Gang Awareness: Recognizing the Warning Signs

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INF Gang

Street gangs have been prevalent in the US since the 1920s, and teenagers started forming their own gang alliances in the 1950s. Even though the amount of gang activity has been reducing nationwide since 2000, there are still an estimated 772,500 people involved in one of the more than 24,000 active gangs, and many of them are teenagers. It is also important to note that every city in the country with a population of 250,000 or higher has at least one gang right now.

Therefore, parents need to take the time to carefully monitor their child’s behavior for the potential warning signs of gang activity. Keep in mind that teenagers are more likely to become involved in a gang, but this does not mean that a younger child is not at risk.

Getting into Trouble with the Law

Although not every instance of theft or violence at school is gang related, it is a potential warning sign that your child has gotten mixed up with the wrong crowd. If charges are filed, it will be imperative to retain an experienced criminal defense attorney to help protect your child from dealing with serious legal consequences. In fact, many lawyers will recommend a gang intervention program to the judge in lieu of sending the offender to a juvenile facility or even jail, and this can make a major difference in your child’s future.

For example, a program in Clark County Nevada encourages teenagers involved with a gang to train on equipment that is utilized by professional athletes in order to keep them off the streets. In this case, a Las Vegas criminal defense attorney could recommend this as an optional program to participate in versus the threat of jail.

Suddenly Changing Friends

It is common for children and teenagers to develop new friendships on a regular basis, but it can be indicative of an issue with gangs or drugs if they suddenly drop all of their old friends in favor of new ones. Because of this, parents need to stay involved enough to be aware of the people that their children are hanging out with. Additionally, any teenager who suddenly stops bring their friends to the house could be well aware that their parents would not approve of the gang members that they are now associating with.

Issues with Truancy

It is definitely a warning sign when a good student stops attending school on a regular basis. Unfortunately, some parents do not find out about this particular issue until it is too late. With this in mind, you need to be proactive and ensure that the contact number for their school’s truancy department is your cellphone so that your teen is less likely to be able to intercept absence messages when they skip class.

Unexplained Money

Any child or teenager who acquires large amounts of cash or is caught carrying a weapon has most likely already become seriously involved with gang or drug activity. Therefore, if you discover one of these warning signs in your home, you will need to take immediate action to protect your child. After all, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have indicated teenagers between the age of 15 and 19 account for approximately 42 percent of the victims of gang homicide.

Another important thing to look out for is the appearance of gang symbols and clothing such as constantly wearing a bandanna, hat or shirt that displays the same primary colors. If you are uncertain which colors and symbols are utilized by local gangs, you can contact the police department for more information. Ultimately, it is up to each parent to educate themselves enough to be able to recognize each major warning sign so that they can get their child help before being involved in a gang destroys their life.

It is vital to understand the importance of recognizing the warning signs of child involvement in gangs, especially when crime activity is involved. Here on the site of a Las Vegas criminal defense attorney, you can see the kind of legal charges a person can face when involved in violent crimes, including theft and robbery.



  1. Jess @UsedYorkCity says:

    Great article! Working in the public schools of NYC I definitely know all these signs to be true. Giving kids options from early on in life of positive after school activities as well as very active parenting are great ways to lessen the chances of gang involvement, as well.

    • Thanks Jess! I’m glad you can back up these signs!! I’m a big advocate in getting kids involved in sports and activities. It keeps them busy and it’s something the whole family can be involved in.

  2. Susan Cooper says:

    There have always been things that parents need to worry about and this is another one. So many children want to “fit in” and Gangs target these children.

  3. Paul Graham says:

    Hi Krystle, thanks for drawing attention to the importance of Gang Awareness. Clearly kids need a sense of belonging and that is especially so during the pre-teen and teen years when they are still figuring out who they are and who they want to be. For athletic kids, the team often fills the need but for all kids a strong and regular involvement in positive peer groups seems to be the best deterrent to negative ones.

    • I so agree with you Paul. That’s one of the reasons I keep my kids busy with sports. I’m hoping by the time they are teens they will be too busy with them to get into too much trouble.

  4. I just watched a documentary over the weekend that was extremely disturbing. It is called “Kids For Cash” and is about a judge in PA who sent children away to detention centers for long periods of time for petty offenses. Some up to 7 years for very minor things none of which were gang related. I mention this only because the consequences of getting involved with gangs are horrendous. Over 2 million children a year are brought before the courts for crimes against the community and 95% of these are non-violent. Once a kid is convicted over 66% never return to school and go down a road which only leads to further incarceration. A lot to think about but well worth viewing. Warning, not a feel good movie.

  5. Okay now I’m a little scared for mine to become teenagers! Thanks for the tips.

  6. Krystle, It is quite scary. I’m glad my children are grown up!

  7. I think my two daughters aren’t greatly at risk for joining a gang, but you make a really good point that you have to know what’s going on in your kids’ lives. It applies to all sorts of risky behaviors that parents want to think will never happen to their kids.

  8. Krystle – we just had the several police departments working together arrest 80 members from two rival gangs – we didn`t see their faces but did see the backs and what surprised me – I guess I`m naive – was that a good number of them were girls. I hadn`t expected that. Articles like yours are important so parents are aware of the warning signs.

    • People often think gangs are mainly just a boy thing but so many girls are easily manipulated into doing things for the wrong reasons. We have to keep a look out for all our children male and female.

  9. Gangs are worst in certain cities than others. For example I would try to make sure a kid has a lot of after school activities to do in Chicago or Los Angeles.

  10. That would be my hope Krystle.

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