Street Gangs: A Guide To Community Awareness


INTRODUCTION

This information is to help parents determine if their child is either at risk
in becoming associated with or is involved in gang activity. Indicators of gang
association outlined in this brochure may generally fit a variety of youths. If
parents observe more than one indicator, they should talk to their child about
their concerns.

WHAT IS A GANG?

A gang is a group of three or more people who associate together, have a common
identity and engage in criminal or delinquent activity. The gang may use a name,
color, clothing style, tattoos, or other items to identify themselves. A gang
may or may not claim control over a certain territory in the community.

WHY PEOPLE JOIN GANGS

There are many reasons people join gangs. Attention, excitement, peer pressure,
protection, and financial gain are a few. In some families, gang membership is a
tradition. Other people become gang members because they think gangs are trendy.
Many youths do not realize the risks and hazards of gang involvement.

Parents may not be aware of their child\'s involvement. Parents should discuss
gangs with their child and actively discourage gang association.

SIGNS OF GANG ASSOCIATION

Parents should be aware of behavior changes in their children. Such changes
include; a decline in grades, truancy, graffiti in the youth\'s room, on school
folders or on clothes, wearing of certain style or color of clothes, breaking of
curfew, change in friends, drug and/or alcohol use, or possession of money or
items that a parent cannot explain. Involvement of your child with a group of
their friends in delinquent or criminal behavior may be another sign. Some gang
members devise hand signals to communicate with other gang members. Use of such
signals should alert parents to possible gang association.

GANG PARAPHERNALIA

CLOTHING:

Style shows the group that youths associate with. The particular color, type of
clothing, shoes, hats, or the way the clothing is worn can be a warning sign.
Look for the symbols, messages, graffiti or gang names written or embroidered on
jacket, pants, shoes or baseball caps.

COLORS:

Various colors may be signs of gang association. Red may be used to show
association with the Bloods or Northern California Hispanic Prison gangs. Blue
may be used to show association with the Crips or Southern California Hispanic
Prison gangs. Black clothing may be worn by a variety of gang associated youths.
Some Hispanic gangs, White Supremacist gangs and some "Heavy Metal" gangs wear
this color.

GRAFFITI:

Graffiti appears on books, posters, bedroom walls, interior of vehicles, doors
and furniture. You should discuss any graffiti you find with your child first,
then remove it. The graffiti may be a gang member\'s name or the name of their
gang. It may include members\' nicknames, or be a declaration of loyalty to a
particular gang. Hispanic gang graffiti often uses block lettering that is
exaggerated or has reversed letters.

JEWELRY:

Accessories may be worn to signify gang association. It may be expensive or
inexpensive. Belt buckles, bracelets, necklaces, key chains, earrings, and rings
are all commonly used. Some gang members wear dice earrings to show the "set"
they are associated with. Others may wear a certain color earring to show their
gang association.

PHOTOGRAPHS:

Pictures of your child with other gang members is a clear indicator. These
photos may show members displaying hand signs, weapons, colors, clothing styles,
or flashing money. Photographs may show your child singularly displaying these
indicators.

WEAPONS:

Parents and the community should be aware that youths involved with gangs
commonly carry weapons. The weapons may be baseball bats, tire irons, spiked
wrist bands, a pipe, "martial arts" weapons, knives, "look alike" pellet guns,
and guns. These types of weapons have been seized from youths involved in gangs
in this county.

HOW GANGS FUNCTION

Gangs thrive on intimidation and publicity. Violence is common in gangs and is
used to maintain its status. Gangs depend on both individual and group
participation. An individual will be pressured by others in the gang to maintain
their status.

Legitimate groups elect a leader. A gang\'s leadership generally depends on who
is the toughest, natural leader or who has access to weapons or money. It also
may be based on who has the best skills for what the gang wants to do at that
time. A good fighter may lead on a night that they are going to fight, a good
thief when they want to commit a theft.

Gangs will have a name or common identity. The name usually comes from their
town, a street, an area, or their phone area code, housing project, rock bands,
cults, or personal beliefs of the members. The gang name is