Part II

If you are parent or teacher and you think that gangs couldn’t be present in your neighborhood, think again.  Though gangs are more prevalent in larger cities, they are rapidly expanding into smaller cities and towns.  How exactly do you distinguish a gang?  The Federal Bureau of Investigation, or the FBI, describes a street gang as, “A criminal enterprise having an organizational structure, acting as a continuing criminal conspiracy, which employs violence and any other criminal activity to sustain the enterprise.” In other words, a gang is an organization whose purpose is criminal activity and violence.

Most street gangs are made up of teens and young adults that act together to commit criminal acts.  Most gangs, but not all, sell drugs.  Others commit other crimes to support themselves and the gang, such as robberies and prostitution.  Usually, a gang claims a certain neighborhood, street or area as their “turf,” and they defend it as if at war for the property.  Each gang has their own laws and customs within the gang. Gangs can be identified by their clothing, the way they wear it, as well as the colors, tattoos, graffiti and hand signs.


Some gangs adhere to strict dress codes.  A common gang “uniform” consists of khaki pants with sharp creases ironed down the front of each leg, a white T-shirt worn under a plaid flannel shirt, and a bandana.  The way the clothing is worn and the color of the clothing varies with the individual gangs.  For example, members of some Hispanic gangs wear their shirts buttoned only at the collar, while black gangs wear their shirts open.

Certain gangs also favor one side of their bodies.  For example one gang may favor the left side of their bodies by wearing their hats turned towards the left, the left leg of their pants rolled up and a bandana on their left side.  While their rival gang will favor the right side of their bodies and wear the same type of clothing, on the right side of their bodies.

Gangs openly wear their signifying clothing. Some of the styles the gangs display include:

Baseball hats:

Red or Blue, also Professional sport teams logos

Worn towards one side or backwards


Worn on the head, tied to a belt loop or sticking out of a pocket

Red signifies a Blood gang

Blue signifies a Crips gang


White T-shirts worn under plaid shirts, worn open or button only at the collar.

Pants / Shoes:

Jeans or pressed Khakis

Colored Shoelaces

One pant leg is rolled up

Baggy, oversized pants with boxers showing


Tattoos are not a tell-tale sign that the wearer is a gang member.  Though many gang members do wear tattoos, some do not.  Hispanic gangs frequently tattoo their arms, hands, shoulders, stomachs, back of necks and backs.  The tattoo may be small or large enough to cover the entire back or stomach.  Often, the gang member will have the name of his or her gang tattooed somewhere on their bodies.

Unlike many Hispanic gangs,  black gang members do not usually use tattoos to identify their gang membership.


Some are self- inflicted

Some are very elaborate “artwork”

Teardrops, Spider Webs (On Neck or Next to Thumb)

Tattoos or words on knuckles

Gang names tattooed on body (Back of neck, stomach, back, arms)


Most gangs use hand signs to identify their gang and as a form of communication.  Hand signs are also used to “flash” a warning or a threat to rival gangs.  Some gangs have elaborate hand and body signals, so advanced, that they can have complete conversations without saying a word.  These signs are frequently used when they don’t want others to know what they are about to do.


Gang related graffiti may be the first sign that there are gangs in the community.  Gangs use graffiti as their “newspapers,” their way of marking boundaries and warning rival gangs.  Graffiti may also be used to advertise the selling of drugs.  Or as a means of erecting a memorial to a killed gang member.

Some gang related graffiti signs include:





Artistic drawings of gang’s name

Hard to read-lettering

What are some other signs that signify gang involvement?

1.  Friends are known or believed to be gang members

2.  TATTOOS, possibly self-inflicted

3. Using a nickname or attaching a prefix or “pet” name to their own name

4. Gang graffiti on school books or book backs

5. Using hand signals when talking to their friends

6.  Spending a lot of time away from home

7.  Having money or material possessions that they shouldn’t have.

8.  Showing signs of physical injuries with a poor excuse for how they got them (could be the result of being “jumped in”)

9.   Getting in trouble with the law

10. Losing interest or dropping out of school

If someone displays one or even several of these signs, it does not necessarily mean that they are in a gang.  The Rap Music culture has made the wearing of baggy, over-sized clothing popular among teenagers.  Clothing alone should not be a sole basis for determining gang activity.  For more information on gangs or for specific information on gang activity in your area, contact your local police department.



— original source:

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