Getting involved in gangs is a very dangerous and often destructive activity for teens, yet it happens on a regular basis. Whether parents realize it or not, their children can be at risk to join gangs. The reasons that kids join gangs are complex and varied. Parents need to understand that prevention is an important key to controlling gang activity within our community and one of the best ways to do this is to learn the warning signs of gang involvement or membership.
The following are some of the most common signs of gang affiliation:
Changes in the child’s behavior.
Not associating with long-time friends and being secretive about new friends and activities.
Changes in hair or dress style and/or having a group of friends who have the same hair or dress style.
Changes in normal routines with new friends, such as not coming home after school or staying out late at night with no explanation.
Suspected drug use, such as alcohol, inhalants, and narcotic.
Unexplained material possessions such as expensive clothing, jewelry, money, etc.
The presence of firearms, ammunition, or other deadly weapons.
Change in attitude about school, church, or other normal activities.
Discipline problems at school, church, or other attended functions.
Lower grades at school or skipping school.
Change in behavior at home-increase in confrontational behavior, such as talking back, verbal abuse, name calling, and a disrespect for parental authority.
A new fear of police.
Phone threats to the family from rival gangs (or unknown callers) directed against your child.
Photographs of your child and others displaying gang hand signs, weapons, cash, drugs or gang-type clothing.
Graffiti on or around your residence, especially in a child’s room such as on walls, furniture, clothing, notebooks, etc. May also include drawings and “doodling” of gang-related figures, themes of violence, or gang symbolisms. When looking; over a child’s homework reports, be alert for the letters “B” or “C” to be crossed out or inverted, or these same letters being used improperly, or to replace one another, such as the word cigarette being spelled “bigarette”.
Physical signs of being in a fight, such as bruises and cuts and secrecy on the child’s part as to how they were received.
A new found sense of bravery-brags that he/she are too tough to be “messed” with.
Use of a new nickname.
A new-found sympathy or defending of gang activity by your child.
Tattoos or “branding” with gang-related symbols.