Writing on the Wall: More Graffiti

As a sort of fun follow-on to yesterday’s post on decoding gang graffiti, let’s look at some more examples of graffiti from gangs – and from wannabes, as well. I have a couple of guidelines that I use when evaluating graffiti; the most basic are simple analyses of the graffiti itself. Is is a name – or at least a single, pronounceable word? If so, it’s probably from a tagger, not a gangster. Can it be easily read – are all the letters clear, basic, and unadorned, with no ornamentation or crossing-out? Again, if so, it’s probably not gang-related, though there are rare exceptions. Are there five-pointed stars, six-pointed stars, canes, stylized squiggles that could be pitchforks, or other wierd, quasi-occult symbols present? These are almost certainly signs that you’re looking at gang graffiti.

There are exceptions, however…

Consider this tag, which was placed on Saint Paul’s Wabasha Street Bridge several years ago:

It’s sort of legible, but contains a five-pointed star in a circle. Gang, or tagger? How about this one:

Again, it’s legible, but what about the wierd way “Posses” is written? Was this an attempt at the faux-Germanic script so beloved of gangstas, or was someone making the S’s into dollar signs and got carried away?

In both cases, the answer to “gang or tagger?” is “neither”. These are left by what I refer to as “wannabe gangstas” – probably bored high-school kids with too much time on their hands to watch MTV and play Grand Theft Auto. No “real” gang is going to call themselves a “posse” – and certainly not “posses”, plural. (At least, in most parts of the country; as Robert Walker points out, there are Jamaican “posses”, but they’re far from widespread.) As for the “Mohawk Mafia”, I’m betting it was misfit high-school kids who wanted to be “cool”, and were probably inspired by the Columbine shooters’ “Trench Coat Mafia”. (Note that just because they’re not really a gang, in any meaningful sense, doesn’t mean they’re not a potential security threat.)

Now, in the last post, I mentioned three-digit numbers as a good identifying characteristic of gang graffiti. Here’s an example I pulled from my files:

This is a pretty straightforward tag, and is pretty easy to read. If you just saw the word “dreamer”, you might think it was an artistically-challenged tagger at work. But that number up top casts the whole thing in a somewhat more sinister light. As this incredibly useful page will tell you, “187” is a reference to a section of the California penal code – specifically, the bit about homicide. In this case, what you’re seeing is a very public, very serious death threat towards a gang member called Dreamer.

That was taken about six years ago, on Saint Paul’s East side, during a long, large-scale turf war between two hispanic street gangs. I don’t know who Dreamer is, or was, but odds are good he was one of several people killed during that year-long feud.

That war, for what it’s worth, was between Surenos Trece – “Sur 13” – and 18th Street, usually known as “XV3”. (Roman numeral X, roman numeral V, then 3. I have no idea why they’re never XVIII.) A good idea of how serious things were can be seen here:

Here, Sur 13 had tagged up an abandoned building in their ‘hood with their name, prominently, and then some nice, blatant threats towards the 18th Street kids – that “18K” on the right, where “K” stands for “kill”. Well, as you can see, the XV3s didn’t much care for this, so made a few additions of their own – crossing out the Surenos Trece tags and adding their own (it’s not real easy to read, but it reads WSXV3ST – West Side 18th Street, the specific “set” involved.)

Now, for a little challenge, take everything you’ve (hopefully) learned from these two posts, and see how much information you can glean from this bit of graffiti, found in a park some time back:

(A hint: RFPGB is the “Rollin’ 50s Project Gangster Bloods”, one “set” of the Rollin’ 50s Bloods.)

If you’re interested in this sort of stuff, you should check out this page, or this one. This site is a great reference to most of North America’s gangs, and this one is a good introduction that’s especially strong on the white gangs, including the various skinhead groups.

Peace out, yo. And keeps it real, ya hears? 🙂

(Edit: More here and here and right here.

Published in: Geekiness, General, Security | on May 30th, 2008| 40 Comments »

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  1. On 7/17/2008 at 1:38 pm Rob Said:

    Need info on a tag left on girls car scratched on the hood in new york city upper Bronx white plains road the tag “MMS” many staright symbol scratches on hood of car.

  2. On 8/5/2008 at 10:24 pm Christine Said:

    can you tell me what this means? These letters are written on the street in front of our mailbox. NON.G
    They are painted in yellow.

  3. On 8/5/2008 at 10:36 pm Nemo Said:

    Rob: No idea; gangstas usually don’t key cars (well, they don’t key tags into cars, and “MMS” doesn’t ring any bells. Sorry.)

    Christine: As weird as this sounds, I can not only tell you what that probably means, but who left it, and hint at why. What it means is “NO N.G”, that is – “No Natural Gas”; yellow is the standard utility color-code for gas (and other flammable materials). I’m going to say they were left by your local utility company, and indicate they’ve surveyed a part of your road for gas lines and found none, so someone can dig up the street in front of your house without winding up on the 5 o’clock news after an expensive boo-boo.

