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Definition of a Gang

A criminal street gang is a formal or informal ongoing organization, association, or group of three or more persons who have:

  1. A common name or common identifying signs, colors, or symbols.

  2. Members or associates who individually or collectively, engaged in or have engaged in a pattern of youth and street gang activity such as fighting, vandalism, murder, and drug sales.

    (Florida Statute 874.03)

What Parents Need To Do

  • Know your children’s friends

  • Become involved with your children and their interests

  • Strive for effective communication between you and your child

  • Be knowledgeable of gang signs such as writing, graffiti or tattoos, colors.

  • Learn about gangs and drugs.

What To Look for if You Suspect that Your Child May Be in a Gang

Gang Colors and Signs

  • Colors refer to a gang member representation of their affiliation by wearing a specific gang logo, particular color of clothing, or clothing worn in a predefined manner. This also includes a particular walk, stance, or the way they fold their arms, and hand movements.

Visual Clues

  • Has there been a sudden change in appearance -- like dressing in a particular style or color similar to all the other people they hang around with?

  • Have there been any unexplained physical injuries?

  • Have they started to use graffiti style ‘tags’ (signatures) on possessions, school books, walls, or buildings?

  • Have they started displaying signs of group behavior: ways of talking and acting, in line with other members of the group, or perhaps using hand signs?


  • Hand signals and gang slang are means of communication.

  • Symbols formed and flashed with the fingers, hands, and body have specific meaning to gang members. This is called stacking when communicating with other members.

Behavioral Signs

  • Poor progress in school or truancy.

  • Lack of interest in hobbies or problems at home.

  • Frequent contact with law enforcement.

  • Clothing can also be a sign of gang affiliation such as wearing certain colors.

  • Do they have a new nickname?

  • Is there a new person in their life who they appear to be influenced or led by?

  • Do you think they might be using or dealing drugs?

Why Youths Join Gangs

  • Some are drawn by parties, girls, and drugs.

  • Some are looking for respect and power.

  • Some find a feeling of caring and attention in a gang. It becomes almost a family to them.

  • Some want to make money -- to help out at home or to have nice clothes, etc.

  • Some join for self-protection, because they are picked on by other gang members.

  • Some grow up in a neighborhood where it is almost a way of life.

  • Most have some real or imagined problem at home that makes them prefer the streets.

  • Some gang members are addicted to drugs. The problems at home can become worse, because parents don't know how to cope with their addiction.

Things Parents May Not Know

  • Girls are increasingly likely to be gang members.

  • Gangs will often have profiles on networking websites like Myspace or Bebo; so be aware of what your child is doing on the internet.

  • Internet chat rooms and text messages can be used to bully people into joining gangs; bullying, intimidation and peer pressure play a large part in gang recruitment.

  • Chat rooms and texts can also be used to organize crime or violence.

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