EOPD Gang Awareness

East Orange Police Department

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Gang Members

Gang Graffiti

Crip Tatoo's

Crips Flashing Signs

Gang Symbol
gang symbol = f - - k you


The content of Gangs OR Us is owned and copyrighted by Robert Walker. Various text and illustrations used in this presentation are employed with the sole permission of Robert Walker of Gangs Or Us. Our sincere gratitude to Mr. Walker a renowned authority on the subject of gangs for granting this permission. To visit the Gangs Or Us website for more explicit information pertaining to the theme of gang awareness click on the above banner.


Intervention - Suppression - DiversionThe East Orange Police Department recognizes that gangs in this country are infiltrating our communities, neighborhoods and schools. By reading and understanding some common indicators of gang activity, your awareness of their presence will significantly increase. Most importantly, to make you cognizant that your children are not being initiated into a criminal street gang. Gang identification can be either a fairly simple task, or daunting in nature. As parents, teachers, and law enforcement, we have the duty and responsibility to carefully examine all avenues when determining if an individual is in a gang, examining the gangster lifestyle, or merely is making a fashion statement.

Gang members are not all black. Indeed, one of the largest street gangs in the Little Rock area has only a few black members. Several members of this gang were recently arrested for attempted murder after fire-bombing a home in an attempt at retaliation. We have also identified several all female gangs who have their own reputations that are as ferocious as any of the male gangs. Male gang members privately have even expressed fear of several of the ladies of the female gangs.

With some of the world's most lucrative drug markets, the East Coast is ripe for gangs to flourish. There is plenty of opportunity, potential recruits, and money for savvy gang members to gain fortune and power. Influences from the West Coast and the Midwest ("Super Gangs" such as the Bloods, Crips, Latin Kings, and Gangster Disciples) have become prevalent throughout the eastern United States.

Started in Chicago, Illinois, during the 1940s, this group is made up primarily of Hispanics. By the late 1970s, the Latin Kings were one of Chicago's largest and most violent gangs. The group spread to the East Coast in the 1980s through the prison system, where two inmates in a Connecticut prison created the Almighty Latin King Nation of Connecticut. The fine-tuned the concept of the Chicago Latin Kings and created a well-written King Manifesto, which incorporated prayers and religious beliefs. This gang, which spread throughout the Connecticut prison system, quickly became the largest gang in Connecticut. In 1986, the manifesto was added to in the New York prison system, and a group called the Almighty Latin King Nation was formed at the Collins Correctional Institution. Within a few years, the Latin Kings had spread through the New York state prison system, and onto the streets. By the early 1990s, New York City had hundreds of Latin Kings members, and this population grew into the thousands throughout New York State and nearby New Jersey within a few years. From 1995 to 1999, the ALKN were the target of a series of RICO investigations, which resulted in the arrests of hundreds of ALKN members in charges connected to racketeering and drug distribution. Today, the Latin Kings on the East Coast remain loosely connected to the Chicago chapters. The Latin King Nation struggles for unity and is seemingly finding difficulty in reorganizing to its previous size.
The Pirus first evolved in Los Angeles during the 1970s as a black street gang which formed for self-protection from the Crips gangs which predominated in Los Angeles during this era. The Pirus were later known as the Bloods, because they claimed the color red. Blood gangs began to spread across the United States during the 1980s, and were frequently portrayed in music, movies, and other media formats.

The United Blood Nation, simply called the Bloods, formed in 1993 within the New York City jail system on Riker's island. Prior to the formation of the Bloods, the Latin Kings were the most prevalent and organized gang in the NYC jail system. The Latin Kings and the Netas were large Hispanic gangs, who began targeting African American inmates with violence. The African American inmates, organized by some of the more violent and charismatic inmates, formed a protection group which they called the United Blood Nation (UBN). UBN emulated the Bloods street gangs in Los Angeles. Several of the leaders of UBN then formed eight Blood sets to recruit in their neighborhoods across New York City. By the mid 1990s, thousands of members of Bloods street gangs were establishing themselves as a force among gangs and were continuing steady recruitment. At this time, the Bloods were more violent than other gangs, but much less organized. A common ritual among these gangs involved shedding blood, through stabbings or slashings, as an initiation ritual. By the year 2000, the Bloods have become the most violent gang on the East Coast.

The Crips gangs originally formed in East Los Angeles during the 1960s and 1970s. By the mid 1980s, offshoot Crip gangs could be found in most major cities around the U.S. During the 1980s, several Crip and Blood gangs developed in Belize (Central America). Gang-affiliated youth from this country immigrated to the United States during the late 1980s, especially into East Coast states like New York, New Jersey, Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia. In 1989, Belizian immigrants in New York City formed the Harlem Mafia Crips in Harlem, as well as several other Crip sets such as the Rolling 30s Crips, 92 Hoover Crips, and Rolling 60s Crips. During the late 1990s, Crip gangs were well-established in New York, New Jersey, North Carolina, Georgia, Connecticut, Florida, Pennsylvania, and other East Coast areas.

According to Gang Specialist John Guzman of the Chicago Police Department, several gangs in the Englewood area of Chicago formed the Gangster Disciples (GD) "nation" of gangs in the 1960s and 1970s. The 1990s showed an increase in the Gangster Disciple presence on the East Coast. Data gathered by the National Drug Intelligence Center (NDIC) indicates that Gangster Disciples can be found in most East Coast states. The Gangster Disciple's recruitment strategies, drug networks, and large membership make the GD a force to contend with around the U.S. When incarcerated, GD are called Brothers (or Sisters) of the Struggle (BOS). Gangster Disciples is the largest Folk Nation gang in the U.S.


Oddly enough, while crime rates are down across the United States, gang membership is flourishing. Even more odd is the rapid increase in gang membership in suburban and rural areas. Gangs have reached across geographic, ethnic, and racial boundaries. Gangs are no longer true to their origins, but their traditions and identifiers have been distorted, diluted, and changed as they have relocated across the U.S. Gangs no longer match their media stereotypes, and law enforcement professionals need to take the time to understand their individual community's unique gang problem. The face of the gangster has changed, and we must be prepared to change with it.

Gang members cast a bleak future for themselves. Gang membership, although a temporary phase for some youths, severely harms their future. They socialize strictly with other gang members, reinforcing their limited view on life. Gang members frequently drop out of school. This severely limits their chances for a better life. Some gang members who make it to adulthood may develop patterns of alcohol and drug abuse. Often, the gang members acquire extensive police records, limiting their opportunity for employment, turning them to greater criminal enterprise. Ultimately some gang members are seriously injured or killed.
Finally, when determining if someone is a gang member, one has to look at more than just clothing and jewelry. Called "identifiers", look to see if any of the following applies to an individual, or your child. Three or more identifiers may indicate gang involvement.

1. Does this person have arrests for "gang related" offenses? Arrests such as, Mob Action, Assault, Drug Charges, Criminal Damage to Property (vandalism by graffiti) and so forth.

2. Does your child have lots of money and/or wears expensive clothing and jewelry---but you know they do not have a job?

3. Does your child refuse to have their friends come to your home?

4. Have you found photos of your son or daughter posing with others, throwing gang signs? (gang members love to pose!)

5. Are there gang symbols drawn on a person's school books, or notebooks?

6. Is gang slang being used in everyday conversation?

7. Has your child come right out and claimed gang affiliation? (sometimes all one has to do is ask)

8. Does your child have any tattoos that show gang affiliation?

9. Are any other family members of this individual, in a gang?

10. Admits that they are involved in any manner with a gang?

11. Is obsessed with a particular clothing color?

12. Prefers sagging pants or gang clothing?

13. Adopts an unusual desire for privacy and secrecy?

14. Is obsessed with gangster music or videos?

15. Has paint or permanent marker stains on his/her hands or clothes. Or, is in possession of graffiti paraphernalia such as markers, etching tools, spray paint, bug spray and starch cans?

16. Shows evidence of physical injures and lies about how they were received?

17. Have you been notified by school personnel, law enforcement, or neighbors, (watching your child get into a car with known gang members) that your son or daughter may be involved with gangs? The "Not my child!" response may mean you may be in denial about what's really going on.

18. Other signs that youngsters may have joined gangs include crude and elaborate tattoos, females wearing heavy eye make-up and dark lipstick, fingernails painted a certain color, certain undergarments, gang-colored shoelaces in their athletic shoes and specific hairstyles (such as shaving their heads bald, hair nets, rollers or braids).

  1. The above 18 listed indicators are by all means not final or total---but are a starting place.. But remember:

    A) Many gang members, particularly from larger cities, are opting not to wear "colors", jewelry, gang tattoos, etc., that are gang related.

    B) Gang information may appear to be outdated in one region of the country, but could be new and fresh in another. Gang information is always changing.

    C) Not all gang members are obvious in their dress or manner. Asian gangs, for example, are not immediately recognizable by their attire. Also, they may not display gang characteristics while in school. They are respectful to staff, do not disrupt activities, do not drop out of school and maintain their grades. In such cases, gang affiliation is often not known until a criminal incident occurs.

    None of these warning signs alone is sufficient for predicting gang involvement, aggression or tendencies toward violence. Also, it can be detrimental to use these signs as a checklist against which to measure children. Early warning signs are just that, indicators that a child may need our help and guidance. These are behavioral and emotional signs that, when considered in context, can signal a distraught child. Early warning signs provide us with a means to examine our concerns and address the child's needs. Early warning signs allow us to get help for the child before problems escalate.


New Jersey State Police Gang Survey By Some N.J. Municipalities

  1. New Jersey State Police Gang Survey By Municipality

  2. Myths About Gangs
    There are no gang members in East Orange.
    Gang members are only ethnic minorities.
    Gang members are poor kids.
    Gang members are only male.
    All gang members wear 'colors'.
    All gang members sell drugs.

Gang Definition

  • A group of persons working to unlawful or anti-social ends - Webster's Dictionary

  • A group of three or more persons who:
    Share a common identity
    2. Adopt and use certain signs, symbols, colors engage in criminal activity
    3. A group of people who unite for a common purpose and engage in violent, unlawful, criminal and antisocial     behavior. They often claim control over certain territory in a community.

    This does not include sport teams, boy's and girl's clubs, fraternal groups or organizations that have a common name and who may wear a particular uniform articles of clothing.

    Street Gangs

  • Gangs, as we see them today, were formed for the most part on areas of Chicago and areas of California, mostly the southern part. Originally formed as a means of protection for family and neighborhood but eventually turned to criminal activity as a means of income. Street gang members carry their gang affiliations to jails where they band together with the same gang or may join larger, more powerful gangs. Gangs in our area may assume an existing gang name or use one that may be known locally. However, they may adopt signs, colors, symbols, or other identifiers of a nationally know gang.

    Even though we have currently identified about forty different named gangs in the local area, they all appear to align with four large major city gangs:

    • Crips - L.A. oriented
    • Bloods - L.A. oriented
    • Folk Nation - a/k/a Hoovers, BGD's, Shorty Folks, Shorties-Chicago oriented
    • People Nation - a/k/a Vice Lords, P Stone Rangers, Blackstone Rangers, Latin Kings-Chicago oriented

    Gangs will sometimes change affiliations. It must always be remembered that gangs are very fluid in nature and changes occur almost daily. That again points to the importance of developing local skill in monitoring the growth and movement of the groups.

    Criminal Street Gang 
    N.J.S. 2C:44-3: Three or more persons associated in fact. Individuals are associated in fact if they:

  • Have a common group name or identifying sign, symbol, tattoo or other physical marking, style of dress
    or use of hand signs of association or common leadership

  • Individually or in combination with other members of a criminal street gang, while engaging in gang
    related activity have committed, conspired or attempted to commit two or more of the following offenses:

    Robbery - Carjacking - Aggravated Assault - Simple Assault - Aggravated Sexual Assault - 
    Sexual Assault - Arson - Burglary - Kidnapping - Extortion

    Gang Structure

  • Leadership: determines level of criminal activity

  • Hard Core: older, criminally enmeshed, life members

  • Associate: committed to gang culture, dedicated to achieving level of recognition needed to
    attain hard core status

  • Fringe: able to function outside gang, has not committed to a life of criminal gang activity.
    Drifts in and out and seems to lack direction

  • Wanna-Be's: view gangs as exciting where they can become somebody. Emulate dress, graffiti
    hand signs, etc. Have not yet been accepted into the gang.

  • Cliques: group of associate, fringe and wanna be members who gravitate around hard core
    members. Gang within a gang.

    Leadership roles in street gangs are usually not formerly recognized positions. Leadership is most often assumed by one or more members who exhibit exceptional antisocial and/or criminal behavior or long term affiliation. Gangs are usually made up of males ranging in age from 12 to 22 years old. Members represent all racial and ethnic groups. Females play an important role. They have been known to carry weapons, and to transport and hold drugs for male gang members. Young members are often used to carry, hide, or sell drugs, or weapons. They are used because of the less severe legal punishment if they are apprehended.


  • Beat or Jumped in: Endure a beating by fists, kicks, stomps, or even bats or clubs

  • Armed Robbery: Rob and shoot victim for no reasonDrive-By Shooting

  • Drive-by shooting: Shooting victim(s) from a vehicle

  • Assault: On an innocent victim

  • Rape: An innocent victim

  • Blessed in: Family member or reputation vouch for worthiness and loyalty

  • Sexed in: Female have intercourse with multiple member who are sometimes HIV positive

  • Murder: Required to kill an innocent victim, rival gang member, or even a police officer

Signs and Symbols

Gang Animation Provided by Gangs or Us

Symbols are an important part of the gang culture. They are used to identify particular gang or to intimidate and disrespect rival gangs. These symbols may be seen in many forms. Some are known universally, such as a heart, pyramid, walking cane or a five or six pointed star. These symbols have become nationally known to represent certain gangs. Other symbols have been created or drawn and have also become well known. In addition to appearing in tattoos, some may be found in graffiti. 

Gang Jewelry: Also called "bling" in hip-hop parlance, this type of jewelry is also worn by non-gang members as well. The jewelry can be either very expensive 14k gold, replete with diamonds and customed designed, or can be 10k, tinny and potato chip thin. Some of which can be purchased for as little as $2-$3 each, making it affordable to elementary school age children. Examples are heavy gold rope chains, earrings and other large rings. May be expensive or cheap, but the gaudy type is preferred.

Hand Signs

Gangs use hand signs as a means of communication, to identify themselves as a member of a particular gang and to disrespect (dis) rival gang members. Many gangs have created hand signs to represent each letter of the alphabet and other signs to represent a word or phrase. Most members become high proficient in the "art" and can communicate with others without speaking. Displaying these hand signs is known as "throwing" or "flashing" the signs.




Wearing particular styles, types and colors of clothing, jewelry, shoes and other items does not mean  you are a gang member. It may be a factor in identifying a gang member.

  • Sometimes youth with no gang affiliation have become  targets or victims because they were wearing the wrong colors or clothes. Some gangs are starting to change their clothing styles and no longer wearing their colors in an effort to deceive law enforcement and conceal their gang affiliation. Certain sports apparel or team wear hold special meaning for different gangs.

While many gang members wear certain types of clothing, one must be very careful in assuming that a young person is a "gang banger" simply because they are wearing a Colorado Rockies or Los Angeles Raiders cap or jacket. Much other criteria is required. Some gang members have said that they joined up because it was trendy and cool while others are intimidated into joining for protection. Other kids who exhibit gang style are, in fact, only "being cool" by dressing the part.

The uniform of Hispanic gangs is standard and easily recognizable. Most gang members adopt a basic style that includes white t-shirts, thin belts, baggy pants with split cuffs, a black or blue knit cap (beanie) or a bandana tied around the forehead similar to a sweat band.

Black gang members are individualistic in their dress. Black gangs tend to identify themselves by adopting certain colors. The "Crips" identify themselves with the colors of blue or black or a combination of the two. "Blood" gangs generally use red accessories, such as caps or bandanas, to identify themselves.

While clothing alone cannot positively determine membership in a street gang, color and style serve to identify each gang. Green can either mean the gang member is declaring neutrality for the moment or is a drug dealer. Black is worn by some Hispanic gangs and Heavy Metal Anglo gangs. Other common gang colors include brown or purple.

Note: Some gangs are starting to change their clothing style by no longer wearing their colors in an effort to deceive law enforcement and conceal their gang affiliation.

Gang clothing styles can be easily detected because of the specific way gang members wear their clothing. Examples are preferences for wearing baggy or "sagging" pants or having baseball caps turned at an angle. Gang members often prefer particular brands of shoes, pants or shirts. For example, some gangs like to wear plaid shirts in either blue, brown, black or red. These shirts are worn loosely and untucked. Gang graffiti, symbols, messages or gang names can be written or embroidered on jackets, pants and baseball caps. Other identifying items include belt buckles with the gangs initials, key chains, starter jackets (team jackets), and red or blue bandannas commonly called "rags".

Excessive amounts of dark clothing or a predominance of one-color outfits, white t-shirts and levis with upturned cuffs are also indicators of possible gang involvement.


These can include shaven-down baseball bats, sections of pipe taped at the ends, spiked wrist bands, mace, knives, or semi-automatic firearms such as an "Uzi", "AK-47", or "MAC 10."

The following is a breakdown of ways gangs interpret clothing labels, college names and sport teams

FILA - F (folks) I (in) L (love) A (always)
FLIGHT F (forever) L (living) I (in) G (gangster) H (hoover) T (town)
K-SWISS - K (kill) S (slobs) W (when) I (i) S (see) S (slobs)
FUBU - F (fuck) U (u) B (blood) U (up)
NIKE  - N (niggas) I (insane) K (killing) E (everybody)
ADIDAS - A (all) D (day) I (i) D (disrespect) A (all) S (slobs)
CALVIN KLEIN - C (crip or crab) K (killers)
MECCA - M (murdering) E (every) C (crip) C (child) A (alive)
by Ralph Lauren - P (property) O (of) L (locs) O (only)
REEBOK - R (respect) E (each) E (every) B (blood) O (O) K (k)

DUKE - stands for "Disciples Using Knowledge Everyday"
NORTH CAROLINA COLLEGE - NC stands for "Neighborhood Crips"
HOYAS - stands for "Hoovers On Your Ass Slobs"

COLORADO ROCKIES - CR stands for "Crips Rule"
SAINTS - stands for "Slobs AINT Shit"
ORLANDO MAGIC - "Magic stands for "Maniacs And Gangsters In Chicago"
LOS ANGELES RAIDERS - RAIDERS stand for "Ruthless Ass Insane Disciples Everywhere
Running Shit"

DALLAS COWBOYS - COWBOYS stand for "Crips Out West Bangin On You Slobs"


Gangs have their own way of speaking and writing. They will not use certain letters or numbers in their speech and writing. They make certain sounds that identify their gang.

  • Bloods will not use the letter "C" or the number "6"

  • Crips will not use the letter "B" or the number "5"


  • Graffiti is known as the newspaper of the streets, and serve to mark the gang's power and status.

  • It marks their territory and serves as a warning to other gangs and police officers that this is their
    "turf" and they are not welcome.

  • It may also be an advertisement for the sale of drugs or a memorial to a fallen fellow gang member.

