The gang landscape has evolved in St. Louis, from the highly organized Crips and Bloods to the loosely affiliated crews of criminals actually at work today, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. The Crips and Bloods are active in major cities such as Chicago, Los Angeles and New York, with higher-ranking members calling the shots on who lives and who dies. In St. Louis, gang members act more as individual entrepreneurs, robbing, stealing, dealing drugs, and burglarizing for their own benefit rather than for the betterment of their organization, said Sgt. Carl Cunningham, who heads the city’s gang unit. “The younger factions do not have clearly defined loyalties and their motives aren’t cut and dry,” he said. “They just happen to come up with a collective name, but it’s about survival of the individual and what the individual needs at any given moment.”
Lamarr Pearson, 29, who has been shot 14 times in four shootings, and who still hangs with fellow members of a crew called the Boys of Destruction despite being paralyzed from the chest down in a shooting, agrees. “Nowadays there’s no role models out here trying to make it all about the gang, or trying to make their gang come up … It’s all about the money now more than anything,” Pearson said. “Before you knew what you were doing and what you were doing it for. Now you’ve got dudes out here killing that have nothing to do with their gang.” The area’s gangs aren’t responsible for the majority of recent violence, experts say. Police estimate that 36, or one out of every five of the 188 homicides in 2016, involved a documented gang member as a victim or suspect. Only about 6 percent of the city’s 2,100 aggravated assaults with guns involved documented gang members as victims or suspects in 2016.