Graffiti: Marking a territory
Editor's Note: Because of a production error, this story was cutoff in Sunday's edition of the Appeal-Democrat. It is presented again in its entirety.
A wall in Yuba City - like a huge canvass waiting for an artist's brush - told the story of the rivalry between the Norteños and Sureños street gangs.
The wall, on the west side of a storage unit complex under construction on Lynn Way between Market and Plumas streets, had been
finished only for a few days when Norteños graffiti, mostly in red, began appearing: "LO" for Locos Only, a clique of the Norteños, and the number 14, which stands for the letter N, the 14th letter in the alphabet and the first letter of "Norteños." The Roman numerals XIV often are used instead by Norteños.
A few days later, some of it was crossed out in blue by Sureños who left their own words and the number 13. The letter M is the 13th letter of the alphabet and stands for Mexican Mafia, the Southern California gang from which the Sureños emerged.
The West Side Myrtles, a relatively new addition to the local gang scene and a clique of the Sureños, also are represented on the wall, as well as someone whose "moniker" is Lil Joker, one of the most common nicknames used by gang members. Others are Bobo, Chuey, Spider, Raunchy, Turkey, Wino, Diablo, Flaco and Snake, according to information provided by John D. Summers, an investigator for the Yuba County Superior Court.
The graffiti was to be obliterated last week by Graffiti Busters, a church-based group that works with police to try and keep Yuba City graffiti-free.
According to information provided by Yuba City police Officer Al Ortega, who is Yuba City High School's school resource officer and an authority on local gangs, graffiti serves several purposes. It identifies the gang and its territory, glorifies the gang and immortalizes gang members who may have died for the cause. It also serves as a sort of "underground newspaper" for gangs.
When red Norteños graffiti, for instance, is crossed out in blue, the color of the Sureños, it's a challenge and an indication that two gangs are fighting.
Gangs use graffiti to brag about crimes they have committed. It is not unusual to find graffiti at the scene of a burglary, stabbing or murder, according to the street gang unit of the San Diego Police Department.
The number 187, the California Penal Code section on murder, next to a someone's name or nickname means that person is targeted for retaliation, according to the department.
Appeal-Democrat reporter Rob Young can be reached at 749-4710. You may e-mail him at email@example.com.