avenues gang, avenues gang skull
Reed Saxon/AP
An Avenues gang painting seized by police, Sept. 22, 2009.

Notorious Los Angeles Gang Busted in Sweep

September 24, 2009 10:15 AM
by findingDulcinea Staff
Authorities arrested 46 members and associates of the Avenues, one of the most violent street gangs in Los Angeles.

Avenues Gang Members Arrested in Sweep

Los Angeles Police and federal agents carried out a pre-dawn raid Tuesday on the Avenues, a Los Angeles-based gang with ties to the Mexican Mafia. A year-long investigation yielded a federal indictment naming 88 gang members or suspects with ties to the gang for crimes covering more than a decade; forty-six were arrested Tuesday and 33 were already in custody.

The indictment ties gang members to crimes such as murder, drug dealing, weapons violations, robbery and money laundering. The gang is notorious for three shootings in the past several years: One woman survived being pistol-whipped, a man was shot while holding his 2-year-old granddaughter, and off-duty police officer Juan Escalante was killed near his home.

The murder of Escalante, allegedly to avenge the death of a fellow gang member in a police shoot-out, sparked the investigation that led to the indictments.

The gang sweep was one of the largest the city has made in recent years, according to the Los Angeles Times. The last major sweep of the Avenues gang occurred in June 2008, when 28 members of the Drew Street clique, one of the Avenues’ most fearsome divisions, were arrested.

Tuesday’s crackdown severely hindered the gang for the near future, but officials realize that the gang, which has a long history of violence dating back to the 1950s, will likely be able to regroup. “This will hopefully be a huge blow, but it won't be the end of it,” said officer Juan Aguilar.

Background: Gang violence in Los Angeles

Los Angeles gang culture is most known for two gangs that grew out of the black power movement of the 1960s. In the early 1970s, 15-year-old Raymond Washington formed what would become the Crips, a gang that he modeled after the Black Panthers. There was soon a split in the Crips, leading to the formation of the Bloods, which would become the Crips’ rival.

As the demographics of Los Angeles shifted in the latter decades of the 20th century, Latinos began to make up more of the population and Latino gangs became more prevalent and more powerful.

In the past decade, officials have noticed that many Latino gangs target black gang members and civilians “in a campaign of neighborhood ‘cleansing,’” reported Newsweek. This is particularly true for gangs affiliated with the Mexican Mafia, such as the Florencia 13 and the Avenues.

In 2006, four members of the Avenues were convicted of hate crimes for murdering a black man in 1999. “Prosecutors say the Latino gang tried to drive blacks out of their neighborhood with a six-year campaign of threats, assaults and murder,” reported NPR.

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