The Latin Kings street gang was formed in Chicago in the 1960s and consisted predominantly of Mexican and Puerto Rican males. All members of the gang refer to themselves as Latin Kings and, currently, individuals of any nationality are allowed to become members. The gang's primary source of income is the street-level distribution of powder cocaine, crack cocaine, heroin, and marijuana. Latin Kings continue to portray themselves as a community organization while engaging in a wide variety of criminal activities, including assault, burglary, homicide, identity theft, and money laundering.*
When respondents were asked to identify the general characteristics of the Latin Kings, they demonstrated a lack of knowledge about the way the gang is organized and operates. Of those who could answer these questions with some certainty, very few described them as more structured or organized than an average street gang. This is noteworthy because the Latin Kings
were once regarded as one of the more organized street gangs. About one-third (34%) of municipalities reporting the presence of the Latin Kings in 2010 also reported them in 2007 and 2004. Those gang sets present in all three surveys have an average size of 30 members. As for relations with other gangs, one-third (33%) of Latin King sets were identified as cooperating with gangs in other jurisdictions, a slightly smaller proportion than the 37% statistic for all gangs statewide.
With an average of 15 members per set, 15 municipalities reported the Latin Kings as either the most serious or most actively recruiting gang in their jurisdiction. That number was consistent with previous surveys, which listed the Latin Kings 18 times in 2007 and 16 times in 2004. Only three municipalities identified the Latin Kings as the most serious problem and/or most actively recruiting in both 2007 and 2010.
(Figure A) The Latin Kings were reported in 106 municipalities throughout 19 of New Jersey’s counties. One municipality – Plainfield – reported the presence of three distinct Latin King contingents. Contrastingly, there was a complete absence of Latin Kings in Newark. The 2007 survey the Newark Police Department cited more than 200 members in their city, but their absence in 2010 is due to the absence of incarcerated gang members being accounted for (Figure H). Forty-two municipalities (40%) reported the presence of Latin Kings in schools in their jurisdictions, including three municipalities where the Latin Kings were identified as the only gang present in schools: Cherry Hill, Kearny, and Lopatcong. Also, four towns identified Latin Kings in their schools but did not identify the gang as present in their jurisdiction: Teaneck, Westampton, Hightstown, and Bridgewater. Of those reporting a Latin King presence in schools, 34 municipalities (81%) reported gang-related incidents occurring on school property.
Drug crimes were not reported in particularly large numbers among the Latin King sets, though there is a broad spectrum of drug types for those who are involved. A quarter (24%) of all Latin Kings gang sets in the state are reportedly not involved in any king of drug trafficking. The most frequently cited drug distribution was marijuana (31% of Latin King sets), cocaine (26%) and heroin (19%) all on a retail level.
Assaults (38%) and aggravated assaults (35%) were the violent crimes most frequently attributed to Latin King sets. More than half (58%) of all Latin King sets had no violent crime attributed to them: a proportion only slightly higher than for all gangs identified in the survey.
Latin King sets involvement in theft crime activity was both broad and shallow, as it covered 11 of the 19 specific theft crimes but no individual crime attributed to as much as a fifth of Latin King sets. Residential burglary (18%), vehicle theft (14%), and robbery (13%) were the only reported theft types engaged in by more than 10% of Latin King sets. More than two-thirds of Latin King sets (67%) were not reported to be engaged in any theft crime, about the same as the response for all gangs.
Latin King sets were reported to have minimal involvement in miscellaneous crimes. None of these crime types were attributed to even 10% of Latin King sets, although weapons trafficking was the most frequently mentioned with 10 sets statewide (9%).