What is a gang?

Street gangs can be described as a group of people who form an allegiance for a common purpose and engage in violent, unlawful or criminal activity. they often claim control over certain territory in the community.

How is a gang structured?

Leadership roles in street gangs are usually not formally recognized positions. They are assumed by a member who demonstrates dominant control at a given time. Gangs are usually comprised of males ranging from 13 to 28 years of age. Members represent all racial and ethnic groups and from all economic income levels.

Why do young people join gangs?

There are a variety of reasons, including the excitement of gang activity, peer pressure, attention, media interest, financial benefit and lack of realization of the hazards involved. In many cases, young people are not actively discouraged from gang involvement by their parents. Often, parents do not realize that their children are engaged in gang activity.

What do gangs do?

It is not practical to examine everything a gang does. But when a gang is involved, there is violence and criminal activity. Gang members seek confrontations with rivals. Sometimes the incident boils over in shopping malls, schools, entertainment or other public areas. While violence often makes headlines, it creates even more damage to families, local property and businesses. Vandalism often furthers the gangs reputation.

How are gangs identified?

Most gang members are proud of their gang and many times freely admit their membership. Many openly display tattoos and dress in a style identifying their gang. Their personal belongings are frequently covered with the gang's name. Many "shoot signs" or make gestures with their hands which identify their gang. Members often adopt nicknames when recruited into the gang that become their new identity or "moniker".

How do gangs dress?

In the past, gang members dressed in basic style or colors chosen by the gang. As pressure from police, school officials and parents increases, they change their outward appearance to become less noticeable. Today, many gangs wear professional sports team jackets, caps and shirts, so identifying them is more difficult. Law enforcement officials depend on criteria other than clothing to identify gang members.

Why is graffiti used?

Graffiti is the first sign of gang activity in a neighborhood and is the underground newspaper of gangs. Graffiti is used to mark territory, claim responsibility for violent acts and for individual gang members to show association and allegiance. Without question, graffiti is a problem. The property values of residential neighborhoods as well as industrial and commercial areas have been negatively influenced by this vandalism.