Inner city street gangs are often made up of minority groups in disadvantaged neighborhoods. Bloods, crips, latin kings, etc are just a fee of these groups that plague their communities and make their money generally by selling narcotics. With little economic opportunities, kids flock to these gangs for a sense of safety power.

As dangerous as they are, they have often been regarded as a nuisance by society. They lack the power and influence of larger organizations such as the National Crime Syndicate that contained the crime families of the Italian mafia or sinatra cartel, and lack the level of sophistication to make them a legitimate threat.

What I need is to take a gang based on these groups to grow into a large, organized crime group that holds nationwide influence, like La Cosa Nostra. How can this be made possible?

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    $\begingroup$ La Cosa Nostra didn't hold nationwide influence, even at the height of their power. And they weren't unified during the height of their power either. $\endgroup$
    – Halfthawed
    Commented Nov 10, 2019 at 4:16
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    $\begingroup$ @Halfthawed I'm referring to the national crime syndicate that connected the Jewish and Italian crime groups in the 30s. $\endgroup$
    – Incognito
    Commented Nov 10, 2019 at 4:19
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    $\begingroup$ Spoiler alert: you are asking us to tell you the Godfather plot. $\endgroup$
    – L.Dutch
    Commented Nov 10, 2019 at 4:20
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    $\begingroup$ If you are interested in American history you should ask on the appropriate forum. Outside the exceptional U.S.A., street gangs are not really all that often made up of "minority" groups and criminal organizations having nationwide influence outside their own criminal environment are a rarity. And even in the U.S.A. there has never ever been a criminal organization having nationwide influence outside the criminal world. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Commented Nov 10, 2019 at 9:35
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    $\begingroup$ @Incognito That particular combination was basically exclusive to the greater New York area. And they only nationwide influence they had was in conspiracy theories - in real life, they were very careful not to rock the boat too much. A good example is when Murder Inc. killed Dutch Schultz, who was going to kill at-the-time US attorney Thomas Dewey. Schultz was liked, but the higher-ups didn't want to anger the US government. $\endgroup$
    – Halfthawed
    Commented Nov 10, 2019 at 18:37

2 Answers 2


Look at history

La Cosa Nostra, Triads, Yakuza, Unione Corse - looking at the historic examples of large crime organisations they have a few common characteristics:

  1. They are crime organisations, not just a bunch of people who commit crimes together.
  2. They have significant support from a large cultural / national / social group in the wider population.

Organisation is relatively easy to come by, all it takes is a strong leader who can sell to his fellow criminals the idea that planning and organisation make life easier for everyone. (OK, it's a little more complicated than that, but competent leadership can turn a gang into an organisation within a few years.)

The far more difficult task is to gain such widespread support from enough of the population that no one in a large portion of the population will even consider opposing / testifying against the organisation. Short-term intimidation tactics will not suffice - sooner or later some key person will have nothing left to lose - support for the organisation must be ingrained into the population from birth. Historically, there have been two ways these organisations have come into being:

  1. A resistance organisation opposes a occupying and/or oppressive regime. Resistance organisations are sadly underfunded by the governments they oppose, so typically they fund their activities through criminal enterprises such as prostitution and drug smuggling. The population support them as heroes opposing the invaders / oppressors. Anyone betraying the organisation is a traitor, dealt with harshly and with full support of the population. Eventually either the reason for resistance fades or the passion for it dies but the leaders running the criminal enterprises see no reason to stop making money and the populace tend to keep supporting it out of cultural inertia.
  2. Disenfranchised / unprotected portion of the population have no recourse to the legitimate authorities when they have grievances. The only source of redress is to appeal to the local crime boss for protection or restitution. Provided the criminal organisation is perceived to be both more just and more feared than the legitimate authorities, the populace will support the criminal organisation wholeheartedly.

There is the answer - in order to become an organisation with nationwide influence, a significant proportion of the population (linked culturally, ethnically or ideologically) must consider the organisation to have greater legitimacy than the actual government. A drug dealing inner city street gang in today's society has no chance of making this leap unless:

  1. the legitimate government has effectively ceased to govern effectively i.e. the only way to get food, sanitation, education and law enforcement is through the gang; or
  2. the nation has been invaded and the gang are the centre of the local resistance.

However... there is one situation I can think of that might be superficially plausible. Let us hypothesise that in your world:

  • there is a preponderance of scientific evidence for human-caused climate change leading to catastrophic global consequences
  • certain governments refuse to accept the evidence and/or take corrective measures
  • a majority of the population believes the scientific evidence and that they or their descendants will die if measures are not taken; and
  • civil disobedience has been ineffective in convincing governments to take action.

A visionary gang leader who is willing to throw his/her "soldiers" and money into the battle for changing environmental practices could become massively influential. They should work on their public profile to downplay the trafficking of "hard" drugs, but even that will not scare off the more hardline environmental activists. (Drugs destroy some lives, but that is peanuts compared to environmental practices destroying the entire planet.) The gangs provide the money and the firepower and the hardline environmentalists provide technical advice and support (eg cryptographically secure communications, intelligence on targets) that are beyond the education level of the typical gangbanger. The less fanatical environmentalists will not support the gangs directly but will no longer testify against them.

Good luck with your gangs. Hopefully the real world will not need them.


Time and Evolutionary Pressure

The gangs might start as kids in the 'hood, shaking down their peers for protection money and selling penny-packets of drugs for larger wholesalers.

As they grow up, many grow out of juvenile delinquency and into more responsible lifestyles. This is an age thing, not just an ethnic thing, except that white frat boys find a more socially accepted way to do crazy stuff in their youth. A younger generation follows, brash and not truly convinced of their own mortality, and the older generation is pushed aside.

Now imagine one gang with a really clever and charismatic leader. One who understands that 'turf wars' are bad for business, and that profits are higher if they are organized enough to sidestep a couple of rungs on the distribution ladder. One who is confident enough to promote capable lieutenants, and smart enough to give them a decent piece of the action while he still lives.


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