The gangs of Los Angeles and Southern California emerged in the late 1960s and early 1970s. As gangs such as the Crips and the Bloods grew in size, their criminal activities and bitter rivalries engulfed whole neighborhoods. By the time of the crack cocaine epidemic of the 1980s, the gangs all but ruled whole swathes of the city, and today many have morphed into international criminal organizations that easily rival established crime syndicates such as the Italian Mafia, the Chinese Triads and the Mexican drug cartels. Here we take a look at twenty astonishing gang photos from the 1980s and 1990s that really capture the spirit of the age.

The Mock Execution

Here we see members of the Grape Street Crips pointing their sawed-off shotguns at the back of the head of a young child. All is not what it seems in this truly shocking image, however. The gang members are in fact staging a mock execution for the purposes of taking a good photo. The child is a willing participant.