When I was kid growing up on the streets of Brooklyn in the 1960’s me and my buddies decided that we needed a nickname to call ourselves by. After all, we considered ourselves the scourge of the neighborhood and such major league offenses like walking across a neighbor’s lawn, climbing over their fence or teasing their dogs shouldn’t go unnoticed. In a fit of ten year old inspiration we decided to call ourselves “The Gang”. I think we devised some kind of secret handshake as a signal of our bond of brotherhood. We thought we were “cool”.

Some “Gang” we were. Most of us had to be home by nine in order to enjoy the creature comforts of home like a nice cold bowl of ice cream or other kind of snack to be enjoyed while watching Mannix or Hawaii Five-O or some other television detective bust the “real” criminals. Our parents had no idea of what types of mayhem we were causing when we were out from under their watchful eyes.

How times have changed…

Today, almost forty years later, I live in a decent neighborhood and there is no “gang activity” to speak of. Sure, there’s the occasional act of vandalism or some graffiti sprayed on some walls but I don’t think it’s a group of troubled individuals marking their territory or anything. It is what it is…

But that’s not to say we’re safe from the influence of gangs and gang related behavior. After all, a parent has to keep a watchful on their offspring to make sure they don’t degenerate into the “gangsta” lifestyle. In order to help them along the way, the fine folks at the National Concerned Officers Center have come up with some suggestions to help you determine if your neighborhood or possibly even your home have come under gang influence. Here’s a few of them.

Clothes make the man.

It seems that some gangs adhere to a strict dress code. That dress code may vary from gang to gang or according to the latest fashion but by and large (remember, this is not according to yours truly, this is from people who make a living figuring this kinda stuff out) it is made up of khaki trousers. These trousers are ironed with sharp creases down the front. (My former drill instructor would be proud!). A white T-shirt, a plaid flannel shirt and a bandana complete the basic ensemble. We’ll accessorize later…

To the uninitiated this may seem confusing but if you look closely there are certain identifiers that can help you along the way. It seems members of Hispanic gangs have taken to buttoning only the top button of their shirt while members of the rival black gangs wear their shirts open. They don’t make mention of members of white gangs but I’ve good it on good authority they can be identified by carrying around a Starbucks to go cup filled with their favorite latte. Other more established white gangs are often thought of as role models and heroes and movies depicting their exploits have won many an award.

Hats are important to gangs too! Some gangs wear them tilted to the left and some wear them tilted to the right. To sneer in the face of authority, some really badass gangs even wear them backwards!

Apparently the bandana also has some hidden meaning depending on its placement. Some gangs follow tradition and wear them on their heads. Others have them tied to one of their belt loops and still other have them dangling form their back pockets.

A sign of the times

Even though tattoos are considered somewhat commonplace today they were once thought to be a surefire sign that the wearer of one was affiliated with a gang. Unless, of course the tattoo was of a military nature, then it was ok. Nowadays gang members often tattoo not only their arms but have ink all over their body (Gasp!).

While many of them are self inflicted and of the prison variety some are elaborate works of art. Be on the lookout for teardrops, spider webs or tattoos of words written across the knuckles.


Did you ever wonder what those folks are doing when they’re talking and their fingers and arms are bending in all sorts of different directions? Well, it seems they might be communicating with each other in ways that us laymen can’t understand. Again, according to the fine folks where I obtained this research, some gangs have become so sophisticated in this the means of communication that it’s possible to have an entire conversation without uttering a word. They often “flash” signals to their rivals to warn them that some shit is about to go down yo and you best bust yo ass on outta here.

If these walls could talk

When I want to hear the latest news I usually turn on the television or radio. Maybe I’ll go to the internet or if I’m feeling especially daring go out and pick up a newspaper. But even then I’m only getting all the news that’s fit to print. Gangs have taken to graffiti as a way of announcing their presence, sending warning to their rivals, advertising drugs or guns that are available or constructing memorials for their fallen brothers.

According to the officers that conducted this research if you see the following items decorating a wall somewhere in your neighborhood it might be an indicator that a gang has encroached on your turf.

  • Crowns
  • Stars
  • Hearts
  • Pitchforks
  • Hard to read lettering

    I don’t know what that last one’s all about because to me, most of the graffiti I’ve seen in my lifetime is pretty much indecipherable. But then again, I’ve got an untrained eye for this sort of thing.

    In closing, I’m sure there are other more obvious ways to determine if there are gangs present in your neighborhood or home. This list wasn’t meant to be all inclusive, it’s meant to be more just like a primer on gangs than anything else.

    In the meantime, just chill, yo.


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