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Gang Awareness

Criminal street gangs are one of our nation's most serious problems. Pine Bluff's gang problem is small compared to other cities, but it is growing.

New members are recruited often and many recruits become career criminals.

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 parents.
  • 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 gang-style clothing.
  • 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 time activities.
  • 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 body (fading).
  • Withdraws from and shows disrespect toward your family.
  • 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:

  • 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 or jewelry.
  • Possible use of alcohol and drugs with an attitude change.
What if my child is already in a gang?
  • 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 for them.
  • 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.
Student Resource Guide Gangs Aren't the Answer.
  1. Join an athletic team or club.
  2. Join an arts program.
  3. Participate in an out-of-school program.
  4. Take a part-time job.
  5. Talk with your parent(s).
  6. Talk with your religious leader, school teacher, or guidance counselor.
  7. Talk with someone you trust.
  8. Look for a "safe zone" in your school or community.
  9. Do not join a gang.
Already in a Gang?
  1. Make a plan for getting out.
  2. Never tell the gang that you plan to leave. Your safety may be at risk.
  3. Begin spending time doing other things instead of hanging out with the gang.
  4. Look around—possibilities are everywhere: sports, recreation centers, clubs, arts programs, drama, school activities, even spending time with your family.
  5. 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.
  6. Stop hanging out with gang members, talking like a gang member, and acting like a gang member.
  7. Get good at making excuses. Your parents can help you with this, but if not, try a teacher or an older friend for help.
  8. Find people who will support you and believe in you.
You Can Walk Away!

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 involvement.


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 location.

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

Self-respect/identity

Protection/peer intimidation

Replacement or substitute family

Lack of economic opportunity

Desire for excitement/machismo

Lack of alternatives in/out of school

Prestige/power

Friendship/brotherhood

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.

Drawing graffiti.

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 styles.

Changing normal routines/not coming home after school/staying out late at night.

Photographs with others displaying gang signs, weapons or gang-type clothing.

Physical signs of being involved in fights/secrecy as to how injuries are received.

New-found sense of bravery/bragging that they are too tough to be "messed" with.

Using a new nickname.

Demanding privacy.

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 logo.

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 the gang.

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 down.


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 curfew.

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 own.

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 or killed.



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, clothing, etc.

Do not allow your child to roam the streets or stay out late. Set a curfew.

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 the gang:



Find supportive family members or friends.

Never tell the gang that the young person wants out or is planning to leave.

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 school.
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 at 870-730-2038

To report graffiti in your neighborhood or provide information on criminal activity, contact Telephone Reporting Unit at 870-730-2086

 

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