The North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation (2016) defines a gang to be a group made up of more than three people with outstanding characteristics including; having a shared or a common goal, a symbol of identification, formal or informal structures of leadership; and above all, the group’s main objective is to engage in crime-related activities. As such, these groups operate within certain areas by controlling and dominating the streets of particular geographical areas, hence the name; street gangs. Such gangs have often targeted young boys and girls, as potential members. This has largely been fueled by the rising numbers of unemployed youth who become frustrated with life as the society expects them to survive and fend for themselves and their families despite their financial hardships. This has made it quite difficult for most parents to understand their children’s involvement with the criminal activities of the gang. Psychologists have sternly warned parents that they should remain on alert for peculiar behaviors that may point to their children’s involvement into the gang. One such group is the Latin King Gang, which is the primary focus of this study paper. This research traces the historical formation of the group, its culture, leadership structure, membership and activities within the areas of operations.
The Latin King Gang
The Latin King Gang has for a long time also been referred to as the Almighty Latin King Nation (ALKN). While this name is popular in a number of cities, the gang is differently referred to in others as Almighty Latin King and Queen Nations (ALKQN). The origins of the gang and its activities/existence dates back to the mid of 1960s when it was formed. Research indicates that the original objective of forming the gang was to ensure that immigrants from Puerto Rico got help in overcoming the challenge of racial discrimination and become like ‘Kings’. This implies that the gang is composed of multi-racial members with the majority of them being people of Hispanic descent who speak Latin. Observations made by authorities like the North Carolina Investigation Bureau have indicated that recent developments have seen members of other origins like the Portuguese and even Italians have been accepted as members of the Latin king gang. It is said that the objectives of the gang; however, changed as members’ activities evolved into crime-related enterprises that operate within the United States with the two major factions being the Motherland KMC (King Manifesto and Constitution), and Bloodline which is solely based in New York City. Today, all the members of the gang are called Latin kings and are accepted from any country of origin including Italy, South America and the Caribbean. Some sections of the gang have female members who are referred to as the Latin Queens, and it has become a norm to accept female members in these gangs. In most cases, these females who are accepted are normally the wives or girlfriends of the king members; a trend that is encouraged to keep the life and information of the gang as highly guarded as possible from outsiders. It is estimated that to date, the gang has different sections across 34 states, with membership of about 50,000 people. In terms of the hierarchy, Latin Kings are well organized with their leadership structure starting from the national to regional and local levels, and they abide by a constitution that regulates the gang’s activities.
Communication is recognized as a key component within the gang hence members use different means to reach out to each other. They use both verbal and nonverbal channels of communication to exchange their thoughts and plans. Some of their sayings include slogans such as Amor De Rey translated to mean Love of the King, and another to brag that Black and Gold never grow Old. For nonverbal body language, the modes of communication include the use of Graffiti, selection of specific colours, hand signs, and tattoos to show their affiliation to the group. While speaking, their language contains certain phrases, and coded messages that can only be understood by members of the gang when written or spoken.
Like any other gang group, the Latin King was formed with the goal of protecting and preserving the cultural identity of the people. This implies defending the social, economic and personal needs of the local communities and defending them against any forms of injustices and physical attacks from rival communities in the United States. Defending their communities has always involved fighting or engaging in battles with other communities. This has made the gang earn the title of being violent in the streets with its members being ruthless through their involvement in criminal activities such as distribution and selling of drugs, trafficking dangerous weapons, engaging in murder, committing assaults, armed robbery, at times kidnapping, auto theft and burglary, money laundering, public corruption and extortion (District Court, 2012).
The gang requires massive financial resources to facilitate its operations. For a long time, the major source of income has been the drug trade that is deemed as lucrative for the Latin Kings. Members are not expected to use the drugs, but rather get involved in rigorous selling and distribution to youth community and in turn get funds for the organization. Membership fees are also a source of funding for the gang, while others opt to extort money from weaker members or the communities and also within the correctional facilities. The tide is; however, changing and recent years have seen the gang members starting to set up legitimate businesses such as shops and offices that are serving as sources of income.
Latin King Gang starts its recruitment process among the youth at an early age. This is mostly when the members are still in school and aged between 12-14 years of age. The youth are a preference because they are always willing to do the types of activities that would generate some income for them and the gang, make them known and feel accepted into groups and the community. Intimidation and peer pressure are exercised during the recruitment process as the major ways of persuading members to get into the gang. Other access to alcohol, cigarettes, and other drugs freely to these youth groups makes the recruitment process more attractive.
The organizational structure of the gang is hierarchical in nature, as they have chapters and tribes across various states that are guided by systems. At the very top is the crown council which has seven members who support the officers. Members of the council are tasked to set new rules and regulations with frequent meetings on disciplinary actions and hearings. There are two regional officers and then the two major supreme regional Incas that are situated in Chicago. The Corona is the head of the Latin King Gang group or organization and it is noted that Latin Kings have the most organized Corona (crowns) (Office of the Attorney General, 2014).
