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The Bloods gang originated in the streets of Los Angeles in the 1970s as a response to the Crips and the violence they imposed on the streets. In the 1980s, driven by profits from the distribution of crack cocaine, the ranks of the Bloods swelled, inducing many “entrepreneurial” members to migrate to other cities to set up new markets. The glorification of “gangster life” through movies such as “Colors” also encouraged youth throughout the country to emulate the Bloods culture, symbols and colors.
Bloods on the east coast are often referred to as the United Blood Nation (UBN). The UBN was founded by African American inmates in the New York City Department of Corrections in 1993 to protect themselves from attacks by Latino prison gangs. In the mid-Atlantic regions, UBN is organized into a loosely structured association of smaller street gangs know as “sets”. UBN sets are most active in the northeast and mid-Atlantic regions.
While there is some cultural affinity between the LA-based Bloods and the UBN, their structure and philosophy are different and they operate independently of each other. They follow the “culture” of the Bloods gang in terms of colors, clothing, tattoos, however their membership and criminal activity are primarily local. In addition, the UBN tends to be more organized than the LA-based Bloods. UBN sets share a comprehensive philosophy, expressed in an oath, a prayer, a song, a motto, a concept of war, and 31 common rules. UBN sets also tend to be more racially diverse.
Bloods in Maryland and Virginia are typically independent gangs although members may know or be related to Bloods in other areas. Most Maryland and Virginia Bloods groups have either a line of communication or a lineage that can be traced to the New York/New Jersey faction of the UBN. There is considerable evidence of links with Bloods members from New Jersey and New York in housing complexes where these gangs are active. Some families move from NJ/NY to get away from gang activity but end up bringing youth who then identify themselves with these gangs to the area.
The most common identifiers for Blood members include colors, clothing, symbols, jewelry, tattoos, and graffiti. Red is the most commonly associated color of the bloods. They typically create graffiti depicting the upside down symbols of rival gangs. A common Bloods symbol is a five-pointed star or a varying representation of the number five. Gang members often craft their own personal necklaces made from red beads. Photographs of common identifiers of the Bloods are shown below.
The majority of Bloods members are African America males, although some sets are known to recruit female members and members from other races and ethnic backgrounds. Members range in age from early teens to mid-twenties; however some hold leadership positions into their late twenties and occasionally their thirties.
There is no known national leader of the Bloods, but individual Bloods sets have a hierarchical leadership structure with identifiable level of membership. These levels of membership indicate status within a gang as defined by an individual’s criminal background, reputation for violence and personal charisma.
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