Facts About Gangs:
- Act in ways that harm public health and public morals and drive out businesses.
- Reach into nearly every city and town, and into every high school in the country today.
- Make people in their city, town, or neighborhood feel fearful and endangered.
- Are recruiting children at record rates.
- Often have drug trafficking as their main occupation.
- Come from many ethnic groups and in many cases are networking across the country.
- Are composed primarily of boys, but 10% of gang members are girls and the number is growing.
Key Dangers of Gangs
- In order to join, new members go through an initiation, which can range from fighting other gang members to participating in thefts, gang rapes, drive-by shootings, or even murders.
- Gang members use alcohol and drugs.
- Gangs deal drugs and try to sell them on the street, even to young children. Worse yet, they trick children into trying drugs to get them “hooked.”
- Gang members get badly hurt or killed during gang fights and criminal acts.
- Families of gang members often become targets of violence when gangs are feuding.
- Gangs rely on weapons, especially guns. Anyone, not only gang members, can be injured in a gang-related crime or a fight between rival gangs.
- Gangs gain control over an area by using force and making people afraid. The area becomes their turf, where they sell drugs and commit other crimes.
- Where there are gangs, the crime rate rises. Crimes range from damaging public property and selling and using drugs, to committing murder.
- Gangs look down on the school system. Youth in gangs do poorly in school or drop out entirely.
- A large number of persistent and dangerous juvenile gang offenders become even more serious adult offenders.
Why Some Kids Choose to Join Gangs
- Identity, Attention, and Status.
- Gangs may offer kids a powerful group identity and a kind of recognition they cannot get at home or elsewhere.
- If there are many gangs in an area, joining one of them may offer protection from rival gangs.
- Feeling of Belonging.
- Gang activity may offer a feeling of being a part of a “family” that is missing in the child’s home. The child becomes loyal to the gang’s values, rather than those of the home.
- Threats and violent beatings may be used to force youth to join.
- Gang activity may seem attractive to kids who are bored, lack interests and direction, or do not feel good about themselves. The media has glamorized gangs in music, movies, and video games. This adds to the excitement associated with them.
- Peer Pressure.
- Kids are pressured to join gangs if others around them are gang members.
- Financial Benefit.
- Kids see being in a gang as an easy way to gain money and new possessions.
- Lack of Knowledge.
- Kids, especially young ones, do not realize the true dangers of being in a gang.
Help your Child Develop Self Esteem
- Support your child’s goals and ideas, even if they differ from your own.
- Encourage your child to make independent choices.
- Give your child a chance to contribute to the family. Assign chores or jobs that your child is old enough to do.
- Focus on your child’s good points. Praise positive behavior.
- Let your child know you expect good efforts and hard work in everything.
- Teach your child that trying hard counts. Praise your child’s efforts as well as achievements.
- Set reasonable limits and follow through on them. That way, your child learns to handle limits.
- Ask for your child’s opinions on family matters and decisions.
- Express your feelings and encourage your child to do the same. Try not to judge or criticize your child’s feelings.
- Make it clear that you love your child as he or she is.
Be Involved In Your Child’s Life
- Show interest in your child’s schoolwork, hobbies, and friends.
- Work to build open, ongoing communication with your child.
- Listen without being quick to judge.
- Set aside time for positive family activities.
- Monitor what your child watches and listens to, especially television shows, music, and movies that promote gangs or are full of violence.
- Encourage your child to spend time wisely–studying, doing chores, or participating in sports, hobbies, art, scouts, or volunteer groups.
Teach Good Values and Responsibility
- Emphasize strong family values, including respect and responsibility. Show by your example how much you value these traits.
- Be consistent about discipline.
- Hold your child answerable for his or her behavior.
- Teach your child respect for authority.
- Establish clear limits and rules; expect your child to follow them.
