The Crips gang originated in Los Angeles in 1969 when teenagers Stanley Tookie Williams and Raymond Washington decided to unite their two gangs under one umbrella to provide power in numbers, protection and sell drugs. The Crips major rival gang is the Bloods, and since the death of both founders in 1980, the two gangs have been at war.
The Crips have between 35,000 – 50,000 gang members spread across the country in different “sets.”
Crips founder Tookie Williamswas a bodybuilder who inspired kids as young as 10 or 12 to join the Crips and taught newcomers to rob and kill randomly. He was sentenced to death at San Quentin for four murders around 1980. In 1979 Washington was shot dead.
The Crips leaders Williams and Washington were charismatic, drove flashy cars and had lots of money; they were considered heroes in the neighborhoods. Then rappers and celebrities elevated their status even more by imitating their gang culture, swagger, jewelry and clothing and writing songs about them.
The Crips ongoing battle with the Bloods became brutal in 1980 – often over turf or colors but mostly over the drug trade in Los Angeles as both gangs started selling highly addictive crack cocaine. The homicide rate rose to around 600 murders per year in the city. Murder is often an initiation rite for gang members, and newcomers who wanted to impress gang leaders would do so randomly and with shocking depravity to show how tough they were.
The Crips gang color is blue,often signified by a blue bandana that could be worn over the face when committing crimes. They were known to murder innocent civilians just for wearing red, the color of their enemy the Bloods.
Many Crips gang members have tattoos of the numbers “2 11”if they’ve killed a rival Blood member. The numbers stand for BK, or Blood Killer. Tattoos of crowns are also common among the Crips, as are tattoos of hands throwing gang signs, or symbolic gestures.
Two Crips leaders Eric Smith and Raphael Osborne were imprisoned in 2017 for racketeering in New York as an effort by the FBI to crack down on gang violence and weaken the drug trade.
The War on Drugs of the 1970s through 1990s affected urban black youth disproportionately, sending many to prison for small-time drug possession and dealing while the real dealers escaped prosecution. Time in prison exposed these young men to gangs and more efficient ways to buy and sell drugs, preparing them for careers in illegal deals when they were released.
The Crips are responsible for killing Former NFL player and president of the player’s association, and would-be broadcast commentator Kermit Alexander’s mother, his sister and two other children in 1980. The man who killed Alexander’s family is still alive, 35 years later. Alexander wrote a book about the experience that affected his life for decades.
The Crips were also responsible for the death of 9-year old Tyshawn Lee in Chicago in 2015, when gang members lured him into an alley and executed him with several gunshots. The brutal murder was payback for a gang-related incident. A 27-year-old convicted felon, Corey Morgan, was arrested for the crime.