  • Not all graffiti is gang related. "Taggers" enjoy the creativity of painting on buildings, highways,
    trucks, etc.

  • Graffiti should not be tolerated and in the schools is mandated by the State to be removed after 
    notification of the police and then bring photographed. When a neighborhood is marked with graffiti indicating territorial dominance, the entire area and its inhabitants become targets for violence.

  • A rival gang identifies everyone in the neighborhood as a potential threat.

  • Unfortunately, innocent people are often subjected to gang violence by the mere presence of graffiti in their neighborhood.

  • Without a doubt, this type of vandalism decreases property values in residential neighborhoods and creates a sense of concern about community safety.

    Why Gang Graffiti Is Dangerous

    The purpose of gang graffiti is to glorify the gang. Gang graffiti is meant to create a sense of intimidation and may increase the sense of fear within a neighborhood. Gang members use graffiti to mark their territory or turf, declare their allegiance to the gang, advertise a gang’s status or power, and to challenge rivals. Graffiti is used to communicate messages between gangs using codes with common meaning.

    Of greater concern is the inherent violence associated with gang graffiti. When a neighborhood is marked with graffiti indicating territorial dominance, the entire area and its inhabitants become targets for violence. Anyone in the street or in their home is fair game for drive-by attacks by rival gang members. A rival gang identifies everyone in a neighborhood as a potential threat. Consequently, innocent residents are often subjected to gang violence by the mere presence of graffiti in their neighborhood.


  • Tattoos date back to 12,000 BC but records trace back to the Egyptians at the time the pyramids
    were built.

  • Gang members use them to identify their gang or symbol

  • With the propensity for violence, some gangs wear and use tattoos as a means of intimidation

  • Tattoos are an excellent tool for law enforcement to identify known and suspected gang members

  • Wearing unauthorized tattoos can be hazardous to a person's health. Unauthorized tattoos have
    been cut out from a person's flesh.  


    The main body of the placa (main gang name) is the name of the individual or the gang. Rarely will you see only an individual gang member's moniker without the gang placa represented as well. This is due to the fact that many of the monikers are used by all gangs. What the writer is attempting to do is to get you to picture him relaying a message or challenge to you. He does this because there is generally only one of any moniker in each gang. If there are more than one, it is usually a brother combination. Example: Cruz- older gang member; Lil' Cruz - younger brother, emulating his older brother. Placas are challenges when placed on another gang's wall or territory. What evolves then is a rub-out (the crossing out of another placa). Eventually a gang war could take place. These are direct challenges that are directed towards the gang's machismo and ability to defend their territory.

    Some of the more common monikers are:

    Angel, Chato, Diablo, Indio, Malo, Blackie, Chango, Dino, Junior, Mondo, Bobo, Chico, Flaco, Joker, Mosca, Babos, China, Frog, Lencho, Negro, Bino, Cowboy, Guero, Loco, Neto, Chuey, Chivo, Huero, Lil' Man, Topo, Oso, Raunchy, Turkey, Papa, Snake, Tudy, Payaso, Sapo, Viejo, Pato, Spider, Wino, Pee Wee, Seco, Porky.

    Why Young People Join Gangs

    Gang members join a gang by either committing a crime or undergoing an initiation procedure wherein they are beaten by fellow gang members to test their courage and fighting ability. Their motivations for joining the gang are varied, but usually fall within one of the following:

    Identity or Recognition - Being part of a gang allows the gang member to achieve a level of status he feels impossible outside the gang culture.
    Protection - many members join because they live in the gang area and are, therefore, subject to violence by rival gangs. Joining guarantees support in case of attack and retaliation for transgressions.
    Fellowship and Brotherhood - To the majority of gang members, the gang functions as an extension of the family and may provide companionship lacking in the gang member’s home environment. Many older brothers and relatives belong, or have belonged, to the gang.
    Intimidation - Some members are forced to join if their membership will contribute to the gang’s criminal activity. Some join to intimidate others in the community not involved in gang activity.
    Criminal Activity - Some join a gang to engage in narcotics activity and benefit from the group’s profits and protection.

