Information for Parents, Educators and Community Residents
It's time for everyone to learn about Gangs and how to recognize them
Most people don't want to admit that gangs and violence exist in our home towns and sometime in our own families.
It is no one person's fault that we have gangs and we can't be afraid to admit we have the problem. If parents can't talk to the children about their problems - gang members will.
If you are not educated you on what's going on you can't help your son or daughter. We must first understand what gangs are to understand why children join them.
In order to fix the problem we have to:
- Acknowledge that gang exist
- Educate ourselves & our children
- Identify gang members and their criminal activities
- Report activities before thing get worse
Parents and teachers are our first lines of defense in fighting the gang problem. Schools should not allow gang clothing, colors, signs and symbols should not be worn or displayed on school property.
Why Do Young People Join?
Gangs transcend age, gender, ethnicity and socio-economic status. While there are a number of risk factors that contribute to gang involvement ranging from adolescent rebelliousness to community disorganization, there are also common reasons most young people say they join:
- Lack of parental involvement.
- Seeking a sense of family structure, belonging, and discipline provided by the gang.
- Respect and recognition.
- Companionship. Friends are involved.
- Lack of positive role models.
- Family history of gang involvement.
- Peer pressure/coercion.
- Protection or revenge.
- Pride for neighborhood.
- Opportunity to make money.
- Access to drugs, alcohol, weapons, sex.
Understanding Gang Involvement
While youth who become gang involved are of all ages, ethnicities, and socio-economic backgrounds, there are some common characteristics. Initiated gang members are most likely between the ages of 12 and 25, though they can be much younger or well into adulthood.
The majority are male, from single parent homes, or homes where there is little supervision or high family conflict. They are low academic performers, truants, and cause disciplinary issues at home and school. They have low self-esteem and are usually indifferent, angry, and apathetic because they feel hopeless.
Indicators of Gang Involvement
Early warning signs may include:
- Poor attendance, grades & dropping out.
- Use of a nickname
- Changing friends
- Changing appearance and/or hairstyles
- Friends that wear clothing with the same color, signs, or symbols
- Staying out late at night
- Using alcohol and other drugs
- Having large sums unexplained amounts of money
- Acquiring expensive items
- Glamorizing and defending gangs
- Drawing and/or displaying gang graffiti
- Use of hand signals to communicate with friends
- Group photos displaying hand signs or other gang identifiers
- Use of gang style language
- Signs of bruising from initiation - Signs of physical abuse
- Tattoos of gang affiliation found on the hands, arms or chest
- Use or exhibition of weapons
- Establishment of a turf or territory
- Irresponsible, arrogant or defiant attitudes or conduct
- Youth is on probation or parole
- Frequent dealings with law enforcement or school officials
- Graffiti drawings on books, hanging in youth's bedroom
- Gang symbols on person items such as books, backpacks, shoes/laces, clothing items.
Educate Your Children, Your Family and Your Friends
Do Not Hesitate To Ask For Help - You Are Not Alone
Frequently Asked Questions
What can I do if I think my child has joined or has been threatened to join a gang?
Contact your local law enforcement, an administrator at the child's school and ask them to meet with you and your child.
What is the danger of wearing gang clothing, colors, or tattoos?
Dressing or acting like a gangster is extremely dangerous. If your child is mistaken as a rival gang member they could be assaulted or killed.
.Gangs are growing and going after your children
The allure of gangs has traditionally been thought to be a response to issues associated with poverty and disparities in social opportunities. Although gangs have always been in existence, gangs today are more violent, more organized, and more widespread. Initially, gangs formed as organizations for protection, political and social reform; however, they have shifted their focus from reform to criminal activity for profit.
The average age of gang members is from 14 to 21 years of age. Gang members, however, can be as young as 8 years old or as old as into their mid 30's. Recruitment into the gang usually starts in the middle school where the age group is between 10 and 13. Some recruitment has also been seen in elementary school and into the early years of high school. Most gangs target youth that are easily talked into doing work for the gang. Source: San Antonio Police Department
Gangs sought to increase their size by recruiting new members, who were typically from single-parent, low-income households, and who had a limited education and often target middle and high school students for recruitment. Gang migration from urban areas has led to the recruitment of new, younger gang members in many suburban and rural communities.
Gangs and the Community
Although their presence may go unnoticed, criminal street gangs exist in most communities, from rural areas to urban cities. They can be territorial or profit motivated, committing both violent and non-violent crimes that can negatively affect a community's overall quality of life.
As with all crime related issues in a community, residents should be aware of and report crime and suspicious activity to law enforcement officials. Community involvement is as important as policing in the effort to prevent, control and stop crime.
Things a Community Can Do to Address Gang Activity
- Educate yourself on gangs. Know the warning signs and indicators.
- Abate graffiti on your property as soon as possible. Report graffiti that is on public property to the city or the county.
- Report crime or suspicious activity to law enforcement. Be as specific as possible with the information you provide.
- Be active in your community and attend meetings to get updates on crime in and around your neighborhood.
- Get to know your neighbors. Organize citizens on patrol or neighborhood watch groups, phone or email trees to alert neighbors about recent incidents. Utilize your community newsletter or website to post reports on activity.
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