Public Enemy No. 1 (street gang)
|Founding location||Long Beach, California, U.S.|
|Territory||Orange County, California|
|Criminal activities||Drug trafficking, arms trafficking, assault, identity theft, murder, dog fighting|
Public Enemy No. 1 (abbreviated as PENI), also known as PENI Death Squad (or PDS), is a prison and street gang birthed in Long Beach, California and now based in Southern California, United States. In 2004, the California Department of Justice described it as "one of the most powerful and fastest-growing gangs inside and outside prison", and reported it had about 200 members statewide. Its main activities include identity theft, credit card fraud, and methamphetamine sales.
Background and origins
The formation of the group was greatly influenced by members in the hardcore punk rock scene in Long Beach, California during the 1980s. However, by the 1990s, PENI’s base of operations was in Orange County where they began recruiting white suburban adolescents. They have ties to the prison gangs.
PENI is notoriously heavily involved in identity theft, which is not a crime often associated with street gangs; most of the income from this is allegedly used to finance methamphetamine sale and other operations. Originally they did this by raiding mailboxes and trash cans for personal information, but the gang later used contacts inside of banks, mortgage companies and state motor vehicle departments in order to gain access to credit profiles. This has led to law enforcement officials requesting that their personal information be removed so that it can't be used by gang members to identify home addresses of police officers. One of the gang's founders; Donald "Popeye" Mazza, became a made member of the Aryan Brotherhood.
Symbology and identification
The gang uses the numeric symbol "737" to indicate association with the gang. The numbers correspond to the letters P, D, and S on a telephone keypad. The initials stand for PENI Death Squad, another name for the group.
Members often mark themselves with tattoos of different acronyms for the gang. Designs commonly include the words "PENI", "PDS" or the numbers "737", and sometimes in the form of runes, such as "ᛈᛖᚾᛁ" (PENI) or "ᛈᛞᛋ" (PDS), from Germanic runic alphabets.
In popular culture and media
- The gang is featured in the TV documentary series Gangland, season 6, Episode 14: Public Enemy #1
- In the crime-thriller feature film Shot Caller (2017), stock broker and family man Jacob Harlon (played by Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) causes a fatal DUI accident and is sentenced to prison, where survival requires him to get mixed in gang life and associate with PENI gang members
- "The Long Beach origins of one of California's most notorious white power gangs • Long Beach Post". lbpost.com. Retrieved 2019-03-12.
- Simi, Pete; Smith, Lowell; Reeser, Ann M. S. (October 13, 2008). "From Punk Kids to Public Enemy Number One". Deviant Behavior. 29, Issue 8 (8): 753–774. doi:10.1080/01639620701873905.
- "Public Enemy Number 1 (PENI)". Anti-Defamation League. Retrieved April 17, 2018.
- "Racist gang caught in sting kept a list of Orange County police targets", San Diego Union-Tribune, December 17, 2006
- "Hit list led to wave of O.C. arrests", Los Angeles Times, December 16, 2006
- "Alliance adds to gang's clout: Public Enemy No. 1 rumored though not true to be teaming with Aryan Brotherhood", Associated Press, cited by San Diego Union-Tribune, March 4, 2007
- "737 | Numeric Hate Symbols | Racist Prison Gang Symbols". Anti-Defamation League. Retrieved April 17, 2018.