    Surprise, you’re probably having sewer or water-main work done soon! 🙂

  4. On 8/14/2008 at 3:39 pm Jim Goetzinger Said:

    I have Graffiti that I believe is Sur13. There are three dots, one over two in the tagging. Does anyone know the significance of the three dots? *
    * *

  5. On 9/2/2008 at 2:14 pm JS Said:

    The three dots can symblise a few things “Mi Vida Loca” or it is also used by members of UBN (United Blood Nation) The three dot represent a dogs paw. Hope this helps.

  6. On 9/28/2008 at 1:00 am nemo Said:

    So what does the last picture mean? I understand it to be a threat by the Rolling 50’s project ganster bloods aka 50’z towards the Crips (referred to as the Crabs). Is this correct.

  7. On 10/8/2008 at 10:16 am amy turner Said:

    we recently had DBG, T-BEAST, and K-DOG painted in black and white on several school buses,houses, cars and buildings. Can you tell me what they mean?

  8. On 10/19/2008 at 6:20 pm Theresa Said:

    Just recently graffiti showed up on a building behind our church. None of it seems to make sense to me anyway. There is a five point start with 5 in the middle T at the top R to the right L bottom right o bottom left and M upper left. Also, EASD, RIP TYE Grip Killer, Young Blood, 9NINE a three with a one through the center, Solomon 013. I can e-mail you a picture. What does it all mean, if anything. Is it gang related or just some kids?

  9. On 1/19/2009 at 3:38 pm bridget Said:

    What do the letters FNR in bubble type mean? A box van in our neighborhood was tagged this past weekend.

  10. On 5/26/2009 at 1:53 am sally Said:

    found what to me looked like a tag on the front door of my apartment building it was ^EKO^ there are two arrows pointing up on both sides side and an “x” directly in the center of the O. does any one know what this may stand for particulary the O with the small in the center
    please let me know if you have any idea

  11. On 6/29/2009 at 7:16 pm The_Yakima_Kid Said:

    Found some weird stuff painted on the sidewalk in Newark, CA. $$M – with the $ signs appearing to have originally been painted as the letter S; all in bright green. Beneath it is CBC, with the first C reversed.

    Can you help?

  12. On 6/29/2009 at 10:08 pm Nemo Said:

    $$M is probably SSM. What that means, I’m not really sure; usually when you see “SS” together in graffiti, it means “South Side”. South Side Mafia, maybe?

    CBC is almost certainly the “Crazy Brother Clan”, about which Google can tell you much.

    For what it’s worth to anyone who might happen to read this, a really good way to ID gang tags is to search “(gang tag) gang site:myspace.com” in Google. If the tag is a gang, there’s a pretty good chance there’s at least one banger fairly prominently representin’ on MySpace.

  13. On 7/14/2009 at 3:09 pm Ana Said:

    Hi My son’s car was tagged with SVP XII do you know of any gang this might be afflicated with. We live in SJ, Ca.

  14. On 7/14/2009 at 3:22 pm Nemo Said:

    SVP XIII would be the “Sur Valle Pajarito” gang.

  15. On 9/15/2009 at 1:57 pm martin m. rodriguez Said:

    what does veynz with the z looking like dollars sign mean?

  16. On 9/22/2009 at 2:13 pm Rick Said:

    In Elkhart Ind. we have some gangs that use the letters SMW do you have any idea what this means? I have been instarmental in helping our local police dept. remove drug houses and some gangs from our town. But no one seames to konw what SMW means.

  17. On 9/22/2009 at 2:40 pm Nemo Said:

    Rick, if I had to guess, without seeing pictures, I’d say it’s either the abbreviation for a small local (asian?) gang, the abbreviation of a tagger crew’s name, or you’re interpreting it wrong (i.e. it’s not SMW but SNIW or SMVV or… you get the idea)… or it’s actually “MWS” upside down, or it’s something involving a 3 or an E sideways… you get the idea, I guess. Nothing immediately springs to mind regarding any of those, sorry…

  18. On 11/12/2009 at 1:43 pm Harry Said:

    I recently got into a disagreement with a guy who I think is a Gangmember. This arguement occured in the parking lot at my business location.
    The following morning/day the letters “DCK” was written on my company sign two times. Also the words “OAKSTER CROOKS” I would like to understand the meaning of this. Please inform me. Thanks

  19. On 12/6/2011 at 12:57 pm curious Said:

    I have seen the number 13 with an arrow as part of the number, the lower portion of the 3 is an arrow, painted on fences and buildings in Fla. Can you identify it?

  20. On 4/27/2012 at 5:59 am Anonymess Said:

    I could tell you have no idea on some of these graffiti…

    But, 187 could mean several things nowadays and not just murder even though 187 usually refers to California gang since it’s a CA number. The “dREAMER” graffiti is probably a diss to Piru.

