Is My Friend In A Gang?
You share everything with your friends - it's hard to imagine that one of them might get caught up in a gang someday. You may be the first one to notice that they're acting differently, or starting to show interest in a gang. If your friend does one or more of these things, you should talk to them.
Signs that your friend might be in a gang (or thinking of joining one):
  • Wants to hang out with known gang members, or attend gang parties
  • Has a new nickname (like "Snake", "Shorty, "Lil' Hood")
  • Changes the way he or she looks - hairstyle, clothing, accessories
  • Wears clothes that look like neighborhood gang members (learn more)
  • Stops hanging out with you or other friends, and won't let you meet new friends, or won't tell you the real names of new friends
  • Starts talking in gang slang, or throwing up hand signs
  • Draws gang symbols or sayings on books, clothing, or body
  • Gets a gang tattoo
  • Has gang members as 'friends' on popular networking web sites
  • Starts drinking or doing drugs
  • Has a lot of money with no job
  • Starts doing graffiti NOTE: Finding out that your friends does graffiti might mean he/she is a "tagger". Read more.
  • Stops liking school and or other activities
  • Starts getting in trouble at school, at home, or in the streets
  • Really likes gangster music, videos or movies

Talk with your friend. Find out how much he (or she) knows about gangs. Ask him if he's thinking about joining one.

If your friend tells you he's in a gang:

1) Ask Questions.

Try to figure out how long he's been in the gang, and how deep he's in - is he gang affiliated (connected), or a hard core member? He may not be in that deep, which would make it easier for him to leave.

2) Tell him how you feel.

Let your friend know you care about him. Remind them of all the bad things that happen in a gang, and tell him how you feel:

  • "I don't want to lose you as a friend."
  • "You're a good person. Gangs will try to change that - they'll make you do bad things to innocent people."
  • "You're risking your life, and your family's safety."
  • "A gang won't care about you if you get arrested or hurt. But I do."
  • "Gangs aren't going to be your 'family'. That's a lie they tell you to get you to join."
  • "You don't like people to tell you what to do now - how will you deal with gangs telling you what to do?"
  • "I know things are tough. But there's always a better way than gang life."
  • "You were going to be the first in your family to graduate - don't throw that away."
  • "Choose to be YOU. Don't join a gang. They'll take away your identity - and your future."
3) Ask him if he wants to get out.
  • If he says YES, let him know that getting out of a gang isn't easy, but it can be done. You and your friend will need to get trusted adult (parent, caregiver, foster parent, older family member or family friend) involved to make sure they are safe. The trusted adult will help you take the next steps.
  • If he says NO, let him know that you're still his friend, but that you can't be involved in his gang activities. Encourage him to tell a trusted adult that he's in a gang or connected to a gang. Keep asking him if he wants to get out - someday he might just say "Yes."

Read Jimmy's story

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