The History And Impact Of Mexican Gangs In New York

New York City has a long history of organized street gangs tied to different immigrant groups. In the 20th century, Mexican gangs emerged and came to dominate certain neighborhoods.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer: Major Mexican gangs like MS-13, Latin Kings, Netas, and Sureños originated in Los Angeles but established strong presences in New York City starting in the 1990s.

In this approximately 3000 word article, we’ll provide an in-depth look at the rise of Mexican gang culture in New York, their criminal activities, territories, and impact on communities.

The Origins and Spread of Mexican Gangs to New York

Gang culture in Los Angeles

The origins of Mexican gangs in New York can be traced back to the gang culture that developed in Los Angeles during the mid-20th century. Mexican-American youth in Los Angeles formed gangs as a means of protection and identity in neighborhoods plagued by poverty and violence.

These early gangs, such as the 18th Street Gang and the Mexican Mafia, established a blueprint for the formation and organization of Mexican gangs that would later spread to other parts of the United States, including New York.

Migration and establishment in NYC

The migration of Mexican immigrants to New York City in the late 20th century brought with it the establishment of Mexican gangs in the city. As Mexican immigrants settled in neighborhoods such as East Harlem, the Bronx, and Brooklyn, they sought to recreate the sense of community and protection they had experienced in Los Angeles.

This led to the formation of Mexican gangs in these areas, which quickly gained a foothold and began to assert their presence.

One significant factor that contributed to the establishment of Mexican gangs in New York was the presence of established Latino gangs, such as the Latin Kings and the Bloods. Mexican gangs saw an opportunity to align themselves with these existing gangs, forming alliances and sharing territories.

This allowed them to gain a sense of legitimacy and establish themselves as a force to be reckoned with in the city.

Tactics for gaining territory

Mexican gangs in New York employed various tactics to gain and control territory. One such tactic was the use of violence and intimidation to assert dominance over rival gangs and neighborhoods. This would often involve acts of vandalism, assault, and even murder.

Additionally, Mexican gangs would establish drug trafficking networks, using the sale and distribution of narcotics as a means of generating income and exerting control over their territories.

Another tactic employed by Mexican gangs was the recruitment of young members, often targeting vulnerable and disenfranchised youth. By offering a sense of belonging and protection, gangs were able to attract new members who would then contribute to the expansion and influence of the gang.

It is important to note that while Mexican gangs have had a significant impact on communities in New York, it is essential to avoid generalizations and stereotypes. Not all Mexican immigrants or their descendants are involved in gang activity, and it is crucial to recognize the contributions and achievements of the Mexican-American community as a whole.

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Major Mexican Gangs of New York City


One of the most notorious Mexican gangs in New York City is MS-13, also known as Mara Salvatrucha. Originally formed by Salvadoran immigrants in Los Angeles in the 1980s, MS-13 has since spread to various cities in the United States, including New York.

The gang is known for its brutal violence and involvement in a wide range of criminal activities, including drug trafficking, human smuggling, and extortion.

According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), MS-13 has an estimated membership of over 10,000 members across the country, with a significant presence in New York City. They often target vulnerable immigrant communities, recruiting young members and using fear and violence to maintain control.

MS-13’s presence in New York City has had a significant impact on local communities, with an increase in violent crimes and gang-related activities. Law enforcement agencies have been working tirelessly to combat the influence of MS-13 and dismantle their criminal operations.

However, the gang’s complex structure and transnational connections make it a challenging task.

Latin Kings

The Latin Kings is another prominent Mexican gang that has made its presence felt in New York City. Originally founded in Chicago in the 1940s, the Latin Kings expanded to New York in the 1990s and quickly gained a foothold in the city’s criminal underworld.

The gang has a hierarchical structure and is known for its involvement in drug trafficking, robbery, and other illicit activities.

The Latin Kings have a strong presence in various neighborhoods in New York, particularly in areas with a large Hispanic population. Their activities often result in violence and clashes with rival gangs, leading to a significant impact on the safety and security of local communities.

Law enforcement agencies have been actively working to disrupt the operations of the Latin Kings and dismantle their criminal networks. Through targeted investigations and collaboration with other law enforcement agencies, significant progress has been made in reducing the influence of the Latin Kings in New York City.


The Netas, also known as Los Netas, originated in Puerto Rico but have established a presence in New York City as well. The gang primarily consists of Puerto Rican members but has also recruited members from other Hispanic backgrounds.

The Netas are known for their involvement in drug trafficking, extortion, and acts of violence.

Similar to other Mexican gangs, the Netas have a hierarchical structure and operate in various neighborhoods in New York City. Their criminal activities often target vulnerable communities, contributing to the overall crime rate in the city.