  21. On 7/6/2012 at 5:14 am Debbie Said:

    I have letters on the wall in are laundry room, Brown paint Letters are h with a line curved facing down threw the h part then AR , what does it stand for,

  22. On 10/24/2012 at 4:04 pm Kelly Said:

    A capital V with a dot on each side and one in the middle of the V. Any idea on who or what that could be?

  23. On 11/14/2012 at 6:37 am mary Said:

    What does a tag mean that looks like a u attached at the top of the u to a straight line and circle on the bottom… the u and circle are on the left side.. and it is in yellow

  24. On 2/4/2013 at 10:39 am Tracy Wild Said:

    I am following graffiti activities on a corner where my son was shot 6 years ago. Recently, there’s been a tag: KOW5H (dot happy face). This was written tio the right of the gang tag, which is LM26 (Lomas 26th St.) and GRAM 10. I have a picture, if you’d like. I’m very interested to know the meaning of this and would appreciate anything you can tell me. Thank you very much.

  25. On 3/28/2013 at 2:07 pm Glenn Martin Said:

    K4a all over my neighborhood. New graffiti. Latin Kings? Can you provide some insight? Thank you!

  26. On 5/14/2013 at 6:53 am Giles Said:



    Can anyone help with this vandalism in the national park?

  27. On 9/12/2013 at 5:29 pm Jessica Said:

    My garage was tagged last night it has a simple 3 pointed crown then “u5k” and “187k” what does this mean?

  28. On 9/28/2013 at 3:00 am Jeff Said:

    The side of our house in Elkhart, IN was spray painted with the letters, “IGC” last night. Does anyone know what this means? Has it happened to other property owners? Any information is greatly appreciated!
    Thank you!

  29. On 11/5/2013 at 2:25 pm tom Said:

    saw this tag in the neighborhood today – can you give a meaning??
    vl.Gl.T.K. s3 in front of the s are 3 dots one over two. This is in Colorado Springs, CO

  30. On 12/22/2013 at 3:16 am Me Said:

    What does this tag on the back side of an apartment building mean? 2 verticle lines with 3 dots on the right side of the lines.

  31. On 1/21/2014 at 9:28 am Ken Said:

    I work in a Juvenile Detention center and have recently observed a few inmates tagging “778”, not sure what it stands for. Can anyone help?

  32. On 3/1/2014 at 4:13 am Kairi Said:

    Our garage recently got tagged… It looks like either #B or #R.. We have cameras outside our garage and were lucky enough to have it caught on tape, but we still were wondering what the sign could mean… If it was a gang sign or not or if it was just some weird spray paint. It was in black spray paint by the way.

  33. On 5/4/2014 at 11:48 am michele Said:

    can anyone tell me what STK with a underline with an arrow at end of the undermean means and the word SYKE WITH TWO UNDERLINES UNDERNEATH AND SOME KIND OF CIRCLE WITH A SMALLER CIRCLE IN IT ON TOP OF THE Y IN SYKE MEANS? so it reads syke stk thanks

  34. On 7/1/2014 at 9:12 am Red Said:

    Maybe the “187 Dreamer” tag was left by a Conservative Vice Lord who opposes the DREAM Act? I’m on a roll here! LMAO!

  35. On 11/4/2014 at 9:34 pm Russell Said:

    Just found what looked like the word FATAL written in stick letters on our mailbox. There is a squiggly horizontal line underneath the word with a half circle on the right which makes it look like an arrow (pointing to our house) The top horizontal lines of the F are closed on the right making it possibly a P. There are 2 short vertical lines like quotation marks through the top part of the F/P. Above the TA is an elliptical circle with a dot inside at 1pm position. On the L there is a short upstroke on the horizontal line with a horizontal quotation mark through the upstroke.

    This is very unusual for our neighborhood. We have teenage boys living on both sides of us both Caucasian.

    I have a photo but don’t see any place to attach it.

  36. On 12/16/2014 at 3:09 am denyea hlton Said:

    i work in a bar in fellspoint,baltimore,md .more so upper fells point,last night someone tag the door STK in white paint on the side door to the up stairs.got my boss thinking “bad news” anybody know anything…i searched it and some kind of clothes line or something came up ???? no clue!!!!any help is appreciated

  37. On 3/26/2015 at 3:24 am amy Said:

    Am from California by Fresno I’ve been seeing a lot of graffiti I know a lot of the local gang taggings sur13 and xiv note crops n bloods and all the lil crews u break off from them but lately I’ve been seeing “p” gang can some one tell me what it stands for is it short for ppl pocos pero loco are is p gang a crew of its own just wondering cuz it could be a click fromdown south I live by Fresno ca

  38. On 10/19/2015 at 4:05 am God Said:

    What does an S engraved into the sidewalk mean?

    Saw an S engraved in to the side of a curb where people paint numbers.

  39. On 11/20/2015 at 1:50 am Todd Said:

    what does D arrow pointed up and I mean?

  40. On 1/10/2016 at 2:12 pm steve Said:

    Ok down the road there is a symbol of a cock and balls on a wall. WTF is someone trying to say? kids? or something else?