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Gang and Drug Information

What is a Gang?

A gang is a group of people who want to be seen as different from others and want others to perceive them as a distinct group. This group is organized, has leadership, and is committing criminal acts in the community.

Gang membership is not in and of itself illegal. However, when the "youth group" turns to criminal activity everyone is about to become a loser.

Gangs establish their reputation by the types and severity of the crimes they commit. The more heinous the crime the more "juice" or reputation the gang gets. In the seedy street gang world, the more "juice" you have the more respect you get!

How do gangs recruit members?

Lots of sweet talk, peer pressure, or fear and intimidation. Kids are often confronted by gang members in their neighborhoods or in school and are asked to join the gang. A Chicago public school survey showed 41% of students were contacted and asked to join gangs. Young people are told the "Big Lies" about all the good things that happen when they join. They are told they will earn a lot of money, make friends, go to parties, and belong to a close "family" that will care for and 'love' them.

Why do youths join gangs?

This answer all depends on the socio-economic background of the youth. In general terms they join for a sense of power, excitement, recognition/prestige and they believe the gang allows them to achieve a level of status that was impossible to attain outside of the gangs.

  • Prestige or power
  • Friendship or brotherhood
  • Protection/security from gang violence
  • Making a lot of money fast
  • Feeling of belonging and being cared about
  • Media glorification of the gang lifestyle

  • What are some typical pre-gang behaviors?

    Gang involvement does not happen overnight. It is a gradual process and if you are alert you will see the signs.


  • Poor progress or achievement in school
  • Truancy from school
  • Lack of hobbies or too much leisure time
  • Frequent contact with authority figures or police
  • Draws gang insignias/symbols
  • Problems at home
  • Lives in neighborhood where gangs exist
  • Friends are gang members or "dressing down" or "sagging and bagging" in gang attire
  • Begins dressing in traditional gang clothes

    These items are characteristic of gang involvement. However, some people who join or associate with gangs do not dress in the traditional attire and do not exhibit conspicuous behavior to show gang involvement. Parents must be aware of the behavior and activities of their children. Continual monitoring of behavior and positive verbal communication between parents and young people is a must for gang membership prevention.

  • What can parents do?

  • Know your children's friends.
  • Know about who and what influences your kids.
  • Know what your children are doing at all times.
  • Become involved with them and occupy their time.
  • Strive for good communication between you and your youngsters.
  • Again, spend time with them.
  • Do not allow gang dress.
  • Do not allow hanging in the streets or mall.
  • Be very suspicious of gang writing, graffiti, or tattoos.
  • Encourage anti-gang attitudes at home.
  • Learn about gangs and drugs.
  • Participate in your child's education-find out what's happening at school.
  • Get involved in community affairs.
  • Set the example for your kids-they will do what you do.
  • Believe in your young person.

  • Why do gangs use graffiti and what does it mean?

    As gang activity increases so does their graffiti. Graffiti has been called the "newspaper of the streets." Each gang has its unique symbols and cryptic types of writing. Graffiti is not art work; it is sophisticated communication that publicizes the gang's power, status, delineates territory, sends messages, and warns intruders. Graffiti upside down or crossed out is generally a 'put down' or threat to a rival gang or person. 'Death warrants' for police officers are known to have been posted with graffiti.

    What do you do about gang graffiti?

    Read It! Record It! Report It! And Remove It!! Gang graffiti left unchecked can be dangerous. Remember it can communicate an outright threat against an opposing gang or person. First the graffiti must be read and interpreted for danger signals. Second, it should be photographed. Then, a police report should be made for tracking purposes. Finally, the graffiti should be removed to reduce the likelihood of continued violence.

    Three goals that parents and communities should seek to reduce the adverse impact of gangs, its associated violence and its devastating life-long impacts are:

  • Raise your gang awareness level

    The majority of parents today have no idea what is going on in the corrupting and slimy abyss of street gangs. These mothers and fathers do not realize these gangs have a very strong and constant attraction to our children. From so called "youth groups" (who are led by 47 year old men) to "Rap Artists" (who are/were street gang members) to camouflaged socially conscious, self-help/save the children organizations (Growth and Development-new spin, new name-Gangster Disciples) and political action groups (21st Century V.O.T.E.-Gangster Disciples), our socially/culturally conscientious, community involved, fashion minded, want to be "cool" kids are targeted by these sneaky, street-wise criminals.

  • Supervise your children

    Our kids want, need and expect clear limits on their activities. So do the right thing and set them, right along with reasonable consequences for violations, and most importantly, make the call and stick to your decision. Being "the nice guy" only makes a mockery of your disciplinary efforts in the eyes of your child. Know who your kid's friends are and what he/she is doing with them.

  • Get involved with your children, your neighborhood and your community

    Do you know your neighbor two or three houses down from you? The majority of people do not. Take an active interest in your child's school. Get to know the teachers and volunteer to support activities. Participating in your child's activities and interests will be time well invested in his/her future.


    Sullivan County Sheriff
    P.O. Box 589
    Blountville, TN 37617
    (423) 279-7500

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