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A “Gang” is defined by the NRS, as any combination of persons organized formally or informally, that has a common name or symbol, engage in a pattern of delinquent behavior or criminal activity, and associate together on a regular basis or claim affiliation with a known gang.

* Self Admission
* Moniker or nicknames
* Tattoos, style/color of dress or accessories, hand signs
* Possession of drawings, letters, graffiti
* Identification by law enforcement personnel, reports, court records
* Photographs of individual or group members
* Associates at the time of contact, known gang affiliation

Each gang has their own hand signs that they use to show their allegiance to their gang and to identify their enemies. “Throwing signs” are hand signals made by forming letters or numbers with the hands and fingers depicting the gang symbol or initials. Confrontations frequently begin with gang signs issued as a challenge and flashed between rival gangs. Watch for your child’s use of hand signs to communicate.

Graffiti is the defacing or destruction of property by a gang member in order to mark its territory, advertise the gang’s perceived power or status, or serves as a warning or challenge to other gangs. MAKE NO MISTAKE, GRAFFITI IS A CRIME, IS VIGOROUSLY PROSECUTED BY THE DISTRICT ATTORNEY AND PUNISHABLE BY INCARCERATION.

The same types of graffiti is often found in the child’s bedroom or schoolbooks


Tattoos may be viewed as an extension of graffiti, used to identify the wearer as a member of a particular gang. Like graffiti, tattoos usually include the initials, name or symbols of a gang. Tattoos have long been associated with gang membership and the permanence of gang affiliation.
Gang tattoos will be easily differentiated from common tattoos.

Gang members dress for strategic reasons. Their clothing color, hats, shoes, jewelry and other accessories all play a part in their identity. Baseball caps and jackets with logos of popular professional sports teams have become a common item worn by gang members. Look for common wear of clothing (colors) as compared to friends.


My gang will protect me, and I will feel safe.

WRONG! While you may believe that joining a gang will protect you from bullies or other gang members, being in a gang greatly increases your chances to be a target for rival gang members. You are far more likely to be injured or killed if you are in a gang. Many former gang members report that they had to change their lives dramatically as a gang member. They could no longer wear clothing they used to wear. They got into fights while attending school. They felt unsafe going out of their neighborhoods, and they couldn’t ever be sure where rivals might confront them. Even if they got out of gangs, their rivals didn’t forget them. They still had many enemies who might hurt or kill them.

Other people will respect me more if I am in a gang.

WRONG! Respect in many gangs really means fear. If you join a gang, you will constantly have to commit crimes in order to keep other gang members afraid of you. At any age, respect is something you can earn by getting an education and accomplishing goals in your life. Respect in the gang culture will go away the first time you fail to hurt someone who insults you or puts you down. That kind of respect isn’t real and doesn’t last.

Joining a gang means I’ll have lots of friends.

WRONG! You will have friends, but you’ll also make lots of enemies—the members of rival gangs. Also, your friends who haven’t joined the gangs may stop wanting to be around you. Your gang may not approve if you have friends or date people outside the gang. They may question and test your loyalty, and insist that you hang out only with them.

My gang will be just like a family.

WRONG! Real families don’t force people to commit crimes to get respect and love. Real families accept you and love you for who and what you are. Even if your family is having problems, being in a gang will not solve them—it will only make things worse. If you join a gang, your family members may become targets for rival gangs. Joining a gang will only increase the number of fights you have with your parents. You will eventually get into trouble with the law, and your parents and family members will be hurt and disappointed. You will set a bad example for your brothers and sisters. You will not find the kind of love you’re looking for from a gang, ever.

I’ll make lots of money if I’m in a gang.

WRONG! Most gang members make very little money being part of a gang. Those who do, usually end up doing time because they have been very involved in criminal activity. If you’re in a gang, it’s far more likely that you will drop out of school because of problems with not only rival gang members, but with the leadership of your gang. Getting your education is the key to making your life a success—not becoming a gang member.

I can never get out of my gang.

WRONG! Gang members decide to leave the gang lifestyle every day in cities around the United States. It is a myth that the only way to leave a gang is by dying. Most gang members who leave are able to live normal lives, going to school and working just like everyone else. However, in some cases, getting out of a gang isn’t easy, and you may have to leave your home, school or community in order to be safe. It IS easier to get into a gang than to get out of one, but you can choose to leave the gang life today and for ever.

Here is what members of the Tri-County Gang Unit have said:

“Be an observant parent, pay attention to what your children wear and who they hang out with”
-Deputy Travis Clarke, Lyon County Sheriff’s Office.

“Never be afraid to report to the Police what you believe is gang behavior or activity”
-Deputy Nathan Brehm, Carson City County Sheriff’s Office.