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Norteños: Prison Gang Profile


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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.

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 the other.

Outside California

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 inmate violence.

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 space,"
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 Modesto Bee.

"Operation Crimson Tide targets gang network: Nuestra Familia targeted," By Rob Young, 03 June 2010, Appeal-Democrat (MCT).

" 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.




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