The Bloods are a street gang founded in Los Angeles, California. The gang is widely known
for its rivalry with the Crips. They are identified by the red color worn by their members
and by particular gang symbols, including distinctive hand signs. The Bloods are made up
of various sub-groups known as "sets" between which significant differences exist such as
colors, clothing, and operations, and political ideas which may be in open conflict with
each other. Since their creation, the Blood gangs have branched out
throughout the United States.
Bloods have been documented in the US military, found in both US and overseas bases.
The Bloods gang was formed initially to compete against the influence of the Crips in Los Angeles. The origin
of the Bloods and their rivalry with the Crips dates to the 1970s, where the Pirus street gang, originally a set,
or faction, of the Crips, broke off during an internal gang war, and allied with other smaller gangs to found
the gang that would eventually become known as the Bloods. At the time, Crips sets outnumbered Bloods sets by
three to one. To assert their power despite this difference in numbers, Bloods sets became increasingly violent,
especially against rival Crips members.The Pirus are therefore considered to be the original founders of the
Bloods. During the rise of crack cocaine, the gang's focus shifted to drug production. Bloods sets operate
independently of each other, and are currently located in almost all States. Blood sets on the East Coast
are often seen as affiliated with the United Blood Nation, a gang which originated in Rikers Island.
The United Blood Nation, simply called the Bloods, formed in 1993, within the New York City jail system on
Rikers Island's GMDC (George Mochen Detention Center), sometimes called C 73. GMDC was used to segregate problem
inmates from the rest of the detention center. Prior to this time period, the Latin Kings were the most prevalent
and organized gang in the NYC jail system. The Latin Kings, with mostly Hispanic members, were targeting African
American inmates with violence. These African American inmates, organized by some of the more violent and
charismatic inmates, formed a protection group which they called the United Blood Nation. This United Blood
Nation, which was actually a prison gang, was emulating the Bloods street gangs in Los Angeles, California.
Several of the leaders of this recently created prison gang formed eight original Blood sets to recruit in their
neighborhoods across New York City.
By 1996, thousands of members of the Blood street gang were establishing themselves as a formidable
force among gangs and continued a steady drive for recruitment. At this time, the Bloods were more violent
than other gangs but much less organized. Numerous slashings (razor blade or knife attacks) were reported
during robberies and discovered to be initiations into the Bloods. This Blood in ritual became the trademark
for the Bloods. Bloods recruited throughout the East Coast.
Bloods refers to a loosely structured association of smaller street gangs, known as “sets,” which has adopted
a common gang culture. Each set has its own leader and generally operates independently from the others.
Most Bloods members are African American males, although some sets have recruited female members as well
as 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 thirties.
There is no known national leader of the Bloods but individual Bloods sets have a hierarchical leadership
structure with identifiable levels of membership. These levels of membership indicate status within a gang.
A leader, typically an older member with a more extensive criminal background, runs each set. A set leader is
not elected but rather asserts himself by developing and managing the gang’s criminal enterprises through his
reputation for violence and ruthlessness and through his personal charisma. The majority of set members are
called “Soldiers,” who are typically between the ages of 16 and 22. Soldiers have a strong sense of commitment
to their set and are extremely dangerous because of their willingness to use violence both to obtain the respect
of gang members and to respond to any person who “disrespects” the set. “Associates” are not full members, but
they identify with the gang and take part in various criminal activities. To the extent that women belong to the
gang, they are usually associate members and tend to be used by their male counterparts to carry weapons, hold
drugs, or prostitute themselves to make money for their set.
Recruitment is often influenced by a recruitee’s environment. Bloods recruit heavily among school-age youth
in predominantly poor African American communities. Gang membership offers youth a sense of belonging and
protection. It also offers immediate gratification to economically disadvantaged youth who view the trappings
of gang life: gold jewelry, cash, expensive sports clothing.
Bloods members commonly refer to themselves as CKs (an initialism of Crip-Killer), MOBs (an initialism of
Member of Bloods), dawgs, or ballers (meaning drug dealers).
Bloods members identify themselves through various gang indicators such as colors, clothing, symbols, tattoos,
jewelry, graffiti, language, and hand signs. The Bloods gang color is red. They like to wear sports clothing,
including team “Starter” jackets that show their gang color. Some of their favorite teams include the San
Francisco Forty Niners, the Philadelphia Phillies, and the Chicago Bulls. They are also known to wear Dallas
Cowboys clothing, whose logo contains a five-pointed star.
The most commonly used Bloods symbols include the number “5,” the five pointed star, and the five pointed crown.
These symbols are meant to show the Bloods’ affiliation with the People Nation, a large coalition of affiliates
created to protect alliance members within the federal and state prison systems. These symbols may be seen in the
tattoos, jewelry, and clothing that gang members wear as well as in gang graffiti, which is used by the Bloods to
mark their territory. Many graffiti include gang name, nicknames, declaration of loyalty, threats against rival
gangs, or a description of criminal acts in which the gang has been involved. Bloods graffiti might also include
the word “Piru” which refers to the fact that the first known Bloods gang was formed by individuals from Piru
Street in Compton, California.
Finally, Bloods graffiti might include rival gang symbols (particularly those of the Crips) that are drawn upside
down. This is meant as an insult to the rival group and its symbols. Bloods members also have a unique slang.
Bloods greet each other using the word “Blood” and often avoid using words with the letter “C.” Finally, Bloods
use hand signs to communicate with one another. Hand signs may be a singular movement, like the American Sign
Language letter “B,” or a series of movements using one or both hands for more complex phrases. United Blood Nation
(UBN) or East Coast Bloods initiates often receive a dog-paw mark, represented by three dots often burned with a cigarette,
on their right shoulder. Other UBN symbols include a bulldog and a bull.
Alliances and rivals
Bloods consider themselves allies with members of the People Nation and rivals of all gangs associated with the
Folk Nation gang alliance. These alliances were established in the 1980s to protect alliance members within the
federal and state prison systems. The People Nation alliance includes Black Peace Stones, Cobra Stones, Insane
Popes, Gaylords, Future Stones, Insane Unknown, King Cobras, Latin Counts, Latin Dragons, Latin Kings, Latin
Pachucos, Latin Saints, Spanish Lords, and Vice Lord Nation. The Folk Nation alliance members (and thus, Bloods
rivals) include the Bloods’ biggest rival, the Crips, as well as many other gangs, including the Gangster
Disciples, the Black Disciples, and the Black Gangsters.
In some instances, Bloods and UBN sets will associate with traditional rival gangs, such as the Crips or
the Latin Kings, when such associations benefit the criminal enterprises of both gangs.