To a lot of people, gangs are considered the scum of the earth. A gang is a group of individuals who claim a certain territory as theirs. More often than not, these gangs come together to commit illegal acts. Some of the most powerful gangs in the world are capable of influencing the political climate of their territory. They’re able to almost literally control every aspect of their territory, much to the horrors of the innocent people who already live there. In this article, I’m going to be talking about the top ten most dangerous gangs in the entire world. Each of these gangs is seriously powerful, and they’re capable of doing a lot of damage. Without further ado, let’s jump right into this list of dangerous and powerful gangs as of 2022.
#10 – Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13)
Mara Salvatrucha, also known as MS-13, is an international criminal gang that originated in the LA area in the 70s and 80s. Their original purpose was to protect Salvadoran immigrants from other gangs. Since then, however, they’ve grown into a more traditional criminal organization, one that’s known for its cruelty. Not only are they active in the United States, but they also have members in Mexico, Canada, and Central America.
What’s more, is that most of their victims are minors. In 2017, two of their members were arrested for drugging, kidnapping, raping, and torturing of a 14-year-old girl in Houston, Texas. And in 2020, one of the gang leaders in Virginia was given the death penalty for a similar crime.
Government officials, police officers are frequent targets as well. In fact, the Department of Justice filed terrorism charges against MS-13 in 2020.
#9 – 14k Triad
The 14K is a Hong Kong-based triad group that’s active internationally. As of 2022, they’re one of the largest Chinese criminal organizations in the world with over 20,000 members. Besides China, they also have a presence in Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Toronto, Vancouver, and Sydney, among other countries.
In addition to large-scale drug trafficking (mainly opium and heroin), which is their primary source of income, they’re also involved in loan sharking, contract murder, illegal gambling, human trafficking, prostitution, counterfeiting, and other criminal activities.
Their boss, Wan Kuok-koi aka “Broken Tooth”—who had been jailed back in 1999 for a host of charges—was recently blacklisted by the U.S. as part of the latest round of anti-corruption sanctions. That hasn’t stopped them from getting into trouble with the law, however.
#8 – Sinaloa Cartel
The Sinaloa Cartel, also known as the Guzman-Loera Organization or the CDS, is a large international gang that’s involved in drug trafficking, money laundering, weapons trafficking, kidnapping, and murder. As of 2022, they’re based in Culiacan, Sinaloa, however, they’re also active in the Mexican states of Baja California, Chihuahua, Durango, and Sonora. They also have a notable presence in California, Ohio, Utah, Arizona, New York, Illinois, Washington, and several other U.S. states.
Within the United States, they’re primarily involved in the distribution of MDMA cocaine, cannabis, heroin, and methamphetamine (they distributed nearly 200 tons of cocaine and heroin between 1990 and 2008). Not only that, but they’re also the main supplier of illicit fentanyl in North America.
And in Mexico, they’re the most dominant drug cartel—something that’s been true since the late 2000s.
#7 – Bloods and Crips
The Bloods is an African-American street gang that’s identified by the color red. Members also like to identify themselves through tattoos, graffiti, jewelry, and hand signs. And there are several “sets” or individual chapters, each of which has its own leaders.
Aside from drug trafficking, they’re also involved in murder, burglary, auto theft, assault, fraud, and extortion. They’re not just active in the United States either; they also have a presence in Canada.
The Crips is one of the most violent street gangs in the U.S. They also happen to have a long rivalry with the Bloods. In fact, the latter was originally created to compete against their influence. In addition to drug distribution, they also benefit from larceny, pimping, illegal gambling, and the selling of illicit firearms.
#6 – Los Zetas
Los Zetas was originally founded by Mexican special forces deserters—some of whom had trained in the United States. One of the most dangerous drug cartels in Mexico, they’re known for engaging in brutally violent crimes such as torture, beheadings, and murder. Not only that, but they also run gun-running and sex trafficking rackets.
They’ve carried out numerous attacks on civilians as well. In 2011, they were involved in the San Fernando massacre, which killed nearly 200 people. It’s also likely that they’re responsible for the 2011 massacre in Allende, which killed between 300 to 500 civilians.
#5 – Eighteenth Street Gang
The 18th Street gang, also known as Mara 18 or Calle 18, is a multi-ethnic (predominantly Mexican and Central American) criminal organization in Los Angeles. According to the US Department of Justice, they’ve “turned the Central American northern triangle into one of the highest homicide rate areas in the world.” They’ve been linked to murders, arson, assaults, human trafficking, and prostitution, in addition to several other crimes.
While they mainly operate in Southern California, they’re also active internationally in Canada, Spain, the United Kingdom, Australia, France, Chile, Peru, and Mexico. Members can be identified by the symbols XVIII, XV3, X8, 99, or 666 and the colors blue and black, the latter of which pays tribute to the Mexican Mafia.
#4 – The Bamboo Union
The United Bamboo Gang is the largest criminal triad in Taiwan. Most of their members are Mainland Chinese and have ties to the Kuomintang, or the Chinese Nationalist Party. For this reason, they’re often said to be motivated by political ideology. While they call themselves “businessmen, they’re involved with many criminal activities including drug trafficking and organized killing. However, they don’t view themselves as criminals—rather, they see themselves as patriots.
As of 2022, the organization is headed by Huang Shao-tsen (spiritual leader) and Huang Shao-tsen aka “Yao Yao” (functional leader). Although they don’t follow a strict rank-and-file system, they do have a code of ethics that all members must follow. Senior figures are also given the honorific “Big Brother” or “Da Ge” suffix.
#3 – Aryan Brotherhood
The Aryan Brotherhood, also known as the AB or the Brand, is a neo-nazi crime syndicate that’s based in California. One of the most notorious prison gangs in the US, they have over 20,000 members both inside and outside prisons.
They typically engage in activities such as extortion, drug trafficking, arms trafficking, murder-for-hire, and male prostitution. Members can be identified by various symbols, terms, and images including swastikas and shamrocks.
In order to join, new members must take a pledge or sweat a blood oath. For example, it’s not uncommon for some individuals to kill rival inmates. They’re then on probation for one year before becoming a full-fledged member.
#2 – Latin Kings
The Latin Kings is one of the largest Latino and Hispanic prison gangs in the world. Founded in the 1950s, they’re active in numerous US states including Delaware, Illinois, Florida, Indiana, Michigan, Massachusetts, and New Jersey. That’s not all, they also have a presence in Spain and Canada.
In addition to drug trafficking, they’re also involved with money laundering, homicide, burglary, and identity theft. That’s not all, they’re also known for ordering violent attacks on rival gangs. Some leaders have also ordered hits on correctional and law enforcement officers.
#1 – Cosa Nostra
The Sicilian Mafia, sometimes referred to as Cosa Nostra, is an Italian criminal syndicate that’s been around since the 19th century. They consist of several criminal groups or “families”, which share a common code of conduct and organizational structure. Their core activities include protection racketeering, smuggling, illegal gambling, money laundering, fraud, kidnapping, and loan sharking.
They’re also involved with murder, which is almost always carried out by members; they will never recruit an outsider for the job. In fact, their power comes from their reputation to commit violence against anyone.
Unlike other gangs, however, membership is only open to Sicilian men. To become a mafioso, one must be tested for courage, discretion, ruthlessness, and obedience. For example, they’re almost always required to commit murder as part of the trial process, even if they don’t plan on becoming a career assassin.