The Nazi Low Riders are a white supremacist gang that started out in California as enforcers for the Aryan Brotherhood before being recognized in the early 1990s as an independent organization. They are known to be very violent and dangerous.
The Anti-Defamation League says the group got its start in California juvenile detention facilities but now has a presence in federal prisons as well as in many states, primarily in the Southwest. Its report cautions that gangs in different states may use the same name without being officially affiliated as a single entity. While that organization’s report says the gang is shrinking, another assessment of the Lowriders says membership has spread to Illinois and Florida from its roots in California. Although they boasted 1,000 members in California, a major crackdown in 2003-2004 included 200 indictments that sent a majority of the members underground.
A law enforcement source says in 1998 there were at least 1,000 NLR members in prison and another 1,500 on the streets of California in addition to 2,500 members in other states.
Because the group is recognized as an organized gang prison officials are able to segregate members to quell gang activity inside prison. The result isn’t always as desired because gang members have developed sophisticated methods for continuing to run drug trafficking operations and even retribution against enemies from inside prison walls.
The Lowriders have a well-defined hierarchy, with senior members, junior members, and “kids” who are associated. Each tier requires a certain amount of time before one may progress to the next rung. In order to move from junior to senior member status, a person must wait five years and have the tacit approval of three senior members.
The Nazi Low Rider’s symbol is a skeletal eagle holding a swastika. Members typically have tattoos of the “N.L.R.” acronym on their bodies as well as swastikas or “S.S.” for the brutal Nazi death squads. The military has added these insignia to their slideshow warning recruiters about gang members trying to get into military service in order to steal weapons and make black market contacts.
Some suggest that the swastikas and other tattoos displayed prominently are effective for gang leaders to control their “soldiers”. When a person is adorned with such prominent tattoos that advertise their prejudices and potentially violent behavior they are unlikely to qualify for many jobs and will, therefore, remain on the streets, extorting businesses and trafficking drugs rather than being lured away from the gang by a more traditional lifestyle.
There is a gang subculture and brotherhood called Peckerwood, which encompasses poor whites, including Aryan Brotherhood, Nazi Low Riders, and similar organizations. Among Southern California gangs, the Nazi Low Riders are the most organized and perhaps admired Peckerwood group. According to a probation hearing for a man convicted of murder, he claimed the Peckerwoods required him to harm a person who had molested children.
The Southern Poverty Law Foundation, which tracks white supremacist gangs, notes that there may already be a fatal flaw in the Nazi Low Rider organization: they are not supremacist enough to deny membership to Hispanics nor do they distance themselves from drug trafficking as the Aryan Brotherhood appears to do. By making these exceptions the group does not appeal to hardcore white supremacists and fails to stand out among the hundreds of other gangs that sell drugs.
The Nazi Low Riders’ primary affiliation is with the gang Public Enemy Number One (PEN1).
Gangs are known to make temporary and permanent affiliations with other gangs to expand membership, territory, or just to facilitate drug sales.
Although they are known as a white supremacist organization, the Low Riders have allowed Hispanic members from the beginning. Most believe that Blacks will never be part of the organization, and the Low Riders have displayed violent animosity toward homosexuals.
An arrest of a Nazi Low Rider member in Rogue River, Oregon, included body armor, stolen semiautomatic weapons, and heroin. Police warned that Thomas Anderson was acting alone but had a large impact on drug trafficking in the area. There are Sureno and Norteno gang members in the area but few white supremacist gang members.
Proof that gang members aren’t limited to violent crime and drug trafficking was the arrest of a Lowrider member in a scheme to skim credit card numbers. Blaine Andrew Porlas, the gang member, was arrested along with 10 others from various gangs, on federal charges of stealing credit card numbers and using them in several stores across Southern California. Narcotics charges also applied to some of the defendants.
Federal law enforcement officials have found many traditional street gang members involved in white collar crime in recent years and surmise that prison time is shorter for thefts than it is for drug trafficking, which can be attractive to criminals, yet conspiracy charges often add years to their sentences.