Parents and Gangs


How Can Parents Help Curb Gang Activity?


What is a gang?

According to the National Youth Gang Center a gang is a self-formed group of people who have the following characteristics: three or more members, generally ages 12 to 24; a gang name and some sense of identity, generally shown by such symbols as clothing, graffiti, and hand signs; some form of allegiance for a common purpose; and engaged in delinquent or criminal activity.


How do gangs function?

Gangs thrive on violence, intimidation, and notoriety for their actions. Members seek confrontations with rivals resulting in drive-by shootings, the sale of drug, robberies, motor vehicle theft, vandalism, or other criminal activity for money and recognition. As a result, many innocent victims suffer loss of lives or other potential threat.


What are the consequences of gang membership?

Gang membership has a terrible effect on the lives of all who are in contact with the member. Families of gang members are concerned about their own safety as well as that of the son or daughter who is a gang member. Education and friends who are not gang members are cast aside. And, members who are not killed or wounded end up as school dropouts with a drug problem and police record that limit future employment opportunities.


What can you do to curb gang activity?

According to the Houston Police Gang Unit, parents can do a lot to keep their children from joining gangs.

  • Get Involved. Become aware of what’s going on in your child’s school, neighborhood and community.
  • If you have a neighborhood association, get them involved to watch the gang crime patterns.
  • Learn about gangs and signs of gang activity.
  • Report incidents such as vandalism, loitering, and drug activity to the police.
  • Report all graffiti in your neighborhood to the police.
  • Be alert to non-verbal communication signs. Graffiti writing on notebooks, books, papers, sidewalks, fences, stores, walls, etc. is a territorial marker to gang members and a way to advertise the gang’s power. Report graffiti.
  • Be involved in your child’s life. Be aware of changes such as dress changes, tattoos, selection of friends, truancy, violence, and disregard for persons or property.
  • Find out if your child has purchased new and expensive items or if your child has extra money that can’t be accounted for.
  • Look for signs of possible gang involvement:
  • Poor school and/or work attendance
  • No participation in family activities or withdrawal
  • Use of slang vocabulary
  • Associating with undesirable people
  • Staying out later than usual
  • Desiring too much privacy
  • Starting to drink or use drugs
  • Receiving money or articles without parental permission or awareness
  • Unusual moods or patterns of behavior.

Changes in behavior and dress can be a normal part of growing up or a sign of inappropriate identification and association. Know the difference by being an involved parent.


What can you do to keep your child from joining a gang?

If you believe your child might be exposed or attracted to a gang…

  • Talk and listen to your child. Explain the dangers and consequences of being a member of a gang.
  • Let him/her know that you care. Praise your child and encourage him/her to do his/her very best.
  • Express your disapproval of gangs and that you do not want him/her hurt.
  • Find out who your child’s friends are and discourage him/her from hanging around gang members.
  • Tell your child that peