THE EARLY WARNING
SIGNS OF GANG INVOLVEMENT
Interventions to reduce
youth violence must address a variety of individual and social factors. Violent
behavior is not purely a matter of individual temperament; it also is influenced
by a variety of family, peer, neighborhood, and societal factors. Two lines of
thought about the development of violent and delinquent behavior are prevalent
in the literature. One is that youth who engage in violence have failed to
develop appropriate social skills. They engage in violence because they are
unable to solve problems and satisfy their needs in a more socially constructive
way. The second viewpoint is that delinquent youth are very good at analyzing
and interpreting behavior, but they employ this skill in a socially unsanctioned
way. According to this view, many delinquent youth live in violent and
unforgiving environments and have adopted a violent pattern of response to
survive. From the perspective of these youth, violence is justified if it helps
them achieve a goal or command respect.
Gang Prevention is the
The following is a
list of the early warning signs of possible gang experimentation and
involvement. One indicator by itself does not mean that your child is involved
in gangs. As you will notice, many of these signs can be normal
However, if your child is exhibiting
several of these behaviors, especially those that are more gang specific, such
as using a gang type nickname, wearing a gang affiliated tattoo, or you find
graffiti or other gang writing in their possession, you may well have cause for
To be sure, please call one of the
Community Agencies listed on the Resource Agencies web page and ask to speak
with a "CAT team member". These trained counselors can answer your questions and
concerns about your child's specific behaviors and help you to determine whether
your child may be becoming involved with gang members.
Warning signs include but are not exclusive
DEFIANCE OF AUTHORITY:
Most children express defiant behavior from time to time. However, gang-involved
youth are extremely defiant of authority figures, such as parents and teachers,
including making threats and defying house rules.
CHANGE IN DRESS:Many gangs use a certain style of
clothing, particular colors, sports team logos on clothing, or clothing
accessories to denote gang membership. For instance, a child who does not follow
sports but continually wears a particular sports logo or who wears the same
color combination all the time may warrant further inspection.
NEW FRIENDS:The child may begin to associate
with a new group of friends, often who are significantly older. If this group of
friends all seem to dress in similar styles or colors, they use nicknames, or
your child is reluctant to introduce them, the chances of the child being
recruited into a gang goes up significantly.
DROP IN GRADES:There is a change in school
performance, such as a drop in grades, skipping classes, or getting into more
trouble. Generally speaking, gang members do not like or value academic success.
Good students are viewed as nerds, and are called by the derogatory terms of
"school-boy" or "school-girl." As gang involvement progresses, students may not
be able to concentrate on academics because of late night activities or alcohol
and other drug use.
TOUGH IMAGE:Children in the early gang
affiliation stage begin to act very tough, mimicking the tough, mean, and
aggressive behaviors of active gang members. They may use frequent curse words
and exhibit a defiant posture whenever they are confronted.
STARTS USING A NICKNAME:In the world of gangs, you are not
anyone until you have earned a nickname, such as "Lil Killa", "Sniper", "C-dog",
B-dog", Psycho", etc. Gang members refer to each other by these nicknames. In
some gangs, youth do not know the real names of members, just the street name.
SECRECY:Children who are toying with joining
a gang may hide gang paraphernalia, drugs, or weapons in the house for the
active gang members. They may not want parents to see evidence of their gang
involvement, such as graffiti written on clothing, furniture, or their bedroom
walls, so they insist on more and more privacy. They may try to get a lock on
their bedroom door.
SUDDENLY HAS MONEY:Some youth get involved with gangs
to make money illegally. Parents should be concerned over unexplained money or
material goods such as jewelry, radios, televisions, computer games, etc.
EXCESSIVE SLEEPING:Research indicates that teenagers
naturally need more sleep than adults. However, excessive sleeping may indicate
the youth has been staying out late at night with the gang or is involved with
alcohol and other drug use.
CUTS AND BRUISES:Fights occur more frequently with
youth who are involved with gangs. Be aware of unexplained cuts and bruises,
especially on the knuckles and hands.
TATTOOS:Gang members use tattoos to
demonstrate what gang they belong to. Younger children may begin using a pen or
magic marker to draw gang names or initials on their body. They may also draw
their nickname or use other gang slogans for their tattoos. Older kids may even
carve or brand gang related symbols into their skin. Eventually this behavior
will lead to the individual getting a permanent tattoo.
GRAFFITI:Like tattoos, graffiti gang writing
can be the name of a gang, initials, numbers or symbols that are associated with
a gang. Youth that are getting into gangs will generally have graffiti written
on personal possessions such as books, notebooks, back packs, clothing, bedroom
walls or furniture.
PRACTICING HAND SIGNS AND OTHER GANG BEHAVIORS:Just as youth who are interested in
sports will practice that sport, youth interested in gangs will practice gang
related behaviors. They will usually practice writing the graffiti. Youth just
beginning gang involvement will spend hours practicing the hand signs of a gang.
Some will practice tough or menacing stares, often referred to as mad-dogging,
in a mirror.
ALCOHOL AND OTHER DRUG USE:Gang members and their friends have
easy access to alcohol and other drugs. Some youth get involved with gangs just
WANTING TO BE LEFT ALONE
No long has a desire to be
with family members in the house and starts to withdraw into his/her own room
for long periods of time.
KEEPING LATE HOURS
Going out late in the evening and not returning until 2 or 3 AM or and sleeping
Child becomes disrespectful to parents, elders and those in authority position.
POSSESSING WEAPONS AND OR DRUGS
Found to have drugs and or weapons in their possession on in their room.
Child has new friends who is often in trouble with police, school and/or
community. Associating with a child that always appears to be in crisis or
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information on gangs click on the link below
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