Warning Signs

The warning signs of gang involvement can be similar to normal behavior during adolescence. The key is to question the behavior if it appears to go beyond the norm.

You Should Be Concerned if Your Child

  • Admits to gang involvement;
  • Is obsessed with one particular color of clothing or shows a desire for a particular logo over and over;
  • Wears sagging pants (this in and of itself is not indicative of gang activity);
  • Wears excessive jewelry with distinctive designs and may wear it only on either the right or left side of the body;
  • Is obsessed with gangster-influenced music, videos and movies to the point of imitation;
  • Withdraws from family with an accompanying change in demeanor;
  • Associates with undesirables and breaks parental rules consistently;
  • Develops an unusual desire for privacy and secrecy and may completely rearrange living quarters to create more privacy; or
  • Uses hand signs while with friends and practices them at home.

You Should Also Be Concerned if There is Evidence or the Appearance of

  • Physical injury (such as being beaten) and then child lies about the events surrounding the injury;
  • Peculiar drawings or language on school books or other personal items (may appear later as tattoos or brands - usually graffiti-like, hard to decipher, and characterized by crossed out, and upside-down letters, and gang symbols);
  • Unexplained cash or goods, i.e., clothing and jewelry; or
  • Possible use of alcohol and drugs with attitude change.
If a kid shows some of these signs, it does not necessarily mean he or she is involved in a gang. Because of the popularity of "gang style" in popular culture, many kids who are not involved in gangs wear the style. This trend makes distinguishing who is actually involved in gangs even harder, but usually someone who exhibits all or most of these signs is probably involved in gang activity.

Advise Your Children They Should Not

  • Associate with gang members or "wanna be/gonna be" gang members;
  • Identify or communicate with gangs or hang out near or where gangs congregate;
  • Approach strangers in cars who appear to want information or directions;
  • Wear gang-related clothing where gangs are known to gather;
  • Wear initialed clothing such as BK - British Knights - a/k/a "Blood Killer" in high crime areas;
  • Attend any party or social event sponsored by gangs or their associates;
  • Take part in any graffiti activity or hang around where graffiti is present;
  • Use any kind of finger or sign language in a public place.

Tips for Parents

  • Impress upon your child the importance of school and good grades.
  • Listen to and spend quality time with your children. Communicate with them about their concerns and fears.
  • Get involved in your child's school activities.
  • Establish rules, set limits and be consistent, firm and fair in punishment.
  • Respect your child's feelings and attitudes and help them develop self-esteem.
  • Watch closely for negative influences.
  • Help children develop self-control and deal appropriately with problems.