Parents, Pre-Teens and Gang Activity . . .

Gang participation can begin as early as elementary school. Children as young as seven or eight have been enlisted to work in criminal street gangs. If the truth be known, many parents and educators are not aware that children are involved in gang activity. One should watch for signs that their children might be involved with gang activity. There are noticeable changes in the youth's behavior. Early warning sighs include:

  • Experimental drug use
  • Decline in school grades
  • Absenteeism
  • Unwilling to attend family gatherings or share regular meals
  • Change of friends
  • Poor family bonding
  • Keeping late hours
  • Having large amounts of money or new expensive items which cannot be explained.

Signs of gang involvement are:

  • Gang graffiti in their bedroom on items such as books, posters and bedroom walls
  • Wearing gang clothing or gang colors
  • Excessive swearing or cursing
  • Using hand signals to communicate with "friends", other gang members
  • Possession of photos showing gang names, gang slogans, gang insignia or gang activities
  • Disclosure of gang membership
  • Witnesses connecting the young person to gang activities
  • Initiation activities - "rites of passage"
  • Contact with law enforcement
  • May carry hidden weapons

Once joined the gang, the child's behavior may change either suddenly or gradually by:

  • Adopting a defiant attitude toward authority
  • The wearing of gang clothing
  • Lacking motivation and having no future aspirations
  • Fighting others to gain a reputation of being "bad"

Not all gang members are obvious in their dress or manner. Asian gangs, for example, are not immediately recognizable by their attire. Also, they may not display gang characteristics while in school. They are respectful to staff, do not disrupt activities, do not drop out of school and maintain their grades.. In such cases, gang affiliation is often not known until a criminal incident occurs.

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Source: National Gang Center