Note: This is not the official flag/logo of the Crips, but rather a representation based on the bandanas traditionally worn by its members.
The Crips are an American street gang founded by Raymond Washington. There are many disputing narratives regarding the exact year of their establishment, with some saying that the organization was founded in 1971 and others claiming it formed in 1969. This ambiguity finds its roots in the number of theories regarding the gang’s initial intentions for its establishment (1). The Crips are present throughout the United States, having gained a reputation for illegal activities such as drug trafficking, murder, extortion, racketeering, and theft. They expand their territorial outreach by establishing alliances or “sets” throughout the country, although not all are connected (2). Crips distinguish themselves from other gangs by representing and wearing the color blue (occasionally purple. As of the time of writing, the Crips have about 800 sets in 221 U.S cities with around 30,000 to 35,000 total members, most prominently being active in Los Angeles, California (3). The Crips’ influence is not only spread by the area which they control, but also by their connections within pop culture. Many established hip-hop artists such as Snoop Dogg, Schoolboy Q, Eazy E, Pop Smoke, Blueface, and Nipsey Hussle have (or have had) strong affiliations with the Crips, brandishing their symbols and colors in songs and videos.
History & Foundations
Throughout the 60s and 70s, African-Americans suffered significantly from the country's post-World War 2 economic decline and severe racial segregation. This led to the alienation of the black community and deprivation of social programs, thus sprouting the seeds for numerous black nationalist groups. These groups included The Black Panther organization and The Black Power Movement.
Inspired by The Black Panthers, Raymond Washington and Stanley “Tookie” Williams founded a grassroots African-American organization called the Cribs in Los Angeles. This organization aimed to combat mass arbitrary arrests and police violence in the black community (4). What started as a political movement to seek justice quickly turned into a violent street gang, notably after one of its main turning points in 1971, where some of the organization’s members assaulted an elderly Japanese woman using a cane (5). The local media picked up the story and referred to the attackers as Crips, mistakenly thinking that their name correlated with the weapons that they chose (6). Since then, the gang has adopted the name and their main goal evolved into financial gain through violence and criminal activity.
In 1979, Raymond Washington was murdered. Many suspected that the Crips were behind the killing due to Washington beginning to distance himself from the group because of their criminal actions (7). In the 1980s, the Crips experienced a rise in membership due to a rise in the popularity of ‘gangsta rap’, thus allowing them to spread their influence outside of California. The gang’s negative representation in media also oddly contributed heavily to its membership boom, as more and more young men became attracted to the looting, violence, and drug trafficking that the Crips are notorious for.
Ideology & Values
In the early years, the Crips were focused on social justice for African-Americans and the wider fight against police brutality, unjust murders, and racial segregation. Now, the Crips are known to be involved in crimes such as drug trafficking, murder, robbery, and racketeering. The Crips are also known for their rivalry with the Bloods, another street gang. Battles between the two gangs have resulted in a large number of deaths and some experts even estimate this number to exceed the death toll of The Troubles in Northern Ireland (8). With the organization’s shift towards criminal activity, it is hard to pinpoint the ideological leanings of the modern-day Crips. The exact politics of the group remain ambiguous, although it is important to note that the group’s foundations are purely political.
Approach to Resistance
The Crips are amongst the most violent and heavily armed street gangs in the United States. One of the most infamous incidents committed by the Crips involves its co-founder, Stanley ‘Tookie’ Williams. In 1981, Tookie was convicted of murdering four people amidst two robberies (9). He was sentenced to death and executed in 2005 by lethal injection (10). However, this crime only marked the beginning of the Crips’ criminal spree, as shootings perpetrated by the gang continue to happen on a regular basis. Most recently, for instance, nine Crips members were arrested in the Southern Los Angeles neighborhoods of Florence-Firestone and Watts; the nine perpetrators committed six homicides and multiple shootings, along with a string of other crimes (11). Victims of the violent acts include Blood members and an elderly bystander. Additionally,16 people were indicted for drug trafficking and gun charges with ties to the Grape Street Crips, with prosecutions being held from 2020 to 2022 (12).
