By BRAD HAMILTON
An MS-13 gang member flaunts his evil affiliation.
October 28, 2007 -- THEY prey on high-school students, second-generation immigrants who want protection or a sense of identity.
As New York's gang population swells to more than 15,000, membership is increasingly Hispanic - spurred by a wave of street toughs from Mexico - and younger.
The New York gang problem pales in comparison to Los Angeles, where cops estimate gang membership at 150,000. But the NYPD employs a 240-cop-strong gang unit.
Even so, gangs here are no less violent.
Two fast-growing Dominican groups called Dominicans Don't Play and the Trinitarios have infiltrated scores of schools in The Bronx, Manhattan and Queens.
Last week, armed members of both gangs opened fired on one another at West 134th Street and Broadway killing a 15-year-old boy and wounding another teen.
A group of Latin Kings go on trial later this year for the torture and murder of a non-gang associate who failed to alert them to a rival's impending attack. The man was beaten, strangled and set on fire in the Yankee Stadium parking lot.
Meanwhile, bands of Mexicans with names like Vatos Locos, Los Traviesos and Los Vagos have sprung up across the city, fighting off Bloods and Crips, extorting businesses, selling drugs, peddling fake IDs, and fighting one another.
Mexicans were once minor players, overshadowed by the Bloods - the city's biggest and best-organized gang with 5,300 members - as well as the two largest Hispanic groups, the Latin Kings and Ñetas, said Lou Savelli, a former sergeant in the NYPD's gang unit.
"But now they're becoming more organized, and their numbers are growing," said Savelli, who runs the Gangs Across America Web site.
"They're the gangs of the future," said investigator Bill Sheridan, a Rikers Island gang expert.
A breakdown of Gotham's most nefarious street gangs and their turfs:
Ethnicity: Mostly African-American
Origin: Ruthless drug dealers who cashed in during the crack epidemic in the '80s, the gang is less structured than the Bloods or Latin Kings, though each "set," or local group, has its own hierarchy. Crips outnumber Bloods nationally; in New York, they have one-third the membership. Started in South Central L.A. in the '70s; first New York set was in '93 in Harlem.
Turf: East Flatbush, Far Rockaway, Harlem.
Crimes: The gang draws its income from drugs, robbery and gun sales. Convicted killer and Crip hit man Kenneth Simington was arrested in Brooklyn in March after he allegedly fired into a vehicle containing a child following a drug dispute in Pennsylvania.
Rivals: Bloods, Latin Kings, Mexican gangs
Codes: Principles are love, life, loyalty, wisdom, knowledge and understanding. Crips see themselves as "soldiers" and stress unity and rules, such as wearing all colors or "flags" - bandannas, hats and piercings - on the left side. Members must learn hand signs and never share "codes of honor" with outsiders. No one should claim Crip status unless he's "put in the work" - committed crimes.
Initiation: First five members of a set are "blessed in" with a handshake. Members may be born into it. Newcomers are "loc-ed" in - beaten by six veterans for 60 seconds - then must prove themselves by "drinking milk," a term for drawing blood from a Blood member by slashing, shooting or beating him.
Colors: Blue and gray
Emblems: Six-pointed star with a "G" for gangster in the middle. A pitchfork or devil's head equates a gangster's life with following the devil. Any words in which a "C" replaces a "B," such as Crooklyn, because of hatred toward Bloods.
Ethnicity: Mostly Salvadoran, but also Honduran, Guatemalan, Ecuadoran and Mexican
Origin: It's been dubbed the most dangerous gang in the U.S. by Newsweek because of its fast-moving spread into 33 states. The FBI has formed a special task force to investigate its activities. Gang members are ultra-violent and bloodthirsty and are known to carry military weapons and booby trap drug stashes. Formed in Los Angeles in the '80s by former Salvadoran street gang and ex-guerrilla fighters. Name mixes "posse" (mara) with "street-tough Salvadorans" (salvatruchas). The New York gang popped up in Long Island in the mid-1990s.
Turf: Woodhaven, Central Jamaica, Flushing, Rockaways
Rivals: Bloods, Latin Kings, SWP (Salvadorans with Pride), other Hispanic gangs
Codes: Requires members to commit acts of violence, called "quotas," after joining a clique. The goal is to enhance the gang's reputation for ruthlessness. Motto of "Laugh now, cry later" represented by tattoos of theater's Comedy and Tragedy masks.
Initiation: Attacking a cop. A 13-second "jump-in" - a beating by gang members; gang rape for female applicants. Killing, raping or beating a victim.
Colors: Blue and white - the colors of the Salvadoran flag
Emblems: The number 13, from L.A. area code 213, and "M,"which is the 13th letter of the alphabet.
