Once found only in large cities, gangs have invaded communities of all sizes across the United States. Gangs bring fear and violence to neighborhoods, traffic in drugs, destroy property, and drive out businesses. Gangs draw young people away from school and home and into a life of violence.
Learn About Gangs
Gangs can be organized around race or ethnic group, money-making activities, or territory.
Gangs signal their existence and solidarity through clothing and head coverings, a special vocabulary, tattoos, hand signs, and tagging their territory with graffiti.
"Gangsta" rap paints a realistic picture of daily gang activity. The lyrics glorify violence, abuse of women, and disrespect for authority, especially the police. Its popularity among the young has helped spread the culture of gangs, cutting across class, economic, racial, and geographic lines.
Most gang members are male (but that is rapidly changing); they range in age from 8 to 22-years-old
Young people give various reasons for joining gangs. Among the most common - to belong to a group, for protection, to earn money, for excitement, and to be with friends. For some, it's even family.
What Communities Can Do
Cooperate with police and other agencies. Report suspicious activity, set up a Neighborhood Watch or citizen patrol, and volunteer to clean up graffiti.
Develop positive alternatives, such as after school, weekend, and summer activities where children and teens can learn, expand their world, and have fun.
Encourage parents to talk to one another through school forums, social events, networks, parenting classes, and support groups.
Get organized and show gangs that your neighborhood has zero-tolerance for their activities. Your community has many resources who can work together against gangs including law enforcement, civic groups, religious congregations, schools, youth agencies, Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts, and drug treatment services.