New members are recruited often and many recruits become
How can you keep your child from
joining a gang? Here are a few ideas:
- Get your child involved in special activities,
such as sports, music, or art.
- Volunteer at your child's school.
- Establish rules; set limits; be consistent,
firm, and fair.
- Get to know your child's friends and their
- Listen to your child. Talk with your child.
Show respect for your child's feelings and attitudes.
- Do not buy or allow your child to buy
- Educate yourself about gang and drug activity
in your community.
- Know where your child is. Be aware that
3-6 p.m. is not a safe time to leave your child unsupervised.
- Get your child involved in quality, out-of-school
- Demonstrate love and acceptance at home.
Many kids join gangs to feel a sense of connection and approval.
When should you be concerned about your child's possible involvement in
a gang? When she or he:
- Admits having friends who are gang members.
- Is obsessed with one particular color
of clothing, particularly blue or red.
- 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
- Withdraws from and shows disrespect toward
- Associates with new, undesirable friends.
- Shows excessive need for secrecy and privacy.
- Is obsessed with gang-influenced music,
videos, or movies to the point of imitation.
- Uses hand signals while with friends and
practices them at home.
When should you be concerned about
your child's possible involvement in a gang?
If there is evidence or the appearance of:
What if my child is already in a gang?
- Physical injury (such as being beaten)
and then the child lies about the events surrounding the injury.
- Peculiar drawings or language on school
books (may appear later as tattoos or brands).
- Unexplained cash or goods, i.e. clothing
- Possible use of alcohol and drugs with
an attitude change.
- It is extremely difficult to get out,
once s/he has been initiated.
- Don't try to handle the situation on your
own. Get help.
- Let your child know that you are there
- Let your child know that a network of
resources is there for them to ensure their safety from gang activity.
- Let your child also know that a network
of resources is observing their behavior, sending a clear message
that the community is not going to tolerate any gang infiltration.
Already in a Gang?
- Join an athletic team
- Join an arts program.
- Participate in an out-of-school
- Take a part-time job.
- Talk with your parent(s).
- Talk with your religious
leader, school teacher, or guidance counselor.
- Talk with someone you
- Look for a "safe
zone" in your school or community.
- Do not join a gang.
You Can Walk
- Make a plan for getting
- Never tell the gang
that you plan to leave. Your safety may be at risk.
- Begin spending time
doing other things instead of hanging out with the gang.
- Look around—possibilities
are everywhere: sports, recreation centers, clubs, arts programs,
drama, school activities, even spending time with your family.
- Try to stop looking
like a gangster. For many gang members, dressing down makes them feel
safe because other people are afraid of the way they look. As you
learn to believe in yourself, you'll find you don't need to make others
feel afraid to feel good about yourself.
- Stop hanging out with
gang members, talking like a gang member, and acting like a gang member.
- Get good at making
excuses. Your parents can help you with this, but if not, try a teacher
or an older friend for help.
- Find people who will
support you and believe in you.
More Gang Information
The following information is intended to help parents in identifying
the early warning signs of gang involvement, aid them in preventing
their children from getting involved with gangs, and provide assistance
in helping their children get out of gangs. It is not intended to label
or target a particular child who may exhibit some of the listed characteristics.
This information is provided by PBPD for informational and educational
purposes only and is not intended as conclusive proof of gang or criminal
What is a Gang?
A gang is defined as an ongoing organization, association or
group of three or more persons with a common interest, bond, or activity
characterized by the commission of, or involvement in, a pattern of
criminal or delinquent conduct. In other words, it is a group of people
who form an allegiance for a common purpose and engage in criminal activity.
Gangs may be organized on the basis of race, ethnicity or geographical
Who Belongs to Gangs?
Gangs can affect anyone, regardless of where they live or what school
they attend. Young people from all walks of life join gangs. Some gang
members drop out of school, while others may be excellent students.
Research shows that the following factors are common indicators that
a young person may be involved in gang activity:
Youth admits to gang membership
Is under 21 years of age and is identified as a gang member by a parent/guardian
Is identified as a gang member by a reliable source
Resides in or frequents a known gang area, uses a gang's hand signs,
colors, or tattoos, and/or associates with known gang members
Has been arrested more then once with or in the company of known gang
members for crimes that are consistent with gang activity
Has been stopped by the police more than four times while in the presence
of known gang members
Why Do Young People Join Gangs?
