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Street Gangs: A Guide To Community Awareness


This information is to help parents determine if their child is either at risk
in becoming associated with or is involved in gang activity. Indicators of gang
association outlined in this brochure may generally fit a variety of youths. If
parents observe more than one indicator, they should talk to their child about
their concerns.


A gang is a group of three or more people who associate together, have a common
identity and engage in criminal or delinquent activity. The gang may use a name,
color, clothing style, tattoos, or other items to identify themselves. A gang
may or may not claim control over a certain territory in the community.


There are many reasons people join gangs. Attention, excitement, peer pressure,
protection, and financial gain are a few. In some families, gang membership is a
tradition. Other people become gang members because they think gangs are trendy.
Many youths do not realize the risks and hazards of gang involvement.

Parents may not be aware of their child's involvement. Parents should discuss
gangs with their child and actively discourage gang association.


Parents should be aware of behavior changes in their children. Such changes
include; a decline in grades, truancy, graffiti in the youth's room, on school
folders or on clothes, wearing of certain style or color of clothes, breaking of
curfew, change in friends, drug and/or alcohol use, or possession of money or
items that a parent cannot explain. Involvement of your child with a group of
their friends in delinquent or criminal behavior may be another sign. Some gang
members devise hand signals to communicate with other gang members. Use of such
signals should alert parents to possible gang association.



Style shows the group that youths associate with. The particular color, type of
clothing, shoes, hats, or the way the clothing is worn can be a warning sign.
Look for the symbols, messages, graffiti or gang names written or embroidered on
jacket, pants, shoes or baseball caps.


Various colors may be signs of gang association. Red may be used to show
association with the Bloods or Northern California Hispanic Prison gangs. Blue
may be used to show association with the Crips or Southern California Hispanic
Prison gangs. Black clothing may be worn by a variety of gang associated youths.
Some Hispanic gangs, White Supremacist gangs and some "Heavy Metal" gangs wear
this color.


Graffiti appears on books, posters, bedroom walls, interior of vehicles, doors
and furniture. You should discuss any graffiti you find with your child first,
then remove it. The graffiti may be a gang member's name or the name of their
gang. It may include members' nicknames, or be a declaration of loyalty to a
particular gang. Hispanic gang graffiti often uses block lettering that is
exaggerated or has reversed letters.


Accessories may be worn to signify gang association. It may be expensive or
inexpensive. Belt buckles, bracelets, necklaces, key chains, earrings, and rings
are all commonly used. Some gang members wear dice earrings to show the "set"
they are associated with. Others may wear a certain color earring to show their
gang association.


Pictures of your child with other gang members is a clear indicator. These
photos may show members displaying hand signs, weapons, colors, clothing styles,
or flashing money. Photographs may show your child singularly displaying these


Parents and the community should be aware that youths involved with gangs
commonly carry weapons. The weapons may be baseball bats, tire irons, spiked
wrist bands, a pipe, "martial arts" weapons, knives, "look alike" pellet guns,
and guns. These types of weapons have been seized from youths involved in gangs
in this county.


Gangs thrive on intimidation and publicity. Violence is common in gangs and is
used to maintain its status. Gangs depend on both individual and group
participation. An individual will be pressured by others in the gang to maintain
their status.

Legitimate groups elect a leader. A gang's leadership generally depends on who
is the toughest, natural leader or who has access to weapons or money. It also
may be based on who has the best skills for what the gang wants to do at that
time. A good fighter may lead on a night that they are going to fight, a good
thief when they want to commit a theft.

Gangs will have a name or common identity. The name usually comes from their
town, a street, an area, or their phone area code, housing project, rock bands,
cults, or personal beliefs of the members. The gang name is an important
identity for the gang. Members may have nicknames (monikers) as well. The
moniker may be given to the member by the other members or chosen by the member
himself. The name frequently fits the member's personality (real or perceived)
or relate to some physical or mental traits.


Gangs are a terrible burden on society. Family members must worry about their
safety as well as their child's. Friends who refuse to join the gang may be in
jeopardy because of their refusal. These friends are often discarded for their
fellow gang members.

Parents can be subjected to heavy financial bills for legal services, medical
treatment, jail housing, and restitution to victims. The gang involved youth can
expect to be arrested and prosecuted for their criminal activity. Most parents
are not aware that if a crime is gang related, the violator will not only be
prosecuted for this crime, they can also be charged with criminal gang
enhancements. Upon conviction, the youth can expect jail time, out of home
placement, fines, restitution to victims, community service work and/or very
restrictive conditions of probation.


Gangs differ from other groups in that they engage in criminal activity. Gang
members commit a variety of crimes. These include robbery, burglary, thefts,
vandalism, assaults, arson, witness intimidation, weapons and narcotic offenses.

Graffiti is probably the most visible and common crime. Gangs use graffiti to
let the community know they exist, to mark their territory, to make statements
about their gang, or to issue challenges to other gangs. Graffiti is not just an
idle crime and is a great source of gang information.

