How can I identify gang members?

The following are some common indicators to look for if you suspect your child may be involved in gang activity. These indicators are not a guarantee that your child is involved in a gang. The only way to know for sure is by communicating with your child.

  • Poor academic progress/skipping school/lack of interest in school activities.
  • Large amount of unsupervised time.
  • Increased conflict at home.
  • Frequent disciplinary problems at home/school.
  • Frequent contact with police.
  • Drawing graffiti.
  • Drawings/homework with the letters "B" or "C" crossed-out, inverted or used improperly.
  • Using gang hand signs.
  • Not associating with long-time friends/secretive about new friends/activities.
  • Changing hair or dress styles/having a group of friends with the same styles.
  • Changing normal routines/not coming home after school/staying out late at night.
  • Photographs with others displaying gang signs, weapons or gang-type clothing.
  • Physical signs of being involved in fights/secrecy as to how injuries are received.
  • New-found sense of bravery/bragging that they are too tough to be "messed" with.
  • Using a new nickname.
  • Demanding privacy.
  • Refusing to take part in family activities.
  • Drinking alcohol/using drugs.
  • Unusual mood swings or patterns of behavior.
  • Sudden, unexplained increase in material possessions.
  • Obsession with a particular color of clothing or desire for a particular logo.
  • Wearing baggy pants and shirts (commonly known as "sagging").
  • Wearing "Dickey" style clothing.
  • Numbers, symbols and writing on jeans.
  • Wearing pants with pockets that show gang colors when turned inside-out.
  • Using different-colored shoelaces.
  • Wearing clothing with portions of logos colored-over to make them similar to gang logos.
  • Unusual writing, markings, numbers, symbols or street names on shoes or inside hats.
  • Altering logos on hats to match gang logos.
  • Wearing clothing of sports teams that use similar colors or logos of the gang.
  • Wearing colored bandanas on their head or partially exposed in a pocket.
  • Wearing belts with writing/numbers on the portion of the belt that hangs down.
  • Common tattoos: three dots "Mi Vida Loca," tear drops, pachuco cross, words with the Number 13 or Number 14 in them, pitch forks, crosses, 5- or 6-point stars, and 5- or 6-point crowns, two masks - one happy/one sad.

If any of these signs are present, you should not automatically conclude that your child is involved in a gang. Instead, you should talk with them to determine whether or not they are involved in a gang and, if so, at what level. We can provide warning signs to look for, but only by communicating with your child will you know for sure.

Show All Answers

1. What is a gang?
2. Who belongs to gangs?
3. Why do young people join gangs?
4. How can I identify gang members?
5. How can I help my child say "no" to gangs?
6. What are the consequences of being in a gang?
7. What can I do if I suspect my child is part of a gang?
8. What can I do to help my child leave a gang?