The Avenues hasn't always been a violent gang. Little is known about the Flores brothers, who started it as a club in the 1940s. Members sported gang tattoos that included a skull with a fedora and a bullet hole in the skull, or the letters LA, AVES, A and Avenidos. They dressed well, and many wore Frisco pants. In the early days, it was more of a neighborhood group of guys who hung out together. They settled fights with their fists. Back then, the gangs' rival was the Clover Street gang. As time went on, the Avenues got bigger and more violent and changed for the worst in 1969.
"We went to Vietnam, and the guys started to learn how to shoot," said LAPD Northeast Senior Lead Officer Joe Galindo, who grew up with the Avenues in Highland Park. Soon disgruntled members formed a new gang in neighboring Cypress Park. Drive-by shootings became commonplace. The death toll rose. The introduction of drugs into the mix by the Mexican Mafia, or La Eme, in the 1980s accelerated the homicide rate.
The Avenues have cliques, each of which claims a gang territory based on where gang members live. The three main cliques are 43rd Aves, Avenues 57 and Cypress Avenues, all centered on the streets for which they are named.
By the early 1990s, the Avenues drew the attention of federal authorities concerned about the Mexican Mafia's bid to extend the group's influence outside of California's prisons as well as the deadly infighting for control that ensued after the death of Mexican Mafia cofounder Joe Morgan, a one-time resident of Eagle Rock who died of cancer in prison. Although the Mexican Mafia has only a few hundred members, it has power over most of the 80,000 members of Southern California's Latino street gangs, including the 800-plus Avenues. Street gangs abide by the rules of the Mafia, and in turn the Mafia provides protection for gang members when they are incarcerated. The Mafia controls the distribution of narcotics and earns revenue by taxing drug dealers in areas controlled by gangs. Failure to pay taxes is death, and there is a rule against cooperating with law enforcement. Allegiance to the Mafia is first, above family, religion and community.
NorthEastLA is another old region in LA barrios. Its most famous, and perhaps most infamous gang is the Avenues or Avenidas gang, which is named after the numbered avenues off of Figueroa. They themselves are two ar even more gangs in one consisting of 43rd Avenues and Cypress Avenues. These two gangs at first did not get along but later joined together for convenience. The 43rd allegedly broke off of Hazards and the Cypress allegedly broke off of Frogtown. They are a very large gang in numbers and are the PDs worst nightmare.