A gang often meets needs that go unfulfilled in other areas
of a young person's life. The gang may provide a sense of security,
loyalty, structure and DISCIPLINE that may be missing at home. The following
is a list of reasons that may lead a young person to join a gang:
Lack of positive influence by/interaction with parents
Replacement or substitute family
Lack of economic opportunity
Desire for excitement/machismo
Lack of alternatives in/out of school
Protection/security from gang violence
Feeling of belonging/being cared for
Media glorification of gang lifestyle
How To 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.
Drawings/homework with the letters 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
Changing normal routines/not coming home after school/staying out late
Photographs with others displaying gang signs, weapons or gang-type
Physical signs of being involved in fights/secrecy as to how injuries
New-found sense of bravery/bragging that they are too tough to be "messed"
Using a new nickname.
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
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
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
Help Your Child Say "No" to Gangs
Your child needs a balance between love and discipline
A child often uses a gang to replace a sense of belonging not found
in their family
Spend time alone with your child. It doesn't matter what you do, as
long as it helps you to get to know each other.
Listen to your child and ask for their opinions.
Help your child to talk with you without fear of punishment.
Do not talk "down" to your child.
Talk to your child about ways to deal with pressure from friends.
Set firm limits with your child. Let them know clearly what is expected
of them and the consequences for acting otherwise.
Always know where your child is, who they are with, and enforce their
Support your child's involvement in extracurricular activities at school
or other organized events.
Explain the dangers of gang affiliation to your child, including intimidation
and retaliation against family members.
Discourage your child from hanging around with gang members.
Meet your child's friends. Find out who they are, what influence they
have over your child, and how they spend their free time.
Support your child's goals and ideas, even if they differ from your
Make it clear that you love your child as he or she is.
Be a good role model .
Consequences of Being in a Gang
Joining a gang is never a good idea. It can place both the
gang member and his/her family in danger. Although gang membership is
sometimes temporary, it can have long term effects on a child's future.
Gang members frequently drop out of school and/or end up in jail. As
a result, it is more difficult to find a job. Many members suffer from
alcohol or drug abuse. Ultimately, some gang members are seriously injured
How to Deal with your Child Being in a Gang
Try talking to your child calmly. Ask why they are in the gang.
Define the rules your child must follow and enforce them.
Know your child's friends.
Get to know the parents of your child's friends.
Tell your child that their friends in the gang are not welcome at your
house if they intend to wear gang clothing and carry drugs or weapons.
Do not be intimidated.
Talk with other parents who may not know of their child's involvement
in a gang.
Do not allow your child to wear gang-style clothing.
Do not allow your child to write/practice graffiti on books, papers,
Do not allow your child to roam the streets or stay out late. Set a
Become an informed parent and learn about gang activity in your community.
Learn about community prevention programs that may assist you with getting
your child out of a gang.
Getting Out of a Gang
Most gang members join a gang because it meets certain needs in their
life. There are a variety of reasons for joining, but once a person
realizes that those needs can be met in other ways, the gang may lose
its appeal. The young person may decide they no longer want to be a
gang member. Here are a few suggestions to help, after deciding to quit
Find supportive family members or friends.
Never tell the gang that the young person wants out or is planning to
Encourage the young person to spend time doing other things such as
sports, school or family activities.
Encourage the young person to stop looking and dressing like a gangster.
Encourage the young person to stop hanging out with/talking like gangsters
and to find other people to hang out with.
The young person may make excuses when gang members try to contact him/her.
Have a family member say that he/she is gone or busy. Don't return calls
and if asked why, say that the message was never received.
Consider transferring to another school if gang members attend the same
The Pine Bluff Police Department is committed to helping gang members
leave the gang culture and assisting them in finding more productive
options. The Department is also committed to helping the families of
gang members in addressing their child's gang involvement. These young
people will find that there are many caring adults and programs available
to assist them in leaving the gangs and helping them to succeed in life.
For more information on getting out of a gang, contact the Public Relations
To report graffiti in your neighborhood or provide information on criminal
activity, contact Telephone Reporting Unit at 870-730-2086
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