Slang: Leaders are called "shot callers."
3. VATOS LOCOS
Origin: Vatos Locos - "Crazy Gangsters" in English - is one of the biggest and most violent Mexican gangs in the country; formed in Los Angeles as part of the emerging group of new Mexican gangs and in recent years has expanded across the U.S.
Turf: Jackson Heights, Manhattan
Crimes: The gang makes money from robbery, extortion, drug sales and fake IDs. In May 2006, two gang members stabbed to death a high-school student in broad daylight on the Upper West Side after asking him if he belonged to the gang and he answered no. On Oct. 15, several gang members were among 41 people nailed for running a massive fake-ID mill in Jackson Heights.
Rivals: Los Vagos and other Mexican gangs
Ethnicity: Mostly Puerto Rican, but Hispanics of all kinds; some Italians and Portuguese
Origin: The oldest, largest Hispanic gang in New York City, which ruled Rikers in the '90s, first emerged in Chicago in the '40s. The New York chapter was formed in '86 by Cuban native Luis Felipe, known as "King Blood," at Collins Correctional Facility in the Catskills.
Turf: Spanish and West Harlem, Bushwick, The Bronx
Crimes: The gang makes money from drug and gun sales, extortion, robbery, credit-card fraud and auto theft. Eleven members ran an extensive crack-dealing business in central Brooklyn for at least two years through 2005.
Rivals: Bloods, Crips, Mexican gangs
Codes: Principles are respect, honesty, unity, knowledge and love. Members must always tell the truth, not spread gossip, never "lust" after another member's spouse and not engage in gay sex. Jan. 6 is "Kings Holy Day," a fasting holiday to remember dead members.
Initiation: Newcomers swear loyalty to the gang and vow, "I will die for my brothers, the cause and my nation." Local groups, or tribes, must conduct "culture classes."
Colors: Black and gold or yellow
Emblems: Five-pointed crown
Slang: Highest-ranking members are called "Incas" - from the Incan empire of South America.
Below them are "Caciques," a term for pre-Colombian chiefs. They use a coded language to communicate with each other, and avoid police scrutiny, substituting symbols for letters, such as % for "F" and * for "M" or using a symbolic alphabet in which letters are recast to look like hieroglyphics.
Origin: New York City's biggest and best-organized street gang is known to slash victims using razors and scalpels. According to a federal prosecutor, its head is co-founder Omar Portee, 37, a k a "O.G. Mack," who may still be running the gang from jail. Started in Los Angeles in the '70s as a Crips offshoot, it was formed as the East Coast Bloods at Rikers in '93 by Mack and fellow inmate Leonard "Deadeye" McKenzie. Local gangs, called "sets," include Gangsta Killer Bloods, Nine Trey Side and Sex, Money, Murder.
Turf: Harlem, Washington Hts., Brooklyn, The Bronx, Far Rockaway
Crimes: The gang's income comes from drug and gun sales, robbery and credit-card fraud. A dozen Bloods terrorized the area around 167th Street and Clay Avenue in The Bronx, selling crack and carrying out armed robberies, beatings and a murder from 1998 to 2005. Members include Sean Gordon, who, angry with a girlfriend, fired three shots into the air in Bushwick on Oct. 9, killing a 16-year-old boy who'd been looking out his apartment window.
Rivals: Crips, Latin Kings, MS-13
Codes: Five central tenets - body, unity, love, lust and soul - and 30 rules of conduct. Must swear allegiance to the Bloods and be willing to "give your life for a Blood." Being a Blood "comes before anything or anyone" other than immediate family, according to a gang material confiscated by cops. Members should read "revolutionary" books. They must fast on the 31st of each month, as 31 is a key number (30 rules; plus "1," which stands for "One Love Under Blood").
Initiation: Those with a Blood relative can be "blessed in," or voted in. Others can be "jumped in" - beaten by other members for 31 seconds. Women can be "sexed in" - have intercourse with members. Recruits may be required to do a "buck-50," slice at least a 150-stitch slash across a victim's face.
Colors: Red and black
Emblems: The dog, as members call one another "dawg." Calvin Klein jeans-CK stands for Crip Killer. A letter C with a slash through it.
Slang: Members also call each other "MOB" (Member of Bloods; or Money Over Bitches) "G" (for gangster) or "Damu," Swahili for Blood. Top members are "O.G.," or Original Gangsta; new ones are "Young Blood" or "Baby Gangsta." Victims are "food." Committing an assault or other crime is "putting in work." Female Bloods are "red riders." Crips are "crabs" or "blips."