    Youth join gangs for the aforementioned reasons including the excitement of gang activity, peer pressure, status, attention, family benefit, family tradition, and lack of realization about the hazards involved. In many cases, young people are not discouraged from gang involvement by their parents. Often, parents do not realize that their children are engaged in gang activity. Although a number of factors add to the chance of gang involvement, statistics show the typical youth gang member comes from a single parent family with a mother as the head of the household or a family with a history of gang or criminal activity. While a parent is attempting to provide for the family, often working second jobs or high paying second and third shift jobs, there is a great amount of freedom and unsupervised time available to some young people. Unfortunately, few youths realize the hazards associated with gang involvement. In many cases, parents are unaware of their children’s gang activity and are unable to intervene until it’s too late.

    How Are Gangs Identified
    Most gang members are proud of their gang and freely admit to their membership, even to law enforcement officers. Many openly display tattoos and brands and adopt a style of dress which identifies their gang. Their personal belongings are frequently covered with the gang's name.

    Gang members often use hand signs to identify the gang to which they belong, and often use nicknames when they are among other gang members. Many individuals on the border of gang involvement are reluctant to identify themselves as members. They often claim that their friends are members, while denying membership themselves. Borderline gang involvement can be dangerous, because retaliation and violence involving rival gangs may be directed either toward gang members or toward their associates. Distinctions are not made between the two.

    Gangs on the Internet

    Originally, gangs advertised their existence and posted their messages in the form of graffiti. This graffiti could be found everywhere, on walls, fences, subway cars, signs, sidewalks, and even railway freight cars. Now, with computers being relatively accessible to anyone, gangs have entered the world of cyberspace. Web sites, chat rooms, and message boards catering to the gang culture are popping up on the Internet in increasing numbers.

    According to a recent report by COURT TV, gang members are using the Internet to discuss crimes in private chat rooms and offer gang banger wannabes (a misused term) a chance to enlist by posting membership applications online. It is estimated that that these gang sites run in the tens of thousands but only 20 to 30 percent are run by actual gang members. 

    Gang Web sites raise issues of free speech and criminal justice
    "Gangs.com," Carrie Kirby. San Francisco Chronicle (www.sfgate.com), January 6, 2001.

    Websites displaying the colors and symbols of gangs and gang life are making their presence known on the Internet.

    Law enforcement officials estimate that about 20 to 30 percent of the thousands of gang-related Web sites are run by hard-core gang members. Many fear that publicity about the sites is a threat to young people. “It’s just another risk for kids---they make (gangs) look attractive,” says Thomas Kirkpatrick, president of the Chicago Crime Commission. “They have free e-mail, chat rooms. It’s another recruiting avenue.”

    Others in law enforcement downplay the recruiting role gang Web sites may have, since gang membership is based on loyalty, trust and friendship, difficult sentiments to attain on a Web site. Law enforcement officials agree that gang Web sites that provide pictures of expensive cars and scantily dressed women may add to the gang mystique and could lure some young adults into gang life.

    Some gang Websites based in Chicago were displaying corporate advertising banners, including Amazon.com and computer seller Gateway. Once notified, the companies notified the hosting service which the companies asked the advertising service to remove the banners. But free speech issues abound, especially for free Web page services which face legal scrutiny if they are seen as limiting their users’ free speech.

    Anti-gang groups want gang sites closed down entirely, but law enforcement officials are not so quick to agree. Some sites have provided detectives with important information such as photo evidence, documentation of a gang’s history, its structure and nicknames of gang leaders. California law states that sentences may be lengthened when a crime is gang related, and appearing on a site may qualify as evidence of gang involvement.

    Law Enforcement

    Gangs, today, are forming at an alarming rate. They have been identified throughout the United States in cities and communities, large and small, urban and rural. Today, street gang membership encompasses all races from most socioeconomic levels and is not limited to larger cities.