Talk to Your Child About Gangs
Believe it or not, most gang members are 13 to 21 years of age, but they can be as young as 9. Teach your child about gangs while he or she is still in elementary school. Talk with your child about the dangers of gangs and the reasons people join them. Help your child learn that he or she has the inner strength to make the right choice.
The Subject and What to Say (Parent to Child)
Good Groups vs. Bad Groups
“Good groups get together to do good or positive things.” (Examples: scouts, sports teams, art/craft clubs, food drives, neighborhood cleanups.)
“Gangs are bad groups because they break the law and do things that hurt people.”
“Avoid gang members. Don’t hang out with gang members or go to parties where they will be present.”
Gangs Break Laws
“People in gangs may damage property, use drugs, steal, and carry weapons. Doing any of these things can get you arrested.”
“Some gang members get hurt or killed in fights between gangs and in committing criminal acts. Sometimes they hurt or kill innocent people.”
Control Over Freedom
“When you join a gang, you lose all personal control. You can’t leave when you want.”
Members May Bully You
“Gangs may scare you or try to hurt you to make you join. If this ever happens to you, say ‘NO’, leave fast and tell me what happened.”
Is Your Child In A Gang?
Gang Members share a name, form of identification (e.g., clothing, colors), “turf” or territory, and code talk (e.g., hand signs, graffiti, slang). The signs below could mean your child is in a gang. Remember, none of these are sure signs of gang involvement.
Gangs use a mixture of English and street slang. These words are meant to be difficult for “outsiders” to understand.
Each gang has it’s own set.
Gangs use graffiti to mark or “tag” their territory. They also often mark their belongings.
All members may wear the same style of clothing or may wear all accessories on either the right or left side, including hats, jewelry, shoelaces, gloves, belt buckles, and so on.
Clothing may be all in one or two colors. The colors also appear on hair ornaments, nail polish, and belongings.
The signs in the gang’s graffiti may also appear on their belongings, skin (tattoos), and may be cut into their hair.
Common Slang Among Gang Members
Gangbanger: Active gang member
Home boy or home girl: Gang member
Jump in: Gang initiation
Nut up: Angry
OG: Original gang member
Packing: Carrying a gun
Rag: Color of a gang
Shooter: Gang member who is carrying a gun
Tagger: Someone who uses graffiti
Wannabe: Youngster who wants to be a gang member
Is Your Child Acting Differently?
A change in your child’s behavior may be a sign that he or she is involved with a gang. Your child may be in a gang if he or she starts to:
- Skip School or miss work often.
- Spend time with undesirable people.
- Desire a lot of privacy.
- Refuse to take part in family activities.
- Drink alcohol or use other drugs.
- Show unusual moods or patterns of behavior.
- Suddenly have more money or other possessions.Dealing With Gang Membership
Try to talk calmly with your child no matter how upset the possibility of gang membership makes you. Ask if he or she is in a gang, and why. Avoid being quick to judge. Recognize that gang membership is not just the child’s problem; it’s the family’s problem as well.
Redefine the rules your child must follow and enforce them. Seek outside help if your child won’t talk, is difficult to communicate with, or if you suspect he or she is lying.
If you need help removing your child from a gang’s influence, here are people you can contact:
- School Counselor
- Local police gang unit
- School resource officer
- Social service agencies
- Health professionals
- CounselorsKeep Gangs Out of Your Community!
Report Gang Activity
Contact school or police officials about dangerous and/or illegal things you see. These might include:
- Houses with many people going in and out at all hours of the day and night.
- Groups of youngsters using alcohol or other drugs.
- Drug dealing.
- Groups of teenagers hanging around school grounds.
- Groups of youngsters carrying weapons.Get Involved
- Remove gang graffiti
- Join or form community groups that report suspected gang activity.
Work with neighbors to provide safe park areas and to keep them clean and crime-free.
- Attend gang-awareness workshops. Invite your neighbors, too.
- Support or help establish programs that provide kids with positive activities, such as scouts, sports, recreation, and art programs.Help to give the message that gangs will NOT be tolerated in your community!