BGF is mostly all men (only 2 women have been members) and are all African-American. They have their own constitution consisting of 10 articles and a para-military rank structure. More information can be found here.
Dead Man Incorporated
DMI is a mostly white (with both male and female members) prison gang that was formed in the Maryland prison system back in 1990. It is the third largest Most members are reportedly drug addicts. They have historically allied with the BGF, carrying out hits for them. More info can be found here.
The term “outlaw bikers” or “outlaw motorcycle club” comes from the idea that 99% of bikers are law-abiding citizens while 1% are outlaws, involved in illegal activity. Those one-percenters become a “full patch member,” earning a “1%er” patch, over 12-18 months. They meet once a month at what they call “church.” Similar to other gangs, they use the number position of letters to signify their group. For example, if you see a patch with “81” on it, this is referring to Hells Angels (H-8; A-1). There is also an all-black motorcycle club of one-percenters called the Thunderguards MC (motorcycle club).
MS-13 (Mara Salvatruchas)
The MS-13 is a gang that originated in El Salvador. They have more of a presence in DC and Southern Maryland. The officers in class described them as much more “under the radar” and stated that they tend to keep to themselves and “handle their own business” so that they do not draw the attention of the police and immigration. They have been especially quite more recently given increased fear of deportation under the Trump administration.
These are just some of the main gangs in Maryland that the officers presented on. They also mentioned Surenos & white supremacists.
If you see graffiti that resembles any of the signs and symbols mentioned above or found in the linked articles, the BPD would like to be notified so they could obtain photos for intel purposes. The city will often clean the graffiti before officers have a chance to view it.
And of course, if you witness what looks to you like gang activity, even just witnessing graffiti in the process of being done, do NOT approach anyone. Simply alert the police discreetly and stay safe.