The Sureño gang, whose members allegedly took over an octogenarian widow’s apartment in San Francisco’s Mission District, is an increasingly violent menace in the Bay Area, police and gang experts said.
Some street gangs operate for profit. But Bay Area Sureños—though they sell drugs, steal cars and attack and rob people—primarily care about gaining respect and dishing out disrespect to rival Norteños, authorities said.
Although the case of 84-year-old Ellen Gutierrez is unusual, the experts said it highlights the devastating impact of gang culture on a community such as the heavily Latino Mission District.
Police have said the alleged Sureños found in Gutierrez’s apartment—which was in the heart of what is considered Sureño turf—used lookouts to spread the word when social workers or police arrived.
“It’s the Hatfields and McCoys, and they’ve been at it so long they don’t even know why they’re shooting at each other anymore,” said Sonoma County sheriff’s Lt. Matt McCaffrey, who oversees the county’s gang task force and agreed that the Norteños and Sureños are becoming increasingly violent.
McCaffrey said he often gets the same response when he questions a Sureño about his motive for a violent act: “He’s a Norteño.”
There are Norteños groups centered at 22nd and Bryant streets and along 24th Street. The groups don’t try to take over each other’s turf, but instead work to disrespect it. Tactics include everything from graffiti to drive-by shootings.