The Blood gang is an African-American gang founded by Sylvester Scott in Compton, California in 1972 in response to attacks from Latin-based gang members of the Crips. Members of black gangs called one another “Blood” to show solidarity. As the Crips’ attacks became more violent and numerous, the Bloods became an umbrella organization for various gangs to unite in their opposition to the Crips.
The Bloods started as a street gang but migrated to prison as members were charged with crimes.
The Bloods is comprised of smaller gang chapters called “sets” with independent leadership. Former ethnic and racial divisions no longer hold, and the Bloods may be Hispanic, black, white, or any combination.
In South Carolina, the Gangster Killer Bloods are a violent set of the larger group. Sets may greet one another with “signs” that involve intricate combinations of fingers crooked at precarious angles. Initiations generally include a verbal allegiance to “blood in, blood out” meaning lifetime affiliation with the gang until death, then a beatdown by other members.
The United Blood Nation is the East Coast branch of the Bloods umbrella group, having started as a way to protect black prisoners at Riker’s Island New York from Latin gangs. The gang spread when members were released and sent back to their communities.
The Bloods are estimated to have 8,000-15,000 total gang members across all chapters.
The Blood gang culture consists of expensive cars, drug use and sale, the color red and the refusal to pronounce the letter “c” to demonstrate their hatred for the Crips. Pop culture has glamorized “thug life,” and celebrities like Cardi B and Ice-T have admitted their past gang affiliations with the Blood and the Crips (respectively).
In a National Geographic documentary about gang warfare in south-central Los Angeles, the Crips are shown wearing blue bandanas and Bloods wearing red.
The Bloods rely on the sale of crack cocaine for the purchases of guns, escalating the warfare between the rival gangs.
The Crips use fancy cars as recruitment tools for getting high school kids to join as members.
The Bloods Brooklyn, New York leader Ronald Herron was sentenced to several life terms in prison for drug trafficking, murder, and firearms offenses. As important as such convictions are, other gang members commonly fill the spaces left by jailed leaders, and the leaders themselves go on to recruit new members in the federal prison system. Atlantic magazine describes even the toughest “max” prisons as places where criminals thrive on a network of corrupt guards and secret languages, often conducting widespread drug and criminal businesses from behind bars.
The Bloods-Crips rivalry was responsible for roughly 600 deaths per year in 1990 in Los Angeles; one particularly brutal incident involved spraying gunfire throughout a playground on a warm summer evening when children were playing. The Bloods also killed four men on the corner of Harvard Park in Los Angeles regardless of their gang affiliations.
Former NFL player (New England Patriots) Aaron Hernandez was a member of the Bloods, according to records kept when he was in prison for murder.