Law enforcement agencies have been actively targeting the Netas and working to disrupt their criminal operations. Through intelligence gathering, targeted investigations, and community outreach, efforts have been made to dismantle the gang and provide support to the communities affected by their activities.


The Sureños, also known as Sur 13 or Sureño 13, originated in Southern California but have expanded their presence to New York City. The gang is primarily composed of members with Mexican heritage and is known for their involvement in drug trafficking, robbery, and other criminal activities.

The Sureños operate in various neighborhoods in New York City, often engaging in conflicts with rival gangs. Their activities pose a significant challenge to law enforcement agencies, as they are highly organized and have established networks across different cities and states.

Efforts to combat the influence of Sureños in New York City involve collaboration between local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies. By targeting the leadership and disrupting their criminal networks, progress has been made in reducing the impact of Sureños on the safety and security of local communities.

Criminal Enterprises and Activities

Mexican gangs in New York have been involved in various criminal activities that have had a significant impact on the city. These criminal enterprises have not only been a threat to public safety but have also created an atmosphere of fear and instability in many neighborhoods.

Drug trafficking operations

One of the primary activities of Mexican gangs in New York is drug trafficking. These gangs are known for their involvement in the distribution and sale of illegal narcotics such as cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamine.

They have established extensive networks that span across the city, allowing them to transport and distribute drugs to various locations.

Their drug trafficking operations have not only contributed to the rise in drug addiction rates but have also fueled violence and crime in the communities they operate in. The profits generated from these illicit activities enable the gangs to expand their influence and engage in other criminal endeavors.

Extortion rackets

Another common criminal activity associated with Mexican gangs in New York is extortion. These gangs often target businesses, particularly those in immigrant communities, and demand protection money in exchange for not causing harm or damage.

Failure to comply with their demands can result in violence or property destruction.

Extortion rackets not only disrupt the local economy but also create a climate of fear and intimidation among business owners. Many individuals are forced to pay these gangs to ensure the safety of their families and livelihoods.

Violent assaults and homicides

Mexican gangs in New York are notorious for their involvement in violent assaults and homicides. These acts of violence are often the result of disputes over territory, drug deals gone wrong, or retaliation against rival gangs.

The impact of these violent acts goes beyond the immediate victims and their families. They instill fear in the community and erode the sense of security that residents should feel in their own neighborhoods.

The increase in violent crime rates has a detrimental effect on the overall quality of life in affected areas.

According to recent statistics from the New York Police Department, there has been a significant increase in gang-related homicides in the past decade, with Mexican gangs being responsible for a significant portion of these cases.

This alarming trend highlights the urgent need for law enforcement agencies to take decisive action to combat gang violence and protect communities.

For more information on the impact of Mexican gangs in New York, visit

Impact on Neighborhoods and Community Relations

Areas under gang control

Mexican gangs have had a significant impact on neighborhoods in New York, particularly in areas where they establish control. These gangs often claim territory and use it as a base for their criminal activities.

Areas such as East Harlem, the South Bronx, and parts of Queens have experienced high levels of gang presence and activity. The presence of these gangs can create a sense of fear and unease among residents, making it difficult for them to feel safe in their own communities.

Intimidation of residents and businesses

One of the most detrimental effects of Mexican gangs in New York is the intimidation they impose on both residents and businesses. Gang members often engage in violent acts, such as drug trafficking, extortion, and even murder, to maintain control and instill fear among the community.

This can lead to a breakdown of trust and a reluctance to report crimes to the authorities, further exacerbating the issue. Business owners may also be targeted for protection money or face violence if they refuse to comply with the gangs’ demands, resulting in a negative impact on local businesses and the economy.

Anti-gang efforts and outreach programs

Despite the challenges posed by Mexican gangs in New York, there have been commendable efforts to combat their influence and improve community relations. Law enforcement agencies, community organizations, and local residents have come together to develop anti-gang initiatives and outreach programs.

These programs aim to prevent at-risk individuals from joining gangs, provide support and resources for gang members who want to leave the lifestyle, and build stronger relationships between law enforcement and the community.

Organizations like the Gangs Elimination Network and the Youth Anti-Violence Program have been successful in reducing gang activity and fostering positive change.

Additionally, education plays a crucial role in preventing gang involvement. Schools and community centers have implemented programs that educate young people about the dangers of gang life and provide them with alternatives and opportunities for personal growth.

By addressing the root causes of gang involvement, such as poverty, lack of education, and limited job prospects, these initiatives aim to break the cycle of gang violence and create safer, more cohesive communities.


Mexican gangs have a significant presence across New York City after expanding from their West Coast roots. By understanding their history, organization, activities, and community impact, authorities and residents alike can better address the issue.

While gang violence remains an unfortunate reality in many NYC neighborhoods, ongoing criminal enforcement and social outreach provide hope for reducing their power and negative influence.

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