“They rob, kill, and terrorize, and they’ve left their mark on our nation’s history.”
It’s hard for me to believe that Gangland has been on History for seven years now and has finally come to an end. History has found a way to consistently bring out relatively solid programming without having to spend a lot of cash on the production budget. Everybody wants their 15 minutes, and it’s exactly shows like Gangland that manage to take full advantage of that fact. It doesn’t hurt that we have a morbid curiosity about such things. Credit the show for doing more than exploiting that fascination with violence, particularly when it reflects the real world, as well. I have to admit that there is more than a little bit of educational value to the series. I spent 12 years as a detective, so I’m more than a little familiar with the gangland elements plaguing our inner cities. I also spent many years working with at-risk children to help give them a chance to avoid the traps depicted in this series. But with all of that experience, I still discovered there was a ton I did not know about the various gang elements and how they varied from city to city or region to region across this troubled country. It also brings the recent immigration controversy into crystal-clear perspective. Watch a few episodes of Gangland, and you won’t find it so hard to understand why states like Arizona are trying to do anything they can to protect themselves. The answers might very well be open for debate. The problem sure as heck isn’t.
Each episode of Gangland focuses on a different criminal organization. In the 6th season there were 11 episodes dealing with the following gangs:
Northside Mafia (Mile High Killers):
It wasn’t just cold bear that put the Rocky Mountains of Colorado on the map. Talk to members of the Northside Mafia and they’ll tell you that it was these cold-blooded killers that put Denver on the map. This Hispanic gang is about the most violent in the state. If it’s illegal and could bring in a buck, count on it to be in their repertoire. They range from simple robbery and drugs to prostitution. They’re homegrown and boast strong family connections. The gang contains many generations of the same family. Their motto: Money, Hoes and Gun Smoke. One Denver cop describes a gathering of these gangbangers as an extended episode of The Jerry Springer Show. Their roots go back to the 1980’s and a construction boom that resulted from an extended period of prosperity in the area. The new jobs brought in a ton of immigrants. Small gangs came along, and The Northside Mafia brought a few of these gangs together under one roof.
Public Enemy Number One (Public Enemy Number One):
The California Gold Coast is home to this group of skinheads. It’s particularly in Orange County where the California dream becomes a nightmare if you’re a member of any of the groups this gang hates, which is pretty much anyone who isn’t Christian and white. They specialize in identity theft and counterfeiting. They do deal drugs but mostly to support their own habit. Their drug of choice is crystal meth. This kind of drug addiction makes them not only very violent and dangerous, but unstable and unpredictable as well. They’re willing to smash the head of a cop who gets in their way. They use the traditional Nazi symbols and rants. Their motto: Snitches don’t get stitches. They get caskets. They have their roots in the 1980’s punk rock scene. Their name is actually taken from a punk band called PENI. In prison they hold a strict code of conduct. Their enemies are not just Jews and non-whites but sexual offenders. Failure to take out an enemy when you get an opportunity means you get taken out.
The Lincoln Park Bloods (Vendetta Of Blood):
San Diego has long been counted as one of the best cities in the country to live. But even this beautiful beach community has its blights. The worst of these is the Lincoln Park Bloods. Their motto: You kill one of ours, we kill two of you. You kill two of ours and we kill ten of you. They control 150 square blocks of the city and make their headquarters in a park that is actually named for JFK. But to this gang, it’s Lincoln Park. The gang started in the 1970’s and was called PL Control, named for a popular Chargers running back. They were mostly a pride group, and any criminal activity was small time. In those days it was purse-snatching and pot. In 1984 hard times hit the city and turf wars led to a more violent gang climate. They brag about their exploits in rap songs, including the brutal murder of a cop. That brought extreme retribution on the gang.
This is a best-of show that highlights their “baddest” gangs and members. Ice T and Snoop Dog provide a lot of the material.
ABZ (A Killer’s Revenge):
It’s back to L.A. again and all along the I-5 corridor where you’ll find one of the most active drug pipelines in the country. There you’ll also find the Asian Boyz or ABZ. They are one of the largest Asian gangs in the country. They believe in black magic and conduct rituals for their mystic protection and strength. Their tattoos are protection spells. Their main income comes from home invasions, stealing car airbags, and drugs.
Wild Boyz (Wild Boyz):
Deep in the poorest county in the country you’ll find an American Indian reservation. In the Pine Ridge area of this reservation you’ll find a unique street gang. These are American Indians who study the culture of their old warriors and attempt to emulate that culture. In this area over 10% of the population now claim gang affiliations. They’re out to prove that they can be just as tough and violent as any big city gang. It’s a young gang that started only 10 years ago but has taken strong root in the community. They aren’t so much into drugs. The county is a dry county, so running booze is how they earn most of their income.
