Street gangs began forming in the United States on the East Coast in the early 1800’s. Serious street gangs are known as being around for an extended period of time, having a fairly large membership, being an organization with a hierarchy of leadership, and showing the use of violent crime (murder, using guns, assault, robbery, etc.) on the streets.
The formation of gangs was influenced by a combination of immigration and poverty. Immigrants from Europe came to the United States in hopes of pursuing the American dream of a better life for their families in the Northeast and Midwest. With few skills, they found it hard to find work. They were also discriminated against by those born in the United States. These were ingredients for conflict which lay the groundwork for the formation of gangs.
In the West, gangs were originally formed in the Hispanic communities, mainly in Albuquerque, El Paso and Los Angeles. The immigration from Mexico brought youth who were already familiar with gang activity. The young Mexicans were called Pachucos, 13 to 22 year olds who dressed in flamboyant clothes, to which the press referred to as “zoot suiters.”
Soon, migration from the South to the Northeast, Midwest and West added to the gang population in these areas. Blacks, Puerto Ricans, Ecuadorians, Panamanians, Cubans, Dominicans and Latin Americans would form gangs. All this immigration and migration led to a mixture of White, Black and Mexican gangs.