Gang members actively seek violent conflicts. This includes murder, assaults
with deadly weapons drive by shootings, and batteries. Gang violence often
claims innocent victims. In 1993, almost nine out of every ten victims of gang
related violence were non-gang members. These crimes are committed for economic
gain or to enhance the gang's reputation.


Awareness is the key to stopping gang activity, many parents are not aware of
the child's gang involvement. Most youths are reluctant to discuss it with their
parents. This is why the community should learn to recognize the signs of gang
activity and to take appropriate action. The first step is to recognize there is
a gang problem. People who recognize the problem are better equipped to address
the issue with their child, as well as not becoming victims of gang crimes.

Communities must recognize the problem and work together to solve the problem.
Structured after school activities, employment, awards for good grades,
community outreach and organized youth activities help lessen gang activity.
Working with school and law enforcement officials aid in eliminating the
anonymity that allows gangs to grow. Whenever graffiti occurs in your community,
report it to law enforcement. Once it is documented, remove it quickly. If you
allow you community to look like a ghetto, it will become ghetto.

Enforcing the laws and dealing with gang members is best left to those trained
to deal with dangerous situations. Always report crimes as soon as they occur.
Get involved in such groups as Neighborhood Watch. Cooperate with law
enforcement, court officials and probation officers in holding gang members
responsible for their actions.

A community that is dedicated to stopping this kind of activity will hamper a
gang's ability to exist.


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Short History of Gangs

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Since the beginning of time, youth groups or gangs have been in existence. These groups have had many negative effects on society for many years. These youth groups or gangs, as they are commonly called, have participated in many criminal and illegal acts that have plagued society. They have been stereotyped with such negative names as rowdies, bad kids, troublemakers, and many other mischievous names. Some of the earliest records of gangs date back to the fourteenth and fifteenth century in Europe. Some of the activities that these youths had been recorded as partaking in have been theft, robbery, extortion, and rape. At the same time in London, some of the names these gangs had were the Mims, Hectors, Bugle, and Dead Boys. These gangs did many types of vandalism to the city. Some of the recorded vandalism that had taken place was various buildings with broken windows, taverns that had been destroyed by the gangs, and assaulting the watch. And if the violence on the public was not enough, these deviant groups also had fights with themselves. When there would be a fight, the separate groups or factions would dress up with different colored ribbons so that they could tell who was with what faction or group. There were also other places where gang violence had been recorded. During the middle ages in France, there were factions that started fights with other factions that were from other places. In Germany during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, gangs were a part of the society.

Gangs did not appear to have spread to the United States until the early 1800’s. Many Europeans migrated to the United States, mainly the east coast; in seek of a better way of life. After coming to the United States, the money that many of the Europeans had quickly became depleted. Many of these people had to take out loans to survive with local merchants. Seeing how many of the others had little to no money at all, they also had very little chance for any health care whatsoever. People were dying due to poverty and disease all over. Many people could not take care of there children. It was very common to see children wandering the streets in search of food, shelter, and clothing. These youths that roamed the streets were mainly in the New England areas like New York, Boston, and Philadelphia.

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They were seen more as a minor inconvience instead of as a threat as they are seen today. However, during the early 1800’s, a gang that resided in New York took to call themselves the Forty Thieves. They were labeled as professional murderers and muggers and were a menace to society.

During the industrial era is when the gang problem spread out into Chicago and other well populated areas. Much of this had to with immigration and population shifts were reaching very high levels. Drugs were not a problem with gangs at this time. However, after the Civil War, many people who were hurt during the war became addicted to morphine. Gangs became aware of the need of morphine for people and began pedal it. During the early 1900’s, drugs and alcohol plagued the nation mainly in largely populated areas. Prohibition was a big time for gangs in the 1920’s. Since alcohol was not permitted in the United States, anyone who had or could get alcohol was in high demand. Many gangs quickly profited off of this illegal scheme. Gangs were at an all time high during this era. Street fights that were involving just fists, brass knuckles, and knives were now using guns. This era also produced the notorious Al Capone and John Dillinger. In the 1800’s, the east coast was the primary leader in gang violence. Now Chicago was the center for organized crime in the United States. Special law agencies were created where the agents had special weapons that they could have in their possession. The initial war on organized crime was on. It wasn’t until the 1930’s that gang membership began to decline. This was mainly attributed to the war. The war brought fewer gangs to the nation but it also brought hatred and racism to many parts of the country. In California, many Mexicans were the target of many people’s racial slurs. This is the time when the Zoot Suit Riots began to take place. After the war was over in 1945, men came home and took the jobs back that the women had been doing. This led to an increase in unemployment and poverty.

Many gangs that are in existence today were formed during the civil rights movement in the 1960’s. In the early nineteenth century, gangs were mainly made up of Irish, Jewish, and Italian people. Today, these gangs are made up of everyone including African-American, Hispanic, White, and Asian people. Gangs are now less concerned with possessing the rights of territory and are more concerned with drug trafficking. They are now seen more as business opportunities. During the early part of the nation many if not all of the gangs were made up of young people. Today the gangs are made up of young and old alike. As technology has increased, so has the fear of gangs. Gangs now have easier access to weapons and drugs and are more of a danger and a threat to society then they once we

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