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Common Gang Identifiers

  • Gang-style Clothing and Dress

    Gang members may use a particular style of dress to identify with a particular gang, set, clique, or crew. This might include clothing or bandanas worn only in certain colors that are representative of a gang.

    Other clothing that might be worn by gang members could include pants worn well below the waist (sagging); gang-themed T-shirts with pictures of gang members, prison scenes, graffiti, or slogans; two- or three-toned bead necklaces; sports clothing of specific teams; or colored fabric belts, occasionally with a metal buckle that includes the initial(s) of the gang.

    However, gang clothing trends change and may be different from one place to another, so clothing alone may not be enough to indicate a child’s affiliation with a particular gang, though it can be a clue.

  • Colors

    Many gangs use one or more colors as a symbol to represent their gang. These colors may be worn on shirts, bandanas, multicolored or single-colored beads, belts, hats, shoes, shoelaces, headbands, jewelry, and other items.

  • Symbols and Numbers

    Some symbols and numbers may have special significance within the gang culture in a particular area. A few common symbols from some of the large gangs in the United States are stars (five- and six-pointed), crowns, pitchforks (pointing up or down), three dots in a triangle, and numbers. Contact your local police or sheriff’s department to get specific information on the meaning of unidentifiable symbols or numbers that you may see in graffiti or clothing in your area.

  • Sports Items

    Letters, colors, or symbols may have a specific gang meaning in local street-gang culture, such as Kansas City Royals (KC = Kill Crips). Sports items may be purchased in a nontraditional color to correspond with the gang’s colors or may be altered with graffiti or extra symbols or writing.

  • Graffiti

    Gangs use graffiti to mark their territory, brag about their reputation, mourn fallen members, and threaten or challenge rival gangs. For this reason, graffiti can be very dangerous and should be removed as soon as possible. Youths who are participating in graffiti may have items such as spray paints, spray-paint plastic tips, wide-tipped markers, or sketchbooks with graffiti works in progress and may have paint on their clothing, backpacks, or other items.

  • Tattoos

    Tattoos are used to show an individual’s loyalty to his/her gang. These tattoos often include the name, initials, or symbols of the specific gang and may be found on the hands, neck, face, chest, or arms.

  • Hand Signs

    Some gangs use specific hand gestures to communicate their affiliation with the gang and issue threats or challenges to rival gangs.

  • Gang-Influenced Music

    Gangsta/gangster rap is a style of rap music characterized by violent, tough-talking lyrics that glorify street-gang culture. Many popular movies also focus on street gangs and their activities. Youths may show their interest in gangs through fascination with music and movies that portray street-gang culture.