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Title: Sureños  
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Subject: Gangland (TV series), Sureños, Tongan Crip Gang, Logan Heights Gang, Gangs in the United States
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Sureños, Sur13
Founded 1968[1]
Founding location Southern California
Years active 1968–present[2]
Territory 35 States in The U.S. primarily in Southern California, Texas, Kansas, North Carolina, Mexico, some parts of Central and South America.[3]
Ethnicity Mexican-American, plus multi-ethnic [2]
Criminal activities Murder,[2] drug trafficking,[2][4] extortion,[2] assault,[2] theft, robbery,[2] fraud, human trafficking[4] and arms trafficking.[5]
Rivals Norteños,[6][7] Nuestra Familia, Latin Kings,[8] Asian Boyz,[9]

Sureños, Sur 13, or Sureños X3 are groups of loosely affiliated gangs[10] that pay tribute to the Mexican Mafia while in U.S. state and federal correctional facilities. Many Sureño gangs have rivalries with one another and the only time this rivalry is set aside is when they enter the prison system.[4][6][11] Thus, fighting is common among different Sureño gangs even though they share the same common identity. Sureños have emerged as a national gang in the United States.[5]


The Sureños' main stronghold is in Southern California. They have heavy presence in California, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. They have a small presence in the midwest, specifically in Chicago. They have spread as far east as [4][5][6] They have been confirmed in 35 different states in the U.S.[3] They are with the Gulf Cartel.

The statewide north-south dividing line between Norteños and Sureños has roughly been accepted as the rural communities of Delano and Bakersfield, California.[14]


The term "Sureño" means Southerner in Spanish. Even though Sureños were established in 1968, the term was not used until the 1970s as a result of the continued conflict between the Mexican Mafia and Nuestra Familia in California's prison system.[4] As a result of these prison wars, all Hispanic California street gangs align themselves with the Sureño or Norteño movement with very few exceptions such as the Fresno Bulldogs and the Maravilla gangs of East Los Angeles.[2] When a Sureño is asked what being a Sureño means, gang members, in absolutely all cases and without any exceptions, answer, "A Sureño is a foot soldier for the Mexican Mafia."[15]

On 2009, members of the Sureños were charged in the deaths of rival Norteño gang members Alvaro Garcia-Pena and Intiaz Ahmed. One member of the Sureños pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 25 years in prison. Other members from the Sureños gang received other sentences for their involvement in the shooting.[16]

In 2010, 51 Surenos were arrested in a California Narcotics Sting. The investigation identified eight Sureno gangs involved in various criminal activities, including the distribution of narcotics. The investigation also resulted in the seizure of more than 19 pounds of methamphetamine, a methamphetamine conversion laboratory, 1.5 kilograms of cocaine, small amounts of crack cocaine, 25 pounds of marijuana, 35 firearms, and $800,000 in currency and property. The charges against the gang members were; conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine, cocaine and marijuana, street terrorism and firearms violations.[17]


While "sur" is the Spanish word for south, among Sureños SUR also stands for Southern United Raza.[18] Sureños use the number 13 which represents the thirteenth letter of the alphabet, the letter M, in order to pay allegiance to the Mexican Mafia.[3][4][19] Common Sureño gang markings and tattoos include, but are not limited to: Sur, XIII, X3, 13, Sur13, uno tres, trece and 3-dots.[19] Although there are many tattoos used by Sureños, there is only one tattoo that proves or validates membership. The word Sureño or Sureña must be earned.[4] Most Sureños are of Mexican descent, but some Sureño gangs allow members from various other ethnic backgrounds to join their ranks making Sureños multiethnic.[4]

Criminal activity

Graffiti, also known as tagging, is used to disrespect a rival gangs territory

Sureño groups are involved in every aspect of criminal activity including homicides,[2][20] drug trafficking,[2][21] kidnapping, and assaults.[22] They are also heavily engaged in human trafficking.[4] There have been many high profile criminal cases involving Sureños in a variety of states. Their primary focus is the distribution of various forms of narcotics and carrying out orders handed by the Mexican Mafia. Police departments have a difficult time dealing with this gang because of its decentralized hierarchy at the street level. Law enforcement attempts to limit the influence of the Mexican Mafia over the various Sureno street gangs have been met with little success. By the late 1990s, a federal task force was set up in order to investigate the gang's involvement in illegal drug trade; this resulted in the arrest of several of its members. The authorities confiscated thousands of dollars in drugs and money, as reported by the Los Angeles Times and local news channels. The group has historically quarreled with various rival gangs for placement and competition, which has resulted in many drive-by shootings and deaths. On August 24, 2004, a law enforcement preliminary injunction terminated the active members of the 38th Street gang, out of the streets, banning them from using firearms, alcohol, graffiti and other dangerous materials in public.[23]

See also


  1. ^
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Milkman , H. B., & Wanberg , K. W. (2012). Criminal conduct and substance abuse treatment for adolescents: Pathways to self-discovery and change. (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, Inc
  3. ^ a b c Barkan, S. E., & Bryjak, G. J. (2010). Fundamentals of criminal justice, a sociological view. (2 ed.). SudBury, MA: Jones & Bartlett Publishers.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i
  5. ^ a b c Federal Bureau of Investigation, National Gang Intelligence Center. (2011). 2011 national gang threat assessment – emerging trends. Retrieved from website:
  6. ^ a b c Womer, S., & Bunker, R. J. (2010). Strategic threat: narcos and narcotics overview. Small Wars & Insurgencies, 21(1), 81-92. doi: 10.1080/09592310903561486
  7. ^
  8. ^ Hewitt, R. (Director) (2009). Gangland season 4, ep. 9 "Dog Fights" [Television series episode]. In Pearman, V. (Executive Producer), Gangland. Los Angeles, CA: A&E Television Networks.
  9. ^
  10. ^
  11. ^ Larence, E. R. (2010). Combating gangs: Federal agencies have implemented a Central American gang . Washington, DC: United States Accountability Office.
  12. ^
  13. ^
  14. ^
  15. ^
  16. ^
  17. ^
  18. ^
  19. ^ a b
  20. ^
  21. ^
  22. ^
  23. ^

External links

  • The University of Maryland on gangs
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