Introduction Research indicates that parents play a pivotal role in keeping young people out of gangs. Negative influences within the family—including domestic violence, child abuse, harsh or inconsistent parenting practices, and/or drug/alcohol abuse byTo request the Parents’ Guide to Gangs, visit family members—can increase the risk that a youth will join a gang.www.nationalgangcenter.gov/parents-guide-to-gangs Parents can protect their children from gang activity through taking positive actions,For more gang-related information and materials, such as monitoring their children’s activities, fostering close relationships withcontact the National Gang Center® Post Office Box 12729 them, and using positive discipline strategies. However, parents often lack factual Tallahassee, Florida 32317 information about gangs. Phone: (850) 385-0600, Ext. 224 Fax: (850) 386-5356 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Web site: www.nationalgangcenter.gov Behaviors Associated With Joining a Gang 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 in a gang may exhibit the following behaviors: Negative changes in behavior, Interest in gang-influenced music, videos, such as: and movies. 99 Withdrawing from family. Use and practice of hand signals to 99 Declining school attendance, communicate with friends. performance, or behavior. Peculiar drawings or gang symbols on Parents’This project was supported by Cooperative Agreement 99 Staying out late without reason. schoolbooks, clothing, notebooks, or evenNo. 2010-GP-BX-K076, awarded by the Bureau of walls.Justice Assistance, and Grant No. 2007-JV-FX-0008 and 99 Unusual desire for secrecy.Cooperative Agreement No. 2011-MU-MU-K001, awarded by 99 Confrontational behavior, such as Drastic changes in hair or dress style and/or Guidethe Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, talking back, verbal abuse, name having a group of friends who have the sameOffice of Justice Programs. The opinions, findings,and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this calling, and disrespect for parental hair or dress style.publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily authority. Withdrawal from longtime friends andreflect the views of the U.S. Department of Justice. to Gangs 99 Sudden negative opinions about forming bonds with an entirely new group of law enforcement or adults in friends. positions of authority (school officials or teachers). Suspected drug use, such as alcohol, inhalants, and narcotics. This guide is designed 99 Change in attitude about school, to provide parents with church, or other normal activities The presence of firearms, ammunition, or information in order to or change in behavior at these other weapons. recognize and prevent activities. Nonaccidental physical injuries, such as gang involvement. being beaten or injuries to hands and knuckles Unusual interest in one or two particular colors of clothing or a from fighting. particular logo. Unexplained cash or goods, such as clothing or jewelry.
Common Gang Identifiers What Parents Can DoGang-style clothing and dress: Sports items: Talk to your children about Get to know your children’sGang members may use a particular style of Letters, colors, or symbols may have adress to identify with a particular gang, set, specific gang meaning in local street-gang gangs and ways to avoid friends and the friends’ parents. clique, or crew. This might include clothing or culture, such as Kansas City Royals (KC = them. Be aware of their attitudes toward drugs,bandanas worn only in certain colors that are Kill Crips). Sports items may be purchased in alcohol, and gangs. When children start to Let them know that you disapprove of feel pressure to use drugs or join gangs, itrepresentative of a gang. a nontraditional color to correspond with the gangs and do not want to see them gang’s colors or may be altered with graffiti or usually comes from their friends.Other clothing that might be worn by gang hurt or arrested. extra symbols or writing.members could include pants worn well below Talk to your children aboutthe waist (sagging); gang-themed T-shirts with Tell your children not to: Graffiti: ways to deal with pressure frompictures of gang members, prison scenes, Gangs use graffiti to mark their territory, Associate with any ganggraffiti, or slogans; two- or three-toned bead friends. brag about their reputation, mourn fallen members. Help your children practice simple ways tonecklaces; sports clothing of specific teams; members, and threaten or challenge rivalor colored fabric belts, occasionally with a respond to peer pressure. For example, if your gangs. For this reason, graffiti can be very Hang out where gangs child is challenged by a peer who says, “Ifmetal buckle that includes the initial(s) of the dangerous and should be removed as soon congregate.gang. you are my friend, you would,” your child can as possible. Youths who are participating respond, “If you were my friend, you wouldn’tHowever, gang clothing trends change and in graffiti may have items such as spray Attend any party or social event ask.” Then, he/she should walk away.may be different from one place to another, so paints, spray-paint plastic tips, wide-tipped sponsored by gangs.clothing alone may not be enough to indicate markers, or sketchbooks with graffiti works in Set firm limits with your childrena child’s affiliation with a particular gang, progress and may have paint on their clothing, Use any kind of hand or finger backpacks, or other items. signs that may be meaningful and teens.though it can be a clue. Children and teenagers need to know to gangs. Tattoos: clearly what is expected of them and theColors: consequences for acting otherwise. Do notMany gangs use one or more colors as Tattoos are used to show an individual’s Wear clothing that may have loyalty to his/her gang. These tattoos often meaning to gangs in your area. rescue your children from the consequencesa symbol to represent their gang. These include the name, initials, or symbols of the of their decisions.colors may be worn on shirts, bandanas, (Explain to your children that thesemulticolored or single-colored beads, belts, specific gang and may be found on the hands, clothing items can put them in danger neck, face, chest, or arms. and that you will not purchase them or Plan family time. hats, shoes, shoelaces, headbands, jewelry, allow them to be worn. If you are not Make time for your family to play, eat mealsand other items. familiar with these items, contact your together, take trips (even to local parks or Hand signs: local law enforcement agency for more activities), keep family traditions, and haveSymbols and numbers: Some gangs use specific hand gestures to specific information about gangs in your family meetings to talk about plans, feelings,Some symbols and numbers may have communicate their affiliation with the gang and area.) issue threats or challenges to rival gangs. and complaints.special significance within the gang culturein a particular area. A few common symbolsfrom some of the large gangs in the United Gang-influenced musicStates are stars (five- and six-pointed), and movies:crowns, pitchforks (pointing up or down), three Gangsta/gangster rap is a style of rap musicdots in a triangle, and numbers. Contact characterized by violent, tough-talking lyricsyour local police or sheriff’s department to that glorify street-gang culture. Many popularget specific information on the meaning of movies also focus on street gangs and theirunidentifiable symbols or numbers that you activities. Youths may show their interest inmay see in graffiti or clothing in your area. gangs through fascination with music and movies that portray street-gang culture.