The Latin King Gang has in place a disciplinary system can be applied against any member who violates the rule. The gang disciplines the rival members of other gangs and members who deviate from what is expected of them. They have several correctional facilities, where deviant members are taken to for disciplinary actions and each of these has an Inca at the top. The Inca is made up of crown chairman, an investigator, the Cacique, treasurer, the enforcer and also the secretary. When one of the gang members violates the rules and regulations, the first step they go through is the submission of Procedures for Violation form. Normally, this form is designed to include information such as the actual violation, statement from the accused gang member and those of the witnesses or members who were present at the time of the violation. . If found guilty, the member of the gang is then subjected to penalties linked to the degree of severity the offense.. This could mean either corporal or non-corporal punishments. Non-corporal could include a period of probation ranging from two weeks to months. This can always be imposed alongside other types of punishments. Another non-corporal type of penalty imposed on gang members is that of paying fines. These fines are often used to refurbish damaged property if at all the members were involved in activities that resulted into property damage for the group. Another punishment involves stripping of titles and ranks if those found guilty are within the leadership hierarchy. Suspension is also a form of non-corporal punishment of Latin King Gang where members get stripped of their office positions, duties and other engagements until a determined period of time is over. During the period of suspension, members are expected to reflect over their deviant ways and not to be involved in any way with the gang’s activities, including keeping of the black and gold colours. At times, the choice of community service is also given as non-corporal disciplinary, but is based on case by case circumstance. On the other side, corporal punishments include members found guilty being beaten on sight or even get capital punishment. The Latin King Gang identifiers include a 5-pointed crown; massive paintings and graffiti of a lion portrayed as wearing a crown; and five-pointed crowns that are accompanied by the letters/initials of LK. After the initials, the gang’s name, number and city of operation are also listed. Members of the gang highly value the five-point crown and consider it a central element to the Latin King philosophy due to what it represents. It shows five major values of respect, obedience, love, sacrifice and honor. These values form the foundation of the gang’s adherence to the ten commandments, their royalties, specific gang guidelines, the process of electing officers, and disciplining the guilty members.
The Latin King gang’s members have a diverse culture. Men, kings in this case,, wear black and gold as their official colours. At times, yellow is used as the colour in place of gold. Colour black is used as a symbol of death, while the gold is worn to show life.
The Latin Kings have their operations guided by a set of codes enshrined within their constitution and are avid followers of the King’s manifesto. The manifesto serves as the gang’s Bible that gives members guidance on how to go about life issues and living with others in the community. The manifesto outlines three stages that make up the Kingism of the gang including; primitive, conservative and new king stages. The first stage, the primitive level, is where the king of the gang acts on his own, mostly based on impulse and without giving a thought to anyone’s advice and input. It is a stage regarded as immature as most kings spend time getting into drugs and making a name of being big and bad among the members. The second stage involves conservative level. This is when the king no longer wants to get associated with his primitive ways of careless routine and gang fighting. It is at this time that most of them get married and retire from the inappropriate activities and starting to work with the people.
The new king is the final stage that represents awareness and ability to make decisions. This implies that whoever is elected as the new king becomes cognizant of the fact that the time for revolution has come; and that this would include the transformation in mindsets, knowledge and freedom to those who feel enslaved. It is an expectation that a new king executes his duties without any forms of biases of race, gender and origin. Upon being installed as the gang’s new king, one forfeits their personal will and looks at the will of the people and serves with complete devotion. The manifesto of this gang stipulates that whoever becomes the new king is eventually the candidate who has undergone complete awareness and with the 360° of empowerment and to lead the gang. This is a person regarded to be very liberal and independent in his thoughts and has the ability to make decisions without any forms of prejudice. This candidate is dedicated towards fighting for the system’s social injustices and inequality.
In conclusion, The Latin King Gang is only one representation of the many challenges communities face due to such organized crimes. There are various groups under different names across states. Gangs seem to be on the rise especially as a result of modernization, globalization and the use of technology with some small cities and towns experiencing such challenges for the first time. Worth noting is that community officials should not merely jump into conclusions that the youth being part of these gangs just from their appearances and the body tattoos and colors as these may be misconceptions. It is possible that some youth groups often imitate the trends similar to those of Latin King Gangs with the main aim of getting recognition, winning acceptance of others in the community and gaining popularity but without necessarily being involved in criminal activities.
District Court. (2012). United States Vs Latin Kings. North Carolina.
North Carolina. (2016). North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation. North Carolina.
Office of the Attorney General. (2014). Gang Awareness Guide: Recognize the Signs. New
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