There are some common signs that can help identify gangs and gang members:
Colors: Many gangs use one or more colors to represent their gang. Colors are usually represented with clothing, bandanas, shoelaces, hats, and other accessories. Some known gang colors include blue/grey/orange/purple, black/gold, red/black/brown/pink, blue/black.
Symbols and numbers: Symbols and numbers are often used by gangs on clothing, accessories, tattoos and graffiti. Some common symbols are a five pointed star, crowns, pitchforks, three dots in a triangle. Numbers are used to represent a gang’s name or area code.
Similar clothing style: Gang members may use a particular style of dress, or “uniform” to identify with a gang. They may wear the same style of pants, shirts, socks, shoes or bandanas (“rags”). Their clothing may be fashioned in the gang’s colors, or have logos, photos or symbols to represent the gang, or gang members. They may wear accessories that represent their gang’s symbols or numbers.
Athletic Apparel /Sports Teams: Many gangs have adopted sports team symbols or logos, and athletic apparel (jerseys, hats, coats in gang colors) to either represent their gang, (LA Kings = Latin Kings) or relay a specific meaning (Kansas City Royals – KC = Kill Crips).
Tattoos: Gang members use tattoos to identify who they are, and what gang they belong to. Gang tattoos are found in highly visible places, such as hands, arms, head, face, chest, back, stomach and legs, and include the name, initials or symbols of the gang, and the name or nickname of the gang member.
Hand signs and Slang: Gangs often use specific hand gestures to communicate their affiliation with a gang, or to issue a challenge or insult to a rival. They also use a variety of street slang, to communicate verbally, in writing or graffiti.
Graffiti: Gang graffiti is one of the most visible signs of gang activity in a neighborhood. Gangs use it to communicate with each other, or with other rival gangs, and to intimidate innocent people and neighborhoods. They use combinations of words and symbols to promote themselves, make threats, challenge rivals, mourn fallen members, or mark territory. Gang graffiti is unsafe and illegal, and should be reported by community members, property owners and business owners so that it can be removed immediately. Learn about our Graffiti Abatement program.
Keep in mind that these identifiers can be different depending on the region. In some areas, gangs have stopped wearing identifying colors or clothing, in an attempt to elude police.
The Three R’s of Gang Life
Reputation is especially important for gangs and gang members. A reputation determines status within the gang and community.
Respect is important to a gangs’ overall rep. Gangs and gang members will demand respect from their own crew, their rivals, and the community at large.
If gangs or gang members feel disrespected, retaliation is a guarantee. Retaliation can happen immediately, or may occur later. Retaliation can range from a beating, vandalizing property, intimidation, extortion, and arson, all the way to murder of the rival, or their family, friends or loved ones.