Which bands represent which colors

Gangs: Protecting Today's Youth - Part Two

Source: Elvert Barnes / Flickr Creative Commons

Gangs are a problem that plagues our nation. While trends are steadily declining from the past, gangs are still widespread in many communities in the United States. Unfortunately, many gangs lure vulnerable youth into their ranks who lead them down a path of criminal activity, drugs and ultimately destruction. What can we as a society do to discourage these vulnerable youth from engaging in gang activities? To answer these and many more questions, I turned to a gang involvement expert and a detective from a city police station. Because of the nature of his work, he requested his identity to remain anonymous. Click here part one to read the first part of this blog. Join us now as we dive into Part 2 of the Gangs: Protecting Today's Youth.

Q1 - How has social media changed the way gangs communicate?

Social media has opened the door to coast-to-coast transactions. It has also helped facilitate the spread of gang knowledge. A gang leader can sit in NYC and give orders to his subordinates in the south. No matter how big the gang, they just need to have access to a smartphone to establish a constant line of communication. Orders can be fulfilled and confirmed through videos of uploaded and transmitted images.

Through social media, gang members can quickly share this information with all active members by clicking a computer key ... or now a smartphone screen. This can be proof that they need to stop obeying his orders. If the leader is now ousted, the leaderless gang must now connect to the legitimate chain of command in NYC and restore their legitimacy. This can be done through social media and possibly through face-to-face meetings. Once connected, the leaderless gang will become legitimate again with a real chain of command. With this proven connection, the gang in the south becomes legitimate and now has more power and resources. Social media can also be used to coordinate the efforts of gangs from jurisdiction to jurisdiction to create safe areas for refugees to stay in without being detected by law enforcement. Social media is also an easy way to target potential recruits.

Social media offers the gang a very convincing “commercial”. A few years ago, before social media and smartphones were booming, families tried to avoid exposure of local drug dealers and gang members to their children in the hopes that their children would not be affected by members' flashy looks and money. That influence or "commercial" for gang activity can now be present in any home with access to social media.

Source: Victor Casale / Flickr Creative Commons

Q2 - What are the red flags of gang involvement?

Guardians should look for groups of characters that I name. An adolescent usually has more than one warning label. The signs can be seen in clothing, symbols, tattoos, inner circle of friends, language, new nickname, and the use of hand signs. There is no particular order in which these signs can appear, so we need to focus on the group of them.

Therefore, for clothing, the guardian should look for a change in clothing that prefers a certain color. For example, an adolescent only owns a red shirt and has never expressed an affinity for the color red; However, he / she begins to buy mainly red shirts, red pants and / or red ball caps. In some areas of the country, especially on the east coast, gangs have used pearl necklaces and bracelets of different colors to represent the gang. The pearls are often simple, solid color pearls from any craft store, arranged in a specific order on a piece of string or old shoelace. The person simply ties a knot at each end of the string or old shoelace and wears the beads as a necklace or bracelet. The pearl colors represent the gang: Bloods use red, Crips use blue, etc. The pearls are also arranged in a specific numerical formation. The pearls shouldn't be in random or random order. (This is not to be confused with the recent trend within hip-hop culture of wearing rosary beads or the trend for random colored beads in a random arrangement.)

One of the main signs in clothing is the use of a headscarf that is attached to the body. Most street gangs have used a bandana commonly known as a "flag". The gang will usually treat this bandana ("flag") with respect, and many gangs still fold the bandana into a neat rectangular formation and wear it in a back pocket or around the wrist, neck, or head. Many teenagers display the flag on the wall of a bedroom to show respect. (Once again there is a current trend in youth culture of wearing bandanas around the head, neck, wrist or out of a back pocket that has absolutely nothing to do with gang affiliation. So we need to focus on group signs for an accurate reading of gang involvement .)

When a guard observes a teenager with pearls and colored clothes that match the pearl colors, they gradually see a cluster of signs. When they present a headscarf ("flag") that matches the beads and clothing, they gradually see a group.

Simultaneously with this new change in clothing, guardians should also watch out for new friends. The "new friends" can be part of the gang and dress in clothes, beads and bandanas of a similar color. Gang members use nicknames and usually only refer to themselves or others by their nicknames. The nicknames, also known as "street names", are used by gangs to avoid positive identification by citizens or the police when they commit crimes. Gang members do not want anyone to know their real identity, which is sometimes referred to as a "government name". That's why they use street names.

Most gang members use street names that refer to guns, money, or drugs. They usually keep it very simple. Symbols and tattoos go hand in hand. Most gangs use different symbols. These symbols are usually visible in a teen's notebooks for school. Often times, the teen will scribble during class because he or she is now fixated on this new gait lifestyle. He / she draws the symbols or gang names in notebooks, in the margin or on the cover. When using a backpack for school, they often draw the symbols or gang names on the outside of the backpack.

Hand signals are used by every major gang. The use of hand signals is almost considered an art form among teenagers. Many of them have to practice the sequence of hand signals over and over again. When teens get involved in gangs, they are very quick to show a hand sign on a photo. Therefore, the guardian should be vigilant when watching out for teenagers who are practicing hand signals or viewing them in photos on social media.

Q3 - What can parents do if they suspect their child is involved in a gang?

You must contact your local law enforcement agency. That is very easy. It is nothing more than calling the emergency number provided. Most law enforcement agencies have posted this phone number on their website. Some departments may actually have a gang hotline or phone number for a gang unit. This will help optimize the guardian's efforts to get in touch with an expert.

It is of the utmost importance that if the guardian suspects the slightest influence of the gang, he should contact the police as soon as possible. Treat it like it is a virus that the child is showing signs and symptoms. You wouldn't wait until the child is fully infected and on their deathbed before seeking medical attention. In the same way, think about the accumulation of signs of gang activity and seek police assistance when they emerge.

Source: Aston Reynolds / Flickr Creative Commons


We all play a role in reducing the involvement of youth gangs. Teens need to feel that they are important, loved, and part of the world. Unfortunately, many gang teenagers lack one or more of these basic elements. Elements that functional families often provide. Many youth who join gangs are looking for a family because they lack one at home. A gang is not a family and will never replace one. A little acceptance, love, compassion, and support can go a long way in preventing youth gangs from becoming involved.