The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus


Retired police sergeant discusses gang history

The Al and Sadye Gartner Honors Lecture Series kicked off this Thursday with “The Gang Problem at ‘Street Level’: A Realistic Perspective.”

Sgt. Wesley McBride, the current president of the California Gang Investigator’s Association and a retired police officer, presented a slideshow and lecture on gang history and identification to a packed house in the Hughes-Trigg Forum.

McBride served for over 30 years with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, spending 28 of those years on gang detail.

He has trained gang detail units across the country and around the world and is the author of numerous articles in various professional and academic journals on street gangs.

Attendees learned that there are 800 gang murders a year in L.A. County and that most of those murders are gang versus gang, as opposed to gang versus citizen.

They also learned that, despite budget cuts to gang units across the country following Sept. 11, there are about 10,000 trained gang officers in the National Alliance of Gang Officers.

“The disease of gangs is communicable, deadly and preventable,” McBride said, though he also said that it has been impossible to simply prevent the presence of gangs in Los Angeles, which he termed “the gang capitol of the U.S.”

McBride emphasized that gangs are not part of any ethnic culture; they are a part of “criminal culture.”

Gangs form because the nature of criminals is to band together, and gangs multiply by dividing.

In other words, a gang spreads to different areas because a member of a gang migrates, usually for family reasons, and starts a new branch of that gang.

McBride stressed that, for a gangster, the gang will come before family, religion, marriage, community and the law.

“Say no to gangs? That’s not a very effective method,” said McBride about one recent anti-gang campaign. He described how gang members often grow up in gang-dominated families, usually with a single parent.

In some cases, the entire family will be involved in criminal activity.

For instance, McBride got to know the Laguna family very well during his days as a gang officer in Los Angeles.

He once counted 300 bullet holes in their home and said that they installed sandbags and steel plates to bulletproof the house.

“We make a real mistake when we think gang members are stupid. They may be ignorant, but they aren’t stupid,” McBride said.

He was also quick to point out that not all gang members are beyond saving.

While working at the L.A. sheriff’s department, McBride was involved in finding gang members’ jobs and getting them out of gang lifestyles.

A slideshow of gang tattoos from different cliques and sets and listings of various gang names were presented.

Many people may recognize the name “M/S 13” from recent news.

The M/S 13 gang, or Mara Salva Trucha, originated with El Salvadorian refugees during the El Salvador revolution.

McBride showed images of M/S 13 gangsters, many of who had their cheeks, foreheads and eyelids covered in gang tattoos.

The two-hour-long lecture covered the formation of the Bloods, the Crips, many Hispanic gangs and prison gangs. McBride also covered the meanings of various graffiti, tattoos and gang symbols.

He described his work in other countries, including South Africa. The gang territories there “resemble South L.A. almost exactly,” he said.

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