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Parents Guide to Gangs 






Parents we are enclosing the following information from the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency for you.  The information below is a reprint posted by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency  titled "A Parents’ Guide to Gangs from the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency”.


Parents should watch for these behaviors of your child;

 The early adolescent years (12-14 years of age) are a crucial time when youths are exposed to gangs and may consider joining a gang. 

Youths who are becoming involved may exhibit the following behaviors; 

  • Unusual interest in one or two particular colors of clothing or a particular logo.

  • Interest in gang-influenced music, videos and movies.

  • Particular drawings or gang symbols on schoolbooks, clothing, notebooks or even walls.

 Negative changes in behavior, such as; 

  • Withdrawing from the family.

  • Declining school attendance, performance, or behavior.

  • Staying out late without a reason.

  • Unusual desire for secrecy.

  • Confrontational behavior, such as talking back, verbal abuse, name calling, and disrespect for parents authority.

  • Changes in attitude about school, church, or other normal activities or change in behavior at these activities.

 Drastic changes in hair or dress style;

 ·        Or having a group of friends who have the same hair or dress style.

 Withdrawal from longtime friends;

·        Forming bonds with an entirely new group of friends.

Suspected drug use;

·        Such as alcohol, inhalants, marijuana and narcotics. 

The presence of firearms;

·        Ammunition, or other types of weapons.

Non-accidental physical injuries; 

·        Such as being beaten or injuries to hands and knuckles from fighting.

Unexplained cash or goods;

·        Such as cash or jewelry that you know the child has no legal access to.

Common gang identifiers;


·        Gang-style clothing and dress;

 ·        Gang members may use a particular style of dress to identify with a particular gang, set, clique, or crew. This might include clothing or bandanas worn only in certain colors that are representative of a gang or group.


·        Other clothing that might be worn by gang members could include pants worn well below the waist (sagging); gang-themed T-shirts with pictures of gang members. Prison scenes, graffiti, or slogans; two-or three toned bead necklaces; sports clothing of a specific teams; or colored fabric belts, occasionally with a metal buckle that includes the initial(s) of the gang.

 ·        However, gang clothing trends change and may be different from one place to the another, so clothing alone may not be enough to indicate a child’s affiliation with a particular gang, though it can be a clue. 


 ·        Many gangs use one or more colors as a symbol to represent their gang. These colors may be worn on shirts, bandanas, multicolored or single-colored beads, belts, hats, shoes, shoelaces, headbands, jewelry and other items. 

      Symbols and Numbers;

 ·        Some symbols and numbers may have special significance within the gang culture in a particular area.

·        A few common symbols from some of the large gangs in the United States are stars (five-six pointed), crowns, pitchforks, (pointed up or down), three dots in a triangle, and numbers.


      Contact your local law enforcement to get specific information on 

      the meaning of unidentifiable symbols or numbers that you may

      see in graffiti or clothing in your area.

 Sports Items;

 ·        Letters, colors, or symbols have a specific meaning in local street-gang culture, such as Kansas City Royals ( KC=Kill Crips ).

·        Sports items may be purchased in a nontraditional color to correspond with the gang’s colors or may be altered with graffiti or extra symbols or writing.


 ·        Gangs use graffiti to mark their territory, brag about their reputation, mourn fallen members, and threaten or challenge rival gangs.  For this reason, graffiti can be very dangerous and should be removed as soon as possible. Youths who are participating in graffiti may have items such as spray paints, spray-paint plastic tips, wide-tipped markers, or sketchbooks with graffiti works in progress and may have paint on their clothing, backpacks, or other items.


 ·        Tattoos are used to show an individual’s loyalty to his/her gang.  These tattoos often include the name, initials, or symbols of the specific gang and may be found on the hands, neck, face, chest, or arms.

Hand signs;

 ·        Some gangs use specific hand gestures to communicate their affiliation with the gang and issue threats or challenges to rival gangs.

Gang-influenced music and movies:

 ·        Gangsta/gangster rap is a style of rap music characterized by violent, tough-talking lyrics that glorify street-gang culture. Many popular movies also focus on street gangs and their activities. Youths may show their interest in gangs through fascination with music and movies that portray street-gang culture.

What Parents Can Do; 

  •  Talk to your children about gangs and ways to avoid them.

 ·        Let them know that you disapprove of gangs and do not want to see them hurt or arrested.

 ·        Get to know your children’s friends and the friends’ parents.

 ·        Be aware of their attitudes toward drugs, alcohol, and gangs. When children start to feel pressure to use drugs or join gangs, it usually comes from their friends.

Tell your children not to;

 ·        Associate with any gang members.

 ·        Hang out where gangs congregate.

·        Attend any party or social event sponsored by gangs.

·        Use any kind of hand or finger signs that may be meaningful to gangs.

·        Wear clothing that may have meaning to gangs in your area.

 ·        (Explain to your children that these clothing items can put them in danger and that you will not purchase them or allow them to be worn.  If you are not familiar with these items, contact your local law enforcement agency for more specific information about gangs in your areas.)

  Talk to your children about ways to deal with pressure from friends;

·        Help your children practice simple ways to respond to peer pressure.  For example, if you child is challenged by a peer who says, “If you are my friend, you would,” your child can respond, “If you were my friend, you wouldn’t ask.”  Then, he/she should walk away.


     Set firm limits with your children and teens;

 ·        Children and teenagers need to know clearly what is expected of them and the consequences for acting otherwise.  Do not rescue your children from the consequences of their decisions.


    Plan family time;

 ·        Make time for your family to play, eat meals together, take trips (even to local parks or activities), keep family traditions, and have family meetings to talk about plans, feelings, and complaints.