Who belongs to gangs?
Gangs can affect anyone, regardless of where they live or what school they attend. Young people from all walks of life join gangs. Some gang members drop out of school, while others may be excellent students. Research shows that the following factors are common indicators that a young person may be involved in gang activity:
• Youth admits to gang membership
• Is under 21 years of age and is identified as a gang member by a parent/guardian
• Is identified as a gang member by a reliable source
• Resides in or frequents a known gang area, uses a gang's hand signs, colors, or tattoos, and/or associates with known gang members
• Has been arrested more then once with or in the company of known gang members for crimes that are consistent with gang activity
• Has been stopped by the police more than four times while in the presence of known gang members
How to identify gang members
The following are some common indicators to look for if you suspect your child may be involved in gang activity. These indicators are not a guarantee that your child is involved in a gang. The only way to know for sure is by communicating with your child. Below is a partial list to reference.
• Frequent disciplinary problems at home/school or frequent contact with police.
• Drawing graffiti or using gang hand signs.
• Not associating with long time friends/secretive about new friends/activities.
• Changing normal routines/not coming home after school/staying out late at night.
• Photographs with others displaying gang signs, weapons or gang-type clothing.
• Using a new nickname.
• Refusing to take part in family activities.
• Drinking alcohol/using drugs.
• Unusual mood swings or patterns of behavior.
• Sudden, unexplained increase in material possessions.
• Obsession with a particular color of clothing or desire for a particular logo.
• Using different-colored shoelaces.
• Unusual writing, markings, numbers, symbols or street names on shoes, jeans or inside hats. .
• Wearing clothing of sports teams that use similar colors or logos of the gang.
If any of these signs are present, you should not automatically conclude that your child is involved in a gang. Instead, you should talk with them to determine whether or not they are involved in a gang and, if so, at what level. Only by communicating with your child will you know for sure.
Protecting your child from gang involvement
• Supervise your children’s activities and know their friends. Insist on meeting your children’s friends and make every effort to get to know their parents. Discourage your children from hanging around with gang members. Make sure you how your children are spending their free time. Check up on your children occasionally to make sure they are doing what they say they are doing. Do not allow your children to stay out late or spend a lot of unsupervised time out in the streets.
• Get your children involved in supervised, positive group activities. These might include after-school programs or clubs, athletics, the arts, or volunteering with community groups. Find activities that interest your child and that help your child to develop a sense of belonging.
• Develop good communication with your children. It is important to develop good communication with your children so that if they have a problem, they will know they can come to you. Good communication is open and frequent, and it takes on a positive tone. Talk to your child, and take the time to listen to what your child is telling you. Make no topic off limits.
• Spend positive time with your children. Plan activities that the whole family can enjoy, but also find a way to spend time alone with your children. Make sure that you regularly praise your child and encourage and support your child emotionally.
• Become involved in your children's education. Put a high value on education and help your child to do his or her best in school. Keep in close contact with your child’s teachers and let your local schools know about any concerns you might have.
• Clearly and continually begin to express to your children at an early age your disapproval of gangs and gang-related activity. Let them know that you think gangs are dangerous and that their well-being is very important to you.
• Keep your children from attracting the attention of gangs. Do not buy or allow your children to dress in gang-style clothing. Teach your children to walk away if gang members approach them and to avoid using gang gestures. Do not allow your children to write or practice writing gang names, symbols, or any other gang graffiti on their books, papers, clothes, bodies, walls or any other place.
• Learn about gang and drug activity in your community. Gangs take different forms in different communities, and the gangs in your community may look and act very differently than those you see on television or at the movies.
Learn how gang members in your community dress and speak, and find out about the kind of activities they are involved in. Attend information meetings and read articles related to gang activity. Contact your child's school to find out if gangs are active there.
For additional gang information visit: