Parents Information on Gangs and Children


  • You should be concerned if your child:
  • admits to gang involvement;is obsessed with one particular color of clothing or shows a desire for a particular logo over and over;
  • wears sagging pants (this in and of itself is not indicative of gang activity);
  • wears excessive jewelry with distinctive designs and may wear it only on either the right or left side of the body;
  • is obsessed with gangster-influenced music, videos and movies to the point of imitation;
  • withdraws from family with an accompanying change in demeanor;
  • associates with undesirable and breaks parental rules consistently;
  • develops an unusual desire for privacy and secrecy and may completely rearrange living quarters to create privacy;
  • uses hand signs while with friends and practices them at home;
  • Or there is evidence of the appearance of:
    • physical injury (such as being beaten) and then child lies about the events surrounding the injury:
    • peculiar drawings or language on school books (may appear later as tattoos or brands);
    • unexplained cash or goods, i.e., clothing or jewelry;
    • possible use of alcohol and drugs with attitude change.


Associate with any gang members or “wannabe/gonnabe” gang members;identify or communicate with gangs;hang out near or where gangs congregate;approach strangers in cars who appear to want information or directions;wear gang related clothing where gangs are known to gather or traverse;wear initialed clothing such as BK – British Knights – a/k/a “Blood Killer” in high crime areas;use words like “crab” or “slob” (localized lingo may develop) anywhere gangs may be; i.e. malls, sporting events, etc.;attend any party or social event sponsored by gangs or their associates;take part in any graffiti activity or hang around where graffiti is present; oruse any kind of finger or sign language in a public place.

Tips for Parents

  • Impress upon your child the importance of school and good grades
  • Spend quality time with your children
  • Get involved in your child’s school activities
  • Establish rules, set limits and be consistent, firm and fair in punishment
  • Encourage good study habits
  • Respect your child’s feelings and attitudes and help them develop self-esteem
  • Watch closely for negative influences
  • Improve your own self-esteem so your children can model themselves after the most important “role model” YOU.


Help children develop self control
Help children deal appropriately with problems
Get involved in community oriented prevention and intervention programs. Urge others to become involved. Volunteer at your child’s school. Gangs are a community problem and their influence does not stop at any particular boundary.
Listen to your children. Communicate with them about their concerns and fears.


Resourses for Parents from the Department of Juvenile Justice

CINS/FINS - Ungovernable Youth

Children In Need of Services (CINS)/Families In Need of Services (FINS): An adjudication status for a child or a family for whom there is no pending investigation into an allegation or suspicion of abuse, neglect, or abandonment; no pending referral alleging the child is delinquent; or no current supervision by the Department of Juvenile Justice or the Department of Children and Family Services for an adjudication of dependency or delinquency. A family in need of services is not an adjudicated status.

The child must also:

  • Have persistently run away from the child’s parents or legal custodians despite reasonable efforts; and/or;
  • Be habitually truant from school, while subject to compulsory school attendance, despite reasonable efforts to remedy the situation; and/or;
  • Have persistently disobeyed the reasonable and lawful demands of the child’s parents or legal custodian, and to be beyond their control.

(Florida Statute Chapter 984)

Florida Network of Youth and Family Services, Inc. 

The Florida Network of Youth and Family Services, Inc. is a not-for-profit statewide association representing agencies which serve lockouts/homeless, runaway, and troubled youth ages 10 to 17 and their families. Services include: shelter, non-residential counseling, Case/Service Plan, Case Management Services, Adjudication Services, CINS Petition Process, Staff Secure Services, Physically Secure Services, and Case Termination.

Mission: The Florida Network values young people and therefore creates safe pathways to their future by building strong families and communities.

Vision: Florida will be a safe place where all young people reach their full potential.

PACE Center for Girls, Inc.

Practical Academic Cultural Education (PACE) Center for Girls is a Florida-based, nationally recognized not-for-profit organization that provides non-residential, prevention, intervention, and diversion services for at-risk girls and young women ages 12 to 17. PACE uses a comprehensive and holistic model that integrates social services, education, and career readiness in a safe, gender-responsive environment that reflects an understanding of the lives of girls and responds to their strengths and challenges.

Mission: PACE provides girls and young women an opportunity for a better future through education, counseling, training and advocacy.

Philosophy: PACE values all girls and young women, believing each one deserves an opportunity to find her voice, achieve her potential and celebrate a life defined by responsibility, dignity, serenity and grace.

PACE Center Contact List

Florida Youth Challenge Academy (FLYCA)

FLYCA is a 17 1/2 month voluntary program geared toward Florida's 16 to 18 year old at-risk youth. The program consists of a 5 1/2 month residential phase and a 12 month post-residential phase. The residential phase of the program takes place in a highly disciplined and motivational environment promoting structure and academics along with leadership, health, community service, life skills, job skills, physical fitness and citizenship. The post-residential phase takes place after graduation from the residential phase and is a time when the cadet uses the skills learned in the residential phase through their placement in either a job, further education, or the military. The cadet is matched with a mentor during the residential phase and this mentor helps to guide the cadet during the 12 month post-residential phase.

Mission: To provide a high disciplined and motivational environment, free from outside distractions, which fosters academics, leadership development, personal growth, self-esteem, and physical fitness for qualifying high school dropouts.

Outward Bound

Outward Bound helps teens and their families transition their lives in more meaningful and positive directions. Outward Bound emphasizes character development, academic achievement and social responsibility to reduce the risk of dropping out of school, substance abuse and future delinquency. Programs consist of 20-day wilderness expeditions and a 20 to 24-day follow up component that takes place in the students’ home and school environments. Parent involvement is required.