Ethnicity: Mostly Puerto Rican
Origin: Transforming itself from a prison gang to hard-core drug dealers, the Ñetas - ñeta means "new birth" in Taino Indian - formed in Puerto Rico in 1979. In New York, a chapter led by a mysterious female con who called herself "La Madrina" portrayed the gang as an inmates-rights group.
Turf: Southeast Bronx, Brooklyn, upper Manhattan
Crimes: Making its money on drug and gun sales and robberies, the gang's turf includes the Grand Concourse and southeast sections of The Bronx and all over Brooklyn and upper Manhattan. Several investigations in the last few years have diminished the gang's power, cops say.
Rivals: Bloods, Crips, DDP, other Hispanic gangs
Codes: They see themselves as warriors, but the gang's philosophy is based on the symbol of the tree; new seeds must be planted for the gang to grow. There are 25 "norms," including no gossiping, no cursing and no flashing of private parts. Members must wait for a "green light" from the set leader before committing any violent act. Violators are disciplined with a ritualized beating during the chapter's monthly meeting.
Initiation: Applicants must learn the gang's "seven steps" - its history (including all seven prisons in Puerto Rico), norms, colors, beads and prayer. They must say why they want to be a Ñeta and go "on probation" for a period of time before being "blessed in" during a meeting on March 30 of each year. That's the date of the beating death in 1981 of founder Carlos Torres Iriarte, who is also known as "La Sombra," or "The Shadow."
Colors: Red, white and black
Emblems: Crossed index and middle fingers, with hand held up, palm in front. Tattoos with "N.D.C." - Ñeta de Corazon, or Ñeta from the heart.
Slang: Their slogan is "150% de corazon"
Origin: Close-knit and fierce, the gang has taken over parts of Sunset Park, terrorizing shopkeepers with extortion demands and threats, cops say. It first popped up in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, in the early '90s, extorting businesses on Fifth Avenue, where a member bashed in the skull of a beloved local teacher who tried to stop the gang from throwing bottles at a store in 1996.
Crimes: Income is drawn from extortion and drug sales, but "most of the time, it's gang-on-gang violence, assaults and robberies," says an investigator.
Rivals: Latin King, Bloods, other Mexican gangs
Codes: Trumpet their activities over the Internet on sites such as MySpace and Bebo.
Initiation rites: Beat-ins or robberies
Colors: Red, white and green
Emblems: Tattoos of the gang name or a bearded devil figure with a cigarette and fedora
Slang: Leaders are called "mero mero drugs are "caca," which also means poop in Spanish; guns are "cuetes."
Members: Estimated in the hundreds
Origin: The fastest-growing gang in The Bronx, it also boasts one of the youngest memberships - most 15 to 17, cops say. Cops believe the gang was formed from two now-defunct Dominican street gangs in the '90s. The gang is known to attack in groups as large as 40. Recruits heavily at high schools. Has an ongoing feud with the Bloods. Members carry machetes.
Turf: The Bronx
Crimes: Draws its income from robbery and some drug sales, and maintains a large presence at Brandeis HS and Washington Irving HS in Manhattan, and DeWitt Clinton HS in The Bronx. In March, a 16-year-old student was stabbed by DDP members at the Union Square subway. In May, a 12-year-old bystander was hit in the back during a shootout involving DDP at a party in the Fordham section of the Bronx.
Rivals: The Trinitarios, Bloods; Latin Kings; Mexican gangs.
Initiation: Beat-ins or attacking a rival gang member.
Colors: Red, white and blue, for the Dominican flag, and black.
Emblems: Beads on necklaces or bracelets.
Members: Estimated in the hundreds
Ethnicity: Mostly Dominicans; some Puerto Ricans and other Hispanics
Origin: Recruiting heavily at high schools, the gang is into online trash talking and frequently battles DDP. Members favor bats and knives and attack in large numbers. Gang started out at Rikers in the '90s.
Turf: Upper Manhattan and The Bronx
Crimes: In mid-October, a 15-year-old bystander was killed by crossfire and another teen shot when Trinitarios and rival DDP members opened fire on one another at West 134th Street and Broadway. The gang maintains a big presence at DeWitt Clinton HS.
Colors: Red, white and blue
10. FLYING DRAGONS
Members: About 100
Origin: This gang of low-key, savvy businessmen started out in China in the early 1800s. Longtime leader Johnny "Onionhead" Eng lost his power after being arrested numerous times in the '70s and '80s. He was once considered one of the biggest heroin dealers in the U.S.
Crimes: Making it money mostly from drugs and protection rackets, the gang works with Chinatown tongs, using Vietnamese or other Chinese groups for its heroin dealing, loan-sharking and gambling.
Rivals: Ghost Shadows, Tung On, Born to Kill