Gang Activity

Negative influences within the family—including domestic violence, child abuse, harsh or inconsistent parenting practices, and/or drug/alcohol abuse by family members—can increase the risk that a youth will join a gang.

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, such as:
• Withdrawing from family.
• Declining school attendance, performance, or behavior. 
• Staying out late without reason. 
• Unusual desire for secrecy.
• Confrontational behavior, such as talking back, verbal abuse, name calling, and disrespect for parental authority. 
• Sudden negative opinions about law enforcement or adults in positions of authority (school officials or teachers).
• Change in attitude about school, church, or other normal activities or change in behavior at these activities.
• Unusual interest in one or two particular colors of clothing or a particular logo.
• Interest in gang-influenced music, videos, and movies.
• Use and practice of hand signals to communicate with friends.
• Peculiar drawings or gang symbols onschoolbooks, clothing, notebooks, or even walls.
• Drastic changes in hair or dress style and/or having a group of friends who have the same hair or dress style. 
• Withdrawal from longtime friends and forming bonds with an entirely new group of friends.
• Suspected drug use, such as alcohol, inhalants, and narcotics.
• The presence of firearms, ammunition, or other weapons.
• Nonaccidental physical injuries, such as being beaten or injuries to hands and knuckles from fighting.
• Unexplained cash or goods, such as clothing or jewelry. 

Common Gang Identifiers:
Gang-style clothing and dress:
Gang members may use a particular style of dress to identify with a particular gang, set, clique, or crew. This might include clothing or bandanas worn only in certain colors that are representative of a gang. Other clothing that might be worn by gang members could include pants worn well below the waist (sagging); gang-themed T-shirts with pictures of gang members, prison scenes, graffiti, or slogans; two- or three-toned bead necklaces; sports clothing of specific teams; or colored fabric belts, occasionally with a metal buckle that includes the initial(s) of the gang. However, gang clothing trends change and may be different from one place to another, so clothing alone may not be enough to indicate a child’s affiliation with a particular gang, though it can be a clue.

Many gangs use one or more colors as a symbol to represent their gang. These colors may be worn on shirts, bandanas, multicolored or single-colored beads, belts, hats, shoes, shoelaces, headbands, jewelry, and other items.