Gangs Trade Tattoos for Suits

Members encouraged to keep low profile amid police crackdown
By Caroline Zimmerman,  Newser User
Posted Dec 16, 2007 6:00 PM CST
A Mara gang member who identifies himself as "Smoking," 25, poses for his portrait in prison in Chimaltenango, Guatemala, in this Oct. 19, 2007 file photo. After anti-gang laws were approved in Honduras...   (Associated Press)
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(Newser) – After years of punks with brazen head-to-toe tattoos and baggy jeans, organized crime has a new face: the clean-cut, yuppified mug of a college grad, AP reports. In an effort to keep cops off their tails and increase the bottom line, Latin American gangs are opting for brains over brawn—especially as they contend with widespread crackdowns in Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua.

And college recruiting works because there's more money to be made in a day of working for a gang than a month at an office job. And traditional thugs may have been fearsome professional extortionists, but head-to-toe tattoos make them easy targets. "The police look at us and we end up dead," said one prisoner with a tattooed face.