Mission: To inspire at-risk and committed delinquent youth to remain crime free and stay in school to reach their full potential in education, community, career and life, through attaining academic achievement, character development and social responsibility.

Outward Bound-Scottsmoor
Intake Coordinator
P.O. Box 417/3500 Sunset Ave
Scottsmoor FL 32775
Toll free: 866-270-7020
Telephone: 321-268-5666
Fax: 321-268-5667

Note: Only students in the following counties are served: Brevard, Osceola, Orange, Seminole, Volusia, and Flagler.

Outward Bound-Key Largo
Wanda Roberts, Intake Coordinator
100693 Overseas Highway
Key Largo FL 33037
Toll Free: 800-327-2995
Telephone: 305-242-4881
Fax: 305-242-4882

Note: Only students in the following counties are served: Monroe, Dade, and Broward.

  Books on Gangs

Under And Alone
written by William Queen
Available through
Lessons From A Gang Cop
written by Tony Moreno
Available through
Angels Of Death
written by Julian Sher & William Marsden
Available through
The Road To Hell
written by Julian Sher & William Marsden
Available through
Until You Are Dead
written by Julian Sher
Available through
White Hoods
written by Julian Sher
Available through
15 Days In Hell
written by Keith Rapp and Robert Davis (Lois Fraley’s story)
Available through
The Mexican Mafia, The Story
written by Bob Morrill
Available through
Varrio Warfare: Violence in the Latino Community Varrio Warfare: Violence in the Latino Community
written by Gabriel C. Morales
Available through:
Online Only

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 and/or delinquent acts in the community.
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!
The State of Florida has a legal definition of a Criminal Street Gang and what it takes to be classified as a Criminal Street Gang Member. To view these definitions, please click on the following link, Florida Statute 874.03.
Current gang members will often use peer pressure or fear and intimidation tactics to get others to join their gang. Kids are often confronted by gang members in their neighborhoods, in school or on the internet and are asked to join the gang.
A Chicago public school survey showed that 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 depends on the socioeconomic background of the youth. In general, children will often join a gang for a sense of power, excitement, recognition, or prestige. They believe that belonging to a particular gang will allow them to achieve a level of status that was impossible to attain outside of the gang.
  • 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
Current trends show that female gang membership is sky rocketing here in Florida and all across the Nation. Females are valued by the majority of gangs and are often placed in support roles like carrying the weapons and drugs.
Why do gangs use graffiti and what does it mean?
Graffiti has been called the "newspaper of the streets." Each gang has its unique symbols and cryptic types of writing. Graffiti is not artwork; it is sophisticated communication that publicizes the gang's power, status, territory, sends messages, and warns other gangs and intruders.
Graffiti that is drawn upside down or crossed out is generally a 'put down' or threat to a rival gang or person. Some gangs will even use graffiti as 'Death warrants' towards police officers.
Remember the four (4) R's...Read It, Record It, Report It and Remove It!!!
If gang graffiti is left unchecked can become very dangerous. Remember, graffiti can indicate an outright threat against a rival gang or against a specific person. The graffiti must first be read and interpreted for danger signals. Second, the graffiti should be well documented and photographed. Then, a police report should be made for tracking purposes. Finally, the graffiti should be quickly removed to reduce the likelihood of continued violence.
How do you deal with gangs?
Be decisive, firm, and fair. Lenient treatment is viewed as weakness by gangs and they will take advantage of you. Intimidation and lectures will not work; this will most likely lead to an unwanted confrontation.
Gang members are looking for respect. Giving any public or media attention to a gang only feeds their egos and escalates their gang activity. It is bad news to negotiate with terrorist or criminals, so don't do it with gangs or gang members. All this will do is give the gang more recognition and power.
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 warning 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/signs
  • Problems at home
  • Lives in neighborhood where gangs already 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 their 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.
Know who your children's friends are
  • Know about who and what influences your kids
  • Know what your children are doing at all times
  • Become involved with your children and spend time with them
  • Strive for good communication between you and your children
  • Do not allow them to wear gang attire
  • Do not allow your children to 'hang out' 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 your community and school affairs
  • Set the example for your kids, they will do what you do
  • Believe in your children
  • More recreational and leisure-time activities for youngsters
  • A crack-down and tougher law enforcement against gang activities in the community
  • Stepped-up efforts to combat the chief source of a gang's income (DRUG SALES)
  • Increased parental supervision of children, their activities, and their friends
  • Collaborative efforts between police, community residents, and children
What are some community anti-gang strategies? Establish a gang intelligence unit in the community police agency-a clearing house for tracking and monitoring gangs
  • Build methods of disseminating advice/information on dealing with gangs to children and parents
  • Enact ordinances, both school board, city, and state, that make it a felony for gangs to recruit in school or intimidate youngsters to join a gang
  • Support initiatives that provide for a rich assortment of extracurricular programs for kids and the incentives for them to participate in them
  • Organize/support workshops on street gangs to be taught to parents, grandparents, and guardians of school-age children
  • Provide public seminars on "street gangs" throughout the year
  • Run media series on street gangs, stripping them of their mystique and exposing them for what they are
  • Encourage service clubs and church groups to sponsor a battery of community speak-outs during the year on street gangs, with the help of the police departments, courts, youth services agencies, correctional institutions, and schools
  • Organize an army of citizens to patrol through their community and erase gang graffiti whenever it appears

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