    The presence of gangs may be seen everywhere. Gang members do not represent an invisible empire. They thrive on recognition and are constantly seeking ways to make their presence known or felt. They only go unseen when law enforcement personnel, as well as educators and parents, fail to recognize the signs of gang activity and an individuals involvement.

    Too often, a community or a department will proclaim that there are no gangs within the community, stating that there are only a few youths who are "Wannabes." This term should never be used. By overlooking the fact that these youths have adopted a gang name, use gang signs and symbols and commit crimes, these youths are "Gonnabes." Failing to recognize or denying the existence of gang activity, whether willingly or through a lack of gang identification training, drastically increases the gang's ability to thrive and develop a power base.

    It is extremely important that all law enforcement and corrections officers familiarize themselves with gangs and gang member's identifiers. You may accomplish this as an individual or through departmental group training.

    What Can You Do To Prevent Gang Violence  

    Take Action! --Everyone must work toward solutions to the gang problem.   

    Become Informed -- The first step in prevention is to learn about gangs, gang members and their activities. Citizens armed with the basic knowledge of prevention (awareness-enforcement-education) are better able to avoid becoming victims of gang violence.

    Establish Neighborhood Watch -- Contact your local law enforcement agency for up-to-date information. They can also help you to organize a Neighborhood Watch program in your community. The gang's power increases through their use of fear and violence to intimidate rivals and citizens alike. This tactic can be countered by citizen action groups such as Neighborhood Watch. A neighborhood that is united in the goal to stop gang crime and violence can be an effective force in curbing gangs.

    Cooperate with Police -- When gang incidents occur in your neighborhood, cooperate with your local Police Department. Your help may prevent others from becoming victims of gang violence. Any information about gang crimes, wanted suspects or any violent gang-activity should be reported to the police. Remember, fighting crime and dealing directly with violent gang members are best left to experts trained to handle dangerous situations.

    Help Support Your Community -- Youths loitering after school or "hanging out" provide a breeding ground for gangs. Communities can offer young people alternatives to gang involvement. This includes organized activities for children and teenagers through recreation departments, schools, churches and youth organizations. Communities should seek support from local businesses and industries to employ and train youths.

    Parents and Teachers

    Parents are the first lines of defense in combating the gang problem. It is up the each parent to show the child that they are loved. It is not enough to simply say, "I love you." The child needs parental interaction to show him or her that you really do love him and you care about his welfare. Youths join gangs for a variety of reasons. Many join because they do not have, or do not feel like they have, a family life. A gang promises to give this feeling of "family" to the youth. Other youths join gangs due to peer pressure, excitement, money, or intimidation. Whatever the reason, a parent needs to recognize the identifiers and telltale signs of gang membership in order to make every possible attempt to keep the youth in, or return him to, his "real family."

    Educators are equally important in shaping a child's life. Like the parents, an educator must show the child that they not only care about them as individuals, but also, about the future that lies ahead of each of them.

    Schools should not allow gang clothing, colors, or gang signs and symbols to be worn or displayed on school grounds. "Zero tolerance" is a policy adopted by many school districts.

    Classroom discussions about gangs are an excellent means to convey the proper message to the students. These discussions can lead to a real learning experience, not only for the students, but for the educator as well. Like the parents, the educator, without some knowledge as to how to identify gangs, will not recognize the signs of gang activity and therefore lose a valuable tool; a tool or aid that not only will assist in communications and interactions with the students, but with other educators, parents and law enforcement.

    Finally as parents, we need to help our children feel safe, self confident and respected:

    • Spend quality time with you children.

    • Become involved with your children’s school activities.

    • Establish rules, set limits and be consistent. Know where your children are at all times.

    • Encourage good study habits.

    • Become a model of self-esteem that your children will want to emulate.

    • Respect you children’s feelings and attitudes, and help them develop a strong sense of self-esteem.

    Watch for negative influences that might lead to abuse, gang membership or delinquent behavior.






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