What is a gang? A gang may be defined as a group of three or more individuals who have a name or identifiable leadership, associate on a regular basis, and engage in delinquent and/or criminal activities. The group may claim a geographic area and/or an economic or criminal enterprise. The term “gang” may also be used in a broad sense to denote a particular allegiance. For instance, many gangs claim to be “Crips”. The term Crips evolved from on initial gang in Los Angels, which led to many other gangs, or “sets” calling themselves variations of the name, e.g. 107 Hoover Crips, 8/3 Crips, etc. Therefore, we may define a “set” as a subgroup of the primary gang allegiance. Some well-known gang allegiances are Crips, Bloods, Folk and People. Each of the categories has many “sets”. A gang may also form around a shared philosophy. Skinhead gangs and Militia groups, for example, usually contain members who share a common hatred for minorities, homosexuals, and Jewish heritage.
Most of the gangs in Oklahoma identify themselves by name. Some have adopted the name of well-known interstate gangs, such as 107 Hoover Crips, Rolling 60’s Crips, 456 Piru Bloods, and Rolling 30’s Bloods. Others have adopted local names, such as Prince Hall Crips, Oklahoma City Booty Boys, Oak Grove Posse Crips, Small Town Clique, and South Side Locos.
Gang members usually fall into three categories: original gangsters; gangsters; and baby gangsters. Original gangster members are the core founders of the group. They have an established reputation for criminal acts and violence. They are often referred to as “O.G’s” and function as role models for younger members. Gangster members are often the most visible, active and violent. They strive to establish a reputation for criminal acts and violence so that they, too, may achieve “O.G” status. Baby gangster members are just the beginning to dabble in the gang culture. They have adopted the gang style of dress and mannerisms, but are not official members. They generally associate with one or more members on a semi-regular basis. Baby gangsters are commonly referred to as “wannabes”. However, this is a misleading term that can lead to a false sense of complacency. Baby gangsters often attempt to emulate established gangsters by committing violent acts to gain gang status. They frequently make their behavior both violent and unpredictable.
Gang Clothing Gang members have learned that wearing one primary color, such as red or blue, makes them too identifiable. Therefore, they have shifted to wearing sports team clothing to identify their particular gang set. To a gang member, these articles of clothing have a specific meaning. Gang members will usually dress in a particular style that is identifiable with their particular gang. That style may be subtle, such as a particular color of socks, jewelry, or other similar item, or the style may be blatant, such as wearing a jacket or hat embroidered with the gang’s name. Remember, though, that gang styles of clothing are also popular with many teens, so care must be taken to assess the context and situation. Just because a young man or woman is wearing an athletic jacket, sagging pants, and a ball camp turned the wrong way does not mean that person is in a gang.
Graffiti Most gangs claim a specific geographic area, and will identify this area with scrawled graffiti. Graffiti serves several purposes – it lays claim to an area, may serve as a warning or threat to other gangs, and is used as means of communication, e.g. a “street newspaper”. Graffiti is a fascination and ever-changing phenomenon. When graffiti is examined closely, one may often discover the nicknames of the gang’s members, whom the dislike, and sometimes the name of the O.G.’s. Graffiti is also used to cross-out graffiti written by other gangs, in their own and others gang’s territories, which is considered both an insult and a challenge. In fact, the crossing-out of rival gang graffiti often leads to retaliatory drive-by shootings.
Why Kids Join Gangs? -There are different reasons for different kids. -Some are drawn by parties, girls and drugs. -Some are looking for respect and power. -Some find a feeling of caring and attention in a gang. It becomes almost a family to them. -Some want to make money – to help out at home or to have nice clothes, etc… -Some join for self-protection because they are picked on by other gang members. -Some grow up in a neighborhood where it is almost a way of life. -Most have some real or imagined problem at home that makes them prefer the streets. -Some gang members are addicted to drugs. The problems at home can become worse because parents don’t know how to cope with their addiction.
Signs of Gang Involvement This list is a guide. Some singular items may not be signs of involvement. -Look for change in behavior and lifestyle. -Drug or Alcohol use. -Decline in grades in school. -Truancy. -Change of friends. -Keeping late hours. -Having large sums of money or expensive items, which they cannot explain. -Gang graffiti in their bedroom. -Wearing gang clothing or colors (e.g. blue or red). -Not wearing or refusing to wear certain gang colors (e.g. blue or red). -Using hand signals to communicate with other gang members. -Having photographs showing gang names, gang slogans, gang insignia, or gang activities. -Gang tattoos or gang insignias. -Disclosure of gang membership.
Consequences of Gang Affiliation Gang members often pay a high price for membership. Initiation rights often involve committing serious criminal and sometimes violent acts to prove loyalty. Membership often guarantees a criminal history that can impede a person’s ability or likelihood to succeed in life. Gang members also place their loved ones in jeopardy. Drive-by shootings into residences have resulted in the serious injury or death of individuals who are not gang affiliated. Gang membership extracts a terrible toll from the lives of all who are in contact with the member. Family members often have to concern themselves with their safety because of a son’s, daughter’s or sibling’s affiliation with a violent gang. A lasting impact is that inducted gang members often retreat from the positive influences in their community including friends, family, schools, and community organizations. They find their only friends are active gang members who become part of their extended family.
Steps Parents and Community Members Can Take. -Talk to your children. Discuss the consequences of becoming involved in a gang. -Involve you children in family and outside activities. -Take an active role in your child’s education and progress. -Work within your community and with your government such as the Warr Acres Police Department, in identifying and intervening in gang activities before they become a major problem in our community. -Respond quickly in removing graffiti and repairing vandalism in you neighborhood. A prompt response signals gang members that we have pride in our neighborhoods, and that we will not relinquish our communities and quality of life. -Encourage your neighbors to leave porch lights on at night and install sensor lights around their homes. Brightly lit streets discourage gang activity. -Report suspected gang activity immediately. In an emergency, dial 9-1-1. You may also wish to consult with a gang officer and should feel free to call. You may remain anonymous.
The Warr Acres Police Department’s Gang Unit are members of the Oklahoma Gang Investigators Association, OGIA. If you have further questions on gangs or gang activity or would like to report gang activity in your neighborhood, please contact the gang unit at 405-789-3329. Or for information about gangs please visit the OGIA web site at www.ogia.net. With the help and support of all residence, the gang problem can be controlled. Police departments are only as successful as the community they serve. A continuing partnership is our best defense.