A street gang is an organized group that participates in criminal, threatening or intimidating activity within the community. A gang is made up of three or more individuals who have a name, a leadership and may have identifying signs, colors, clothing, tattoos, jewelry, or hand signals. The gang often claims a geographic territory. Usually, gangs participate in some kind of illegal activity, whether it be violent crime or drug dealing or both.

Identifying Gangs
Most gang members are proud of their gang and freely admit their membership. Many display tattoos openly and dress in a style identifying their particularly gang. Their personal belongings are often covered with graffiti and have the gang's logo and their gang name. Some are reluctant to identify themselves as gang members. They often say their friends are gang members they but are not.

Gangs are common characteristics such as wearing distinct clothing, jewelry or using hand signs or signs. Some gangs are starting to change their clothing by no longer wearing colors in an effort to deceive law enforcement. Gang are also identified by their graffiti, hairstyles, and certain undergarments.

Youth Participation

Kids join gangs to fill their basic needs which is usually not being met at home and/or at school. These are:
  • Belonging
  • Control
  • Family
  • Identity
  • Money
  • Protection
  • Recognition
  • Respect
  • Support
Many gang members come from poor and/or broken homes, and they get the support and structure they need from gang lift. Gang kids usually have a low self-esteem and sense of self-worth. Membership in a gang makes them feel important and recognized within their peer group. Gangs become their family and it is a bond that is hard to break.

Signals of Gang Involvement
Early warning signs include:
  • Change of friends
  • Decline in school grades
  • Experimental drug use
  • Having large sums of money or new expensive items which cannot be explained
  • Keeping late hours
  • Poor family bonding
  • Rebellious behavior at school and home
  • Truancy
  • Unwillingness to attend family gatherings or share regular meals
More telltale signs of gang involvement are:
  • Contact with law enforcement and/or probation officers
  • Disclosure of gang membership
  • Excessive swearing or cursing
  • Gang graffiti in their bedroom on items such as books, posters and bedroom walls
  • Having photos showing gang names, gang slogans, gang insignia or gang activities
  • May carry hidden weapons
  • Using hand signals to communicate with friends, other gang members
  • Wearing gang colors or gang clothing
The DeKalb Police Department continues its Outreach Program to the community doing presentations for any group that requests further information on street gangs, drugs, and related topics. You may call the DeKalb Police Department at 815-748-8400.