Gang members communicate in many different ways. They have their own language which contains phrases, hand signs, tattoos, markings, and graffiti. Markings may include scars, burns, symbols, and tattoos. The initial clue that someone may be affiliated with a gang is color of clothing. Usually, a gang member can be identified by what “colors” they wear. Sometimes the “colors” correlate with the colors of a sports team. Street gangs are targeting young people at an earlier and earlier age. It is critical that parents, teachers, and community mem- bers recognize the signs of gang involvement. Gangs often leave evi- dence of their presence to “mark” their territory.
General Warning Signs
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Wearing certain colors and sports team apparel Special hand signals Change in behavior or deviant behavior Grades drop/truancy New “friends” Phone calls from unknown people Unexplained money and jewelry Slang terms Drawing symbols and graffiti on books, clothing, and walls Nicknames and street names Evidence of drug abuse Carrying weapons Admits membership
Why do kids join gangs? Each case is individual, but some reasons include:
Security, protection and a sense of belonging
Lack of family, community, or youth support system (too much unsupervised time)
Sense of status or respect Living in a gang infested community or having family mem-
bers in gangs