Things You Should Know About Teens and Gangs

What is a gang? The definition according to the website for the Sacramento Police Department is:

“ Gangs are usually formed according to ethnic or racial guidelines, although there seems to be a current trend to form gangs for economic reasons. A gang is a group of people who form an allegiance for a common purpose and engage in violent, unlawful, or criminal activity.”

Gang involvement is not limited to teens and adults. In fact, children as young as seven or eight years old are being recruited for membership. Most parents do not find out about gang activity until a crime has been committed; therefore, it is crucial to become familiar with the early warning signals and telltale signs that someone may be involved in a gang.

According to the LAPD website, early warning signs that your child may be involved in a gang include:

  • Experimental drug use
  • Decline in school grades
  • Truancy
  • Unwillingness to attend family gatherings or share regular meals
  • Change of friends
  • Rebellious behavior at school and home
  • Poor family bonding
  • Keeping late hours
  • Having large sums of money or new expensive items which cannot be explained

The LAPD also provides a list of telltale behavior that your child is in a gang, such as a defiant attitude toward authority figures, wearing gang clothing, lacking motivation and fighting others to gain a reputation of being “bad.”

The following are tips from the Sacramento Police Department on how to discourage your child from joining a gang:

Discourage your children from hanging around with gang members. Meet your children's friends. Find out who they are, what influence they have on your children and how they and your children spend their free time. If your children choose friends that are mostly from gangs, then your children are probably involved or will become involved in one also.

Occupy your children's free time. Give them responsibilities at home. Get them involved in after-school sports, city/county recreation, dance, the arts, and other busy activities.

Develop good communication with your children. Good communication is open and frequent, and it takes on a positive tone. It allows your children to come to you to discuss any topic or problem. It does not condemn or put down. Good communication allows you to tell your children that you love them.

Spend time with your children. Plan activities that the whole family can enjoy. Spend time alone with your children. Expose them to different places outside of your neighborhood: parks, museums, the beach, the mountains, camping trips, etc.

Do not buy or allow your children to dress in gang style clothing. If your children dress in gang style clothing, they are expressing an interest in gangs and will attract the attention of gangs. If they are in the wrong neighborhood at the wrong time, they could be victimized or killed.

Set limits for your children. At an early age, children need to know what is acceptable and what is unacceptable behavior. Do not allow your children to stay out late or spend a lot of unsupervised time out in the streets.

Do not allow your children to write or practice writing gang names, symbols, or any other gang graffiti on their books, papers, clothes, bodies, walls or any other place.

Teach them respect for others' property. Develop an anti-gang environment in your home. Clearly and continually begin to express to your children at an early age your disapproval of gang activity and of any family members joining a gang.

Learn about gang and drug activity in your community. Learn how gang members dress, how they speak, their behavior and their activities. Attend information meetings, read articles related to gang activity.

Be an informed parent.

For more information on gangs and how to keep your child safe, visit:




Safe Youth

Helpful FAQ about gang involvement, demographics and intervention.


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