Public Enemy No. 1 (street gang)

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Public Enemy No.1
Founded 1986
Founding location Long Beach, California, U.S.
Years active 1986-present
Territory California, Arizona, Idaho and Nevada
Ethnicity White Americans
Criminal activities Drug trafficking, arms trafficking, assault, identity theft, murder, dog fighting
Allies Aryan Brotherhood
Nazi Lowriders

Public Enemy No. 1 (abbreviated as PENI), also known as PENI Death Squad (or PDS), is a racist skinhead prison and street gang based in Southern California, United States.[1][2] The California Department of Justice in 2004 described it as "one of the most powerful and fastest-growing gangs inside and outside prison"[3] and said it had about 200 members statewide. Its main activities include identity theft, credit card fraud and methamphetamine sales.[4]


Background and origins[edit]

The formation of the group was greatly influenced by members in the hardcore punk rock scene in Long Beach, California during the 1980s.[5] However, by the 1990s, PENI’s base of operations was in Orange County where they began recruiting white suburban adolescents.[5] They have ties to the prison gangs.[6]

Criminal activity[edit]

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.[5]

Symbology and identification[edit]

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.[7]

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.

Popular culture and media[edit]

TV documentaries[edit]

  • Gangland, Season 6, Episode 14: Public Enemy #1



  1. ^ Simi, Pete; Smith, Lowell; Reeser, Ann M. S. (October 13, 2008). "From Punk Kids to Public Enemy Number One". Deviant Behavior. Volume 29, Issue 8: 753–774. 
  2. ^ "Public Enemy Number 1 (PENI)". Anti-Defamation League. Retrieved April 17, 2018. 
  3. ^ "Racist gang caught in sting kept a list of Orange County police targets", San Diego Union-Tribune, December 17, 2006
  4. ^ "Hit list led to wave of O.C. arrests", Los Angeles Times, December 16, 2006
  5. ^ a b c "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
  6. ^ "Hit list led to wave of O.C. arrests", Los Angeles Times, December 16, 2006
  7. ^ "737 | Numeric Hate Symbols | Racist Prison Gang Symbols". Anti-Defamation League. Retrieved April 17, 2018. 

External links[edit]