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Essay/Term paper: Street gangs: a guide to community awareness

Essay, term paper, research paper:  Narrative Essays

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Street Gangs: A Guide To Community Awareness


This information is to help parents determine if their child is either at risk
in becoming associated with or is involved in gang activity. Indicators of gang
association outlined in this brochure may generally fit a variety of youths. If
parents observe more than one indicator, they should talk to their child about
their concerns.


A gang is a group of three or more people who associate together, have a common
identity and engage in criminal or delinquent activity. The gang may use a name,
color, clothing style, tattoos, or other items to identify themselves. A gang
may or may not claim control over a certain territory in the community.


There are many reasons people join gangs. Attention, excitement, peer pressure,
protection, and financial gain are a few. In some families, gang membership is a
tradition. Other people become gang members because they think gangs are trendy.
Many youths do not realize the risks and hazards of gang involvement.

Parents may not be aware of their child's involvement. Parents should discuss
gangs with their child and actively discourage gang association.


Parents should be aware of behavior changes in their children. Such changes
include; a decline in grades, truancy, graffiti in the youth's room, on school
folders or on clothes, wearing of certain style or color of clothes, breaking of
curfew, change in friends, drug and/or alcohol use, or possession of money or
items that a parent cannot explain. Involvement of your child with a group of
their friends in delinquent or criminal behavior may be another sign. Some gang
members devise hand signals to communicate with other gang members. Use of such
signals should alert parents to possible gang association.



Style shows the group that youths associate with. The particular color, type of
clothing, shoes, hats, or the way the clothing is worn can be a warning sign.
Look for the symbols, messages, graffiti or gang names written or embroidered on
jacket, pants, shoes or baseball caps.


Various colors may be signs of gang association. Red may be used to show
association with the Bloods or Northern California Hispanic Prison gangs. Blue
may be used to show association with the Crips or Southern California Hispanic
Prison gangs. Black clothing may be worn by a variety of gang associated youths.
Some Hispanic gangs, White Supremacist gangs and some "Heavy Metal" gangs wear
this color.


Graffiti appears on books, posters, bedroom walls, interior of vehicles, doors
and furniture. You should discuss any graffiti you find with your child first,
then remove it. The graffiti may be a gang member's name or the name of their
gang. It may include members' nicknames, or be a declaration of loyalty to a
particular gang. Hispanic gang graffiti often uses block lettering that is
exaggerated or has reversed letters.


Accessories may be worn to signify gang association. It may be expensive or
inexpensive. Belt buckles, bracelets, necklaces, key chains, earrings, and rings
are all commonly used. Some gang members wear dice earrings to show the "set"
they are associated with. Others may wear a certain color earring to show their
gang association.


Pictures of your child with other gang members is a clear indicator. These
photos may show members displaying hand signs, weapons, colors, clothing styles,
or flashing money. Photographs may show your child singularly displaying these


Parents and the community should be aware that youths involved with gangs
commonly carry weapons. The weapons may be baseball bats, tire irons, spiked
wrist bands, a pipe, "martial arts" weapons, knives, "look alike" pellet guns,
and guns. These types of weapons have been seized from youths involved in gangs
in this county.


Gangs thrive on intimidation and publicity. Violence is common in gangs and is
used to maintain its status. Gangs depend on both individual and group
participation. An individual will be pressured by others in the gang to maintain
their status.

Legitimate groups elect a leader. A gang's leadership generally depends on who
is the toughest, natural leader or who has access to weapons or money. It also
may be based on who has the best skills for what the gang wants to do at that
time. A good fighter may lead on a night that they are going to fight, a good
thief when they want to commit a theft.

Gangs will have a name or common identity. The name usually comes from their
town, a street, an area, or their phone area code, housing project, rock bands,
cults, or personal beliefs of the members. The gang name is an important
identity for the gang. Members may have nicknames (monikers) as well. The
moniker may be given to the member by the other members or chosen by the member
himself. The name frequently fits the member's personality (real or perceived)
or relate to some physical or mental traits.


Gangs are a terrible burden on society. Family members must worry about their
safety as well as their child's. Friends who refuse to join the gang may be in
jeopardy because of their refusal. These friends are often discarded for their
fellow gang members.

Parents can be subjected to heavy financial bills for legal services, medical
treatment, jail housing, and restitution to victims. The gang involved youth can
expect to be arrested and prosecuted for their criminal activity. Most parents
are not aware that if a crime is gang related, the violator will not only be
prosecuted for this crime, they can also be charged with criminal gang
enhancements. Upon conviction, the youth can expect jail time, out of home
placement, fines, restitution to victims, community service work and/or very
restrictive conditions of probation.


Gangs differ from other groups in that they engage in criminal activity. Gang
members commit a variety of crimes. These include robbery, burglary, thefts,
vandalism, assaults, arson, witness intimidation, weapons and narcotic offenses.

Graffiti is probably the most visible and common crime. Gangs use graffiti to
let the community know they exist, to mark their territory, to make statements
about their gang, or to issue challenges to other gangs. Graffiti is not just an
idle crime and is a great source of gang information.

Gang members actively seek violent conflicts. This includes murder, assaults
with deadly weapons drive by shootings, and batteries. Gang violence often
claims innocent victims. In 1993, almost nine out of every ten victims of gang
related violence were non-gang members. These crimes are committed for economic
gain or to enhance the gang's reputation.


Awareness is the key to stopping gang activity, many parents are not aware of
the child's gang involvement. Most youths are reluctant to discuss it with their
parents. This is why the community should learn to recognize the signs of gang
activity and to take appropriate action. The first step is to recognize there is
a gang problem. People who recognize the problem are better equipped to address
the issue with their child, as well as not becoming victims of gang crimes.

Communities must recognize the problem and work together to solve the problem.
Structured after school activities, employment, awards for good grades,
community outreach and organized youth activities help lessen gang activity.
Working with school and law enforcement officials aid in eliminating the
anonymity that allows gangs to grow. Whenever graffiti occurs in your community,
report it to law enforcement. Once it is documented, remove it quickly. If you
allow you community to look like a ghetto, it will become ghetto.

Enforcing the laws and dealing with gang members is best left to those trained
to deal with dangerous situations. Always report crimes as soon as they occur.
Get involved in such groups as Neighborhood Watch. Cooperate with law
enforcement, court officials and probation officers in holding gang members
responsible for their actions.

A community that is dedicated to stopping this kind of activity will hamper a
gang's ability to exist.


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