Neta (Better Off Dead):
Trenton, New Jersey is where you’ll find the heart of the prison gang Neta. They may have started in prison where their strength is at its greatest, but they have reach out on the streets. They have a secret culture. Unlike many gangs, they are not so much into a lot of show. They consider themselves an inmate’s-rights gang and target inmates who attempt to abuse others. They were formed to protect weaker inmates that had been preyed upon by another gang. The ended up chopping up the body of the leader of the rival gang and used the prison mail room to mail out pieces of his body to others, including his mother. They enforce a strict code of conduct they call norms.
MS13 (Capitol Killers):
Washington DC is no stranger to violence and gangs. The city boasts one of the highest murder rates in the country. One of the most violent gangs there is MS13. Their stated goal is to be known as the most violent gang in the nation. The shots are called by drug cartels in El Salvador. The gang started there during the civil wars of the 1980’s. El Salvador has sent representatives to DC in order to bring that gang under control. They ramped up the violence in an attempt to set an example.
The Crips (Clash Of The Crips):
There are 10,000 members of The Crips nationwide. They are known for being one of the flashiest gangs in the country. This episode compares and contrasts the cultures of the New York and L.A. Crips.
Aryan Republic Army (Army Of Hate):
Columbus, Ohio is home of one of the most violent white-supremecist gangs in the country. The Aryan Republic Army wants to overthrow the American government. Once they take over they want to deport all non-whites from the country. The two leaders hid behind masks on their recruitment videos and bankrolled the operation with a brazen series of bank robberies. This episode shows how the gang was brought down.
Hell’s Angels (The Filthy Few):
Most of this we’ve seen here before. This episode covers the Washington State chapter of the biker gang. You get a good deal of history.
Florencia 13 (Shoot To Kill):
It’s back to L.A. and one of its 400 gangs. This time we get a look at Florencia 13 or F-13. It is the largest and deadliest of the Hispanic gangs in the city. Their motto: Armed and ready to go. They run a neighborhood known as the Florence and Firestone District. They came up in L.A.’s South Central Avenue area. Yeah, that’s where Fred Sanford had his junkyard. The area was once primarily black, but over the years it has become increasingly Hispanic. Now it is over 90% Hispanic, and that spells trouble for any black people who still live there. They go hunting for blacks and don’t seem to care if they are in a gang or not. They get their marching orders from The Mexican Mafia. They are one of the nations oldest gangs, dating back to the 1950’s and founded in prison.
Traveling Vice Lords (Road Warriors):
Memphis was the birthplace of the Blues and the home of Elvis. It’s one of the fastest-growing cities in the nation. It is also now one of the most dangerous cities in the nation with one of the highest violent crime rates. Part of this problem can be attributed to The Traveling Vice Lords. They don’t stake out specific turf. They claim the entire city as their own. The gang was actually formed in Chicago and brought to Memphis. One of the few gangs that allows female full members, they’re not afraid to target cops or city officials. They are currently 500 strong and growing fast.
EME (Valley Of Death):
The Phoenix, Tempe and Mesa areas are pretty much one metropolitan area. The area boasts one of the fastest-growing gang populations in the nation. Violence has been on the rise in the land of the sun, and if EME has their way, it’s going to get a lot worse. They control both prisons and the streets. They are willing to kill cops, women, and children. The gang started in California and migrated to the Arizona prison system. Members are expected to learn the Aztec language and culture. They are highly ritualistic and use the ancient language as a way to communicate in the open. They prey on isolated homes and perform brutal invasions. Anyone moving to Phoenix needs to be very aware of these predators.
Black Mafia (Death Before Dishonor):
This is another episode that shows how a gang was taken down. The Black Mafia operated almost as if it were legit. They had billboards and marketing projects. They were heavy into the rap scene and had their own record label. It was a flashy gang dominated by a strong leader who showed off his lifestyle.
Each episode is presented in its original broadcast aspect ratio of 1.78:1. The high-definition image is arrived at through an AVC/MPEG-4 codec. You get a strong bit rate. Much of the footage is raw street stuff and badly-preserved news broadcasts. It reminds me of those old Geraldo specials. The interviews are often against a black background, so again nothing special. Still, it looks as good as the limited source footage allows.
The Dolby DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 is not really anything to write home about. You can hear everything, and the dialog works just fine.
Well… Gangland has finally come to an end. I’m not sure if it was ratings or they just ran out of material. To be honest, by the 7th season there wasn’t a lot new the show had to say. There appeared to be more than a little overlap and I’ve begun to notice that they reused footage from other episodes. The steam was certainly running out. Go ahead and add this one to your collection, because there won’t be any more. The show finally took its own advice: “Go big or go home”.