List of Gang Involvement Warning Signs

Gang involvement warning signs
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Determine if your child is in a Gang with this List of Gang Involvement Warning Signs

This article provides an overview of gangs and warning signs of gang involvement. In addition, you’ll find a list of suggested books to learn more about the subject.

Many parents fear their child or children may start hanging out with the wrong people. Sometimes, the “wrong kind of people” may be a private club, an organized gang, a cult, or even a criminal organization. These organizations or groups may be involved in anything from criminal activity to firearms and drug use. Being involved in your children’s lives and constantly watching their circle of friends is important as a parent.

Facts and Statistics About Gangs

  • The National Gang Center estimated that there were around 33,000 gangs in the United States as of 2011.
  • The number of gang members in the U.S. was estimated to be around 1.4 million in 2011, according to the National Gang Center.
  • Gangs are present in urban and suburban areas, with variations in gang prevalence across different regions. Cities such as Los Angeles, Chicago, and New York have historically had higher concentrations of gang activity.
  • Gang membership often starts in adolescence, and many gang members are teenagers. The average age of gang members is relatively young, with some joining as early as 12 or 13.
  • Violent Crimes: Gangs are often associated with violent crimes such as homicides, assaults, and robberies. However, it’s essential to note that not all gang members are involved in criminal activities.
  • Drug Trade: Gangs play a significant role in the illegal drug trade. They are involved in drug trafficking, distribution, and other related activities, contributing to violence and crime.
  • Prison Gangs: Gang activity extends into the prison system, where prison gangs may form and influence criminal activities both inside and outside correctional facilities.
  • Gang Colors and Symbols: Many gangs use specific colors, symbols, and hand signs to identify themselves and communicate with other members. These visual cues can help law enforcement and other gangs recognize affiliations.

What to look for

There are some things you can watch for to know if your child is involved in a potentially dangerous group. Look for signs that your child may be involved in a private squad, clique, cult, or criminal organization.

If you notice abrupt changes in your child’s selection of friends, it could be a sign that they are in a gang. Look for changing patterns in the way they dress, such as wearing the same color combination of clothes all the time. This could represent that they are following a prescribed dress code. Notice gang symbols on books, folders, clothing, computers, or other personal equipment.

Please pay attention to any secretiveness about activities and plans that may suggest they are hiding something. Look for unexplained, relatively large sums of money or other items that may have been stolen. Keep an eye out for any sudden changes in behavior, including a diminishing interest in the family and school. Notice if they are staying away from the house or staying out late without good reason.

You may also notice problems with school officials or other authority figures (coaches, trainers, tutors, etc.). Problems with the police. These issues usually start as minor infractions, such as traffic violations or misdemeanor arrests. If the trend continues, the arrest often escalates to felony charges.

Actions You Can Take

If you notice these patterns of possible involvement, get help immediately. Start by contacting the counselor at your child’s school. Then, reach out to the gang crimes unit of your local police department. They may be able to help you find counseling and tell you how to help your child get out of the dangerous cult.

Talk to other parents or neighbors to see if they have similar concerns. These types of discussions may lead to the pooling of resources and may help you learn about support groups or other types of organizations that offer help in your area.

In addition, it may be helpful to educate yourself by reading books and website articles that provide more information on the subject. Following are some suggested resources:

Street Gangs is one of the most comprehensive websites on gangs, crime-related news, discussion forums, and more. It serves as a helpful reference for identifying members. Also, check out Gang Research for books, articles, and videos.

If you have any questions about these gang involvement warning signs, please post them below.

Why Do Private Eyes Need to Know About These Organizations?

Private investigators are sometimes hired to infiltrate criminal groups to conduct covert investigations involving cliques.  For example, a parent might hire a private investigator to determine if their child has become involved in illegal and dangerous activity. In other situations, private investigators may have to interview crew members to get information about a crime or a subject. Understanding cult life and how squads, tribes, teams, and cliques are formed and structured will be helpful to private detectives.

Books: Learn About Life on the Inside of America’s Gangs

A gang is a group of people who share a common identity through the organization, formation, and establishment of an assemblage.  In current terms, the word typically denotes a criminal organization or a criminal affiliation. The word often carries a negative connotation due to the violence and criminal activity usually associated with organization members.

The following are books that provide more information on investigations.

Under and Alone is a book that provides a detailed account of a law enforcement agent who infiltrated a violent motorcycle clique. The agent assumed the role of a biker named “Billy St. John” and spent 28 months in an undercover operation. During his investigation, he gathered evidence of homicide, weapons, and drug violations. At first, the crew suspected he was a cop. As a result, he was forced to prove himself and his loyalty many times. The book reads like a movie and provides a fascinating look into the life of sadistic and criminal biker squads.

This book, Monster: The Autobiography of an L.A. Gang Member, accounts for a Los Angeles gangbanger inducted into the Crips organization at 11. Look inside the Crips and learn how their mindset keeps them in a constant state of war.

This guide provides information on gangbanger identification, arrest, search and seizure, prosecution, and anti-gang measures. Learn how to deal with modern street thugs and survive on the streets as a law enforcement officer.

Gangs Across America And Their Symbols (Pocket Guides)

A guide to understanding these groups. Includes such topics as:

  • Affiliation breakdowns
  • Affiliated nations’ color schemes’ meanings
  • interpretations of graffiti and insignia
  • hand signs, slang translations, and tattoo meanings

The book covers such interesting topics as street, ethnic, occult, outlaw motorcycle, hate groups, prison groups, and more.

Always Running: La Vida Loca: Gang Days in L.A.

A memoir that documents a youth’s time as an East Los Angeles gang member. Describes such events as shootings, Mexican funerals, rapes, and arrests.

Inside the Crips: Life Inside L.A.’s Most Notorious Gang

A memoir of a clique member that provides an inside look into the life of group members. Learn what daily life looks like from the inside of a criminal organization.

Questions and Comments

Please leave a message if you have any questions or comments about this list of gang involvement warning signs or suggested books.


  • National Gang Center
  • Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)
  • OpenAI. (2024). ChatGPT [Large language model]
Michael Kissiah is the owner of Brandy Lane Publishing, LLC, which owns and operates a small portfolio of websites, including Michael created more than 20 years ago after working as a private investigator in the state of Florida. Since that time, he has become an expert at how to find information online and has written over 1000 articles on topics related to the investigation industry. In addition, he is the author of the "Private Investigator Licensing Handbook", available at


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