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Signs Associated with Joining A Gang

The early adolescent years (12–14 years of age) are a crucial time when youths are exposed to gangs and may consider joining a gang. Youths who are becoming involved in a gang may exhibit the following behaviors:

Negative changes in behavior, such as:

  • Withdrawing from family.
  • Declining school attendance, performance, or behavior.
  • Staying out late without reason.
  • Unusual desire for secrecy.
  • Confrontational behavior, such as talking back, verbal abuse, name calling, and disrespect for parental authority.
  • Sudden negative opinions about law enforcement or adults in positions of authority (school officials or teachers).
  • Change in attitude about school, church, or other normal activities or change in behavior at these activities.

Unusual interest in one or two particular colors of clothing or a particular logo.

Interest in gang-influenced music, videos and movies.

Use and practice of hand signals to communicate with friends.

Peculiar drawings or gang symbols on schoolbooks, clothing, notebooks, or even walls.

Drastic changes in hair or dress style.

Withdrawal from longtime friends and forming bonds with an entirely new group of friends who have the same hair or dress style.

Suspected drug use, such as alcohol, inhalants, and narcotics.

The presence of firearms, ammunition, or other weapons.

Non-accidental physical injuries, such as being beaten or injuries to hands and knuckles from fighting.

Unexplained cash or goods, such as clothing or jewelry.