Gang Facts
A street gang is a group of people who share a name or symbol and join together for a negative reason. A gang might be small in size and operate locally, or be large and have connections around the world. Gangs are showing up everywhere in America. Young people from all backgrounds have been lured into gang life.
Gangs and gang members care about three things:
  • Reputation - A reputation, or "rep", helps gangs and gang members earn status in their gangs and with their enemies. They usually do violent things or break the law to earn their reputation.
  • Respect - They will demand respect from their own crew, their rivals, and the community.
  • Retaliation - If gangs or gang members feel disrespected, retaliation (or revenge) is a guarantee. Retaliation can range from bullying or a beating, all the way to murder.
This is why gang members will:
  • Use violence to hurt other people, especially rival gang members
  • Intimidate and bully others
  • Get involved in criminal activities like selling drugs or stealing cars
  • Destroy other people's property with gang graffiti (vandalism)
  • Use all of the tactics above to claim an area of the city or neighborhood as their “turf"
Gang identity
Gang members usually try to dress in the same style of clothing to represent their gang. Here are some ways to identify gangs and gang members:
  • Colors: Many gangs use one or more of the same colors to represent their gang.
  • Symbols and numbers: Symbols and numbers might be used by gangs on clothing, accessories, tattoos and graffiti. Gang members may wear necklaces, earrings or rings that represent their gang's symbols or numbers.
  • Sports teams: Many gangs use sports team symbols or logos, and athletic gear (jerseys, hats, coats in gang colors) to represent their gang.
  • Tattoos: Gang members use tattoos to identify who they are, and what gang they belong to. Gang tattoos can be found on hands, arms, head, face, chest, back, stomach and legs.
  • Hand signs and slang: Gangs use hand shakes or throw up hand signs to rep their gang, or to insult to a rival. They also use street slang when they talk or write in graffiti.
  • Nicknames: Most gang members get a nickname when they join a gang.
  • Gang graffiti: Gangs use graffiti to communicate with each other, or with other rival gangs, and to intimidate innocent people and neighborhoods.


"Do girls join gangs, too?"

- Curious Chica, age 10

Yes, girls choose to join gangs, and are hurt by gang activity, just like boys. They do many of the same things as the boys who are in gangs. They might join "girl only" gangs, or gangs that have boys.

The number of girls joining gangs is growing, especially in smaller towns.

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