What is a gang?
Proposed definition of Street Gang
A gang is a group of three or more persons who follow common beliefs, code of conduct, name, and identifier, have a general geographic territory, has a formal or informal hierarchical structure, and attempts to accomplish their goals individually or collectively by means of Criminal Activity.
Gangs are involved in crimes such as but not limited too
- Drive by shooting
- Narcotics trafficking
- Auto theft
- Home invasions
- Arson – Bombings
- Weapon violations
- Aggravated Battery
What is the general gang membership structure?
- Potentials or “Could-be’s,” These are youngsters who are getting close to an age where they might decide to join a gang, live in or close to an area where there are gangs, or have a family member who is involved with gangs. Potentials do not have to join gangs; they can choose alternatives and avoid gangs completely.
- Claimers, Associates or “Wanna-be’s” Average age 11 – 13 years old, but may vary. These young people are not officially members of a gang but they act, walk, talk, and attire, hang around with gang and become involved in some of its activities.
- Regular Members Average age 14 – 17 years old; however could be much older or younger. They are already initiated in to the gang. Tend to back up the hardcore gang members. If they survive long enough, they could become hard-core.
- Hard-Core Comprise about 5 to 10% of the gang. They are in the longest and frequently are in and out of jail, unemployed, and involved with drug distribution and use. Average age is early to mid twenties; however some are older or younger. They are very influential in the gang.
Why do gangs use graffiti and what does it mean?
As gang activity increases so does their graffiti. Graffiti has been called the “newspaper of the streets.” Each gang has its unique symbols and cryptic types of writing. Graffiti is not artwork: it is sophisticated communication that publicizes the gang’s power, status, delineates territory, sends messages, and warns intruders. Graffiti upside down or crossed out is generally a “put down” or threat to a rival gang or person. “Death warrants” for police officers are known to have been posted with graffiti.
What do you do about gang graffiti?
First the graffiti must be read and interpreted for danger signals.
Second, it should be photographed.
Then, a police report should be made for tracking purposes.
Finally, the graffiti should be removed to reduce the likelihood of continued violence.
Gang graffiti left unchecked can be dangerous. Remember it can communicate an outright threat against an opposing gang or person.
What are gang colors and gang signs?
Color refers to a gang member representing his/her membership by wearing a specific gang logo, particular colors of clothing, and a specific brand name of clothing or clothing worn in a predefined manner. This may also include hairstyles, jewelry, or even the way a person stands, walks or folds arms and hands. Colors identify the gang member and show member pride and affiliation.
Hand signals and gang slang are a means of communication. Symbols formed and flashed with fingers, hands, and body have very specific meaning to the gang. The same goes for buzz words or phrases. Remember all of these may be area or geographic region specific and meanings may vary.
What are some typical pre-gang behaviors?
Gang involvement does not happen overnight. It is a gradual process and if you are alert you will see the signs.
- Poor progress or achievement in school
- Truancy from school
- Lack of hobbies or too much leisure time
- Frequent contact with authority figures or police
- Draws gang insignias/symbols
- Problems at home
- Lives in neighborhood where gangs exist
- Friends are gang members or “dressing down” or “Sagging and bagging” in gang attire
- Begins dressing in traditional gang clothes
These items are characteristic of gang involvement. However, some people who join or associate with
gangs do not dress in the traditional attire and do not exhibit conspicuous behavior to show gang involvement. Parents must be aware of the behavior and activities of their children. Continual monitoring of behavior and positive verbal communication between parents and young people is a must for gang membership prevention.
What can Parents do?
- Know your children’s friends
- Know about who and what influences your kids
- Know what your children are doing at all times
- Become involved with them and occupy their time