One of the tactics employed by the Crips that is relatively distinct to those of other American street gangs involves ‘drive-by shootings’. A drive-by is a type of assault where the perpetrators shoot at a pedestrian (or a desired target) from the inside of a car and then drive away (13). This approach to an attack is very low-risk because it allows the shooters to neutralize targets relatively rapidly while being somewhat safe (as they are inside of a vehicle and hence have a lower chance of revealing their identity). The most common weapons used by the Crips – notably during drive-by shootings – include the Uzi, the Glock pistol, and the Ruger pistol.
Contemporary Crip members mostly focus on gaining profit through illegal means and rivalry with neighboring sets or Bloods. Despite operating in more than 40 states (with more than 30,000 members), Los Angeles remains as the gang’s general ‘hub’ for their ventures. While their main income has been earned through the trade of marijuana and cocaine, auto theft is also practiced on a smaller scale (14).
Alliances & Relations
Fundamentally, the Crips are an alliance of small gangs or sets that spread throughout the United States. They also have a presence in Belize City due to the deportation of ethnic Belizeans from the United States in the 1980s. After the mass deportation, Crip activity began to increase in Belize City because many of the deportees were Crips members. Crips can also be found in Europe, with England represented by four sets and the Netherlands by seven. In the 80s and 90s, when the group started to get involved in drug trafficking, they were able to form a partnership with Mexican and Colombian cartels (15). FBI agent Charlie Parsons stated that the Crips distributed 400 kilograms of cocaine a month, with a profit of $250,000 (16).
Works Cited (Chicago-style)
(1) - The Editors of Encyclopedia Britannica. “Crips | Gang.” Encyclopædia Britannica, 5 Sept. 2017, www.britannica.com/topic/Crips.
(2) - “Appendix B. National-Level Street, Prison, and Outlaw Motorcycle Gang Profiles - Attorney General’s Report to Congress on the Growth of Violent Street Gangs in Suburban Areas (UNCLASSIFIED).” Justice.gov, 2019, www.justice.gov/archive/ndic/pubs27/27612/appendb.htm.
(3) - “Criminal Street Gangs.” Justice.gov, 12 May 2015, www.justice.gov/criminal-ocgs/gallery/criminal-street-gangs.
(4) - Brown, Gary. “Los Angeles Gangs: The Bloods and the Crips.” Socialist Alternative, www.socialistalternative.org/panther-black-rebellion/los-angeles-gangs-bloods-crips/.
(5) - Brown, Gregory Christopher, et al. “The Ghettoization of Blacks in Los Angeles: The Emergence of Street Gangs.” Journal of African American Studies, vol. 16, no. 2, 2012, pp. 209–25. JSTOR, http://www.jstor.org/stable/43526688.
(6) - ibid.
(7) - “Raymond Washington, Street Gang Leader Born.” African American Registry, aaregistry.org/story/raymond-washington-street-gang-leader-born/.
(8) - Staff, Shepherd Express. “Crips and Bloods.” Shepherd Express, 14 May 2009, shepherdexpress.com/film/i-hate-hollywood/crips-bloods/.
(9) - “Crips Co-Founder Williams Put to Death.” NPR.org, 13 Dec. 2005, www.npr.org/2005/12/13/5050214/crips-co-founder-williams-put-to-death.
(10) - ibid.
(11) - Rector, Kevin, and Matthew Ormseth. “Prosecutors Accuse 9 Alleged Crips Members of Carrying out Retaliatory Killings in South L.A.” Los Angeles Times, 5 Feb. 2022, www.latimes.com/california/story/2022-02-04/alleged-kitchen-crips-members-charged-in-series-of-south-la-killings.
(12) - “The Remaining Defendant in a 16-Member Drug Trafficking Organization with Ties to Grape Street Crips Gang Sentenced.” Www.justice.gov, 18 Nov. 2022, www.justice.gov/usao-wdtn/pr/remaining-defendant-16-member-drug-trafficking-organization-ties-grape-street-crips.
(13) - Diego. “Urban Dictionary: Drive By.” Urban Dictionary, 11 Sept. 2003, www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=drive%20by.
(14) - The Editors of Encyclopedia Britannica. “Crips | Gang.” Encyclopædia Britannica, 5 Sept. 2017, www.britannica.com/topic/Crips.
(15) - ibid.
(16) - “FBI: Crips Gang Connected to Colombia’s Medellin Cocaine Cartel.” AP NEWS, 9 Jan. 1992, apnews.com/article/3cfcc025701b7d7fc80a711e11d196c6.
Alliances & Relations