Norteños: Prison Gang Profile
Meaning "Northerners" in Spanish, the Norteños
originally identified with the agricultural and rural parts
of northern California. Police identify them by the color
red, in contrast to the color blue that the Sureños identify
with. Traditionally rivals with the Sureños and the Mexican
Mafia who mostly came from the Southern parts of California,
the Norteños originated sometime in the 1960's in the northern
California prison system.
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Norteños and Sureños have been in conflict with one another
since the 1960s. The Nortenos pay taxes to the Nuestra Familia
in prison, while the Surenos pay taxes to the Mexican Mafia.
In fact, in many parts of California, the Norteños are known
by police to be essentially a street-level faction of La Nuestra
Familia. Police and Department of Corrections officials claim
that La Nuestra Familia and the Mexican Mafia use smuggled
telephones and coded letters to communicate with Norteños
and Sureños on the street, respectively.
The Norteños are known throughout the entire state of California,
most notably San Franciso, Oakland, Los Angeles, Modesto,
and Yuba, Sutter, Colusa, Yolo, Solano, Sacramento and Stanislaus
counties. They became known in Solano County, California,
with the first Norteño-linked homicide in 1994. Yuba City
Police arrested five Norteño members in 2004 for murdering
several Sureños members, which allowed La Nuestra Familia
to gain ground in the city. The Norteños have a faction called
the Broderick Boys in Sacramento. In Traver, California, they
have a faction known as Traver Barrio Rifa.
Fairfield police issued a gang injunction against the Norteños
in 2010, signaling a growing trend of police injunctions that
are occurring throughout California since the first gang injunction
was issued in 1987. A San Francisco injunction against the
Norteños in San Francisco in 2007 attempted to restrict 30
specific gang members from associating with one another. Gang
members caught by police engaging in several restricted activities,
such as loitering with other Norteño members, can face 6 months
in jail. However it is unclear just how "successful"
such injunctions are in limiting the gang's activities. Evidence
of gang membership is often difficult to attain, and the personnel
required to enforce the injunctions is high.
Ex-Norteños members have spoken out about the injunctions
not tackling the root of the conditions that lead poor and
alienated youth to the attractive support networks that ethnic
gangs promise. Groups such as Homies Organizing the Mission
to Empower Youth, in San Francisco, is one such organization
that engages with these issues. Spokespersons for the organization
say that Hispanic gangs like the Norteños provide an identity
for youth that society is not able to provide in one way or
They have long since expanded from prisons in California
and are known throughout the United States, both on the street
and in prison.
Idaho Department of Corrections has blamed overcrowding for
recent growth in gang violence in its prisons, and specifically
blame certain Hispanic gangs, such as the Nortenos. The Nortenos
have been blamed for disturbances at the Idaho Maximum Security
Institution south of Boise, as well as the privately-run CCA
prison in Oklahoma. Gang members make up about 8% of Idaho's
prison population, but are responsible for roughly 80% of
Police say that the Nortenos are in almost every community
in the state of Wyoming, as well as in the prison system.
Rival gang members such as the Nortenos and Surenos often
have to be separated by corrections staff.
" Rising gang violence in Idaho prisons further cramps
By JOHN MILLER, 31 October 2007, Associated Press.
"Gangs are for real," By Michael Van Cassell, 10
June 2008, Wyoming Tribune-Eagle (MCT).
"Suing for Peace: Injunction sought to limit Norteños
gang's activities on home tuf," 28 June 2009, The
"Operation Crimson Tide targets gang network: Nuestra
Familia targeted," By Rob Young, 03 June 2010, Appeal-Democrat
" Zone of controversy ; City attorney's effort to combat
gang violence by legally restricting alleged Nortenos on a
huge swath of turf draws mixed reactions," Demian Bulwa,
27 October 2008, The San Francisco Chronicle.
"Gang suspect surrenders; Man accused in pair of recent
crimes," By Dylan Darling, 23 June 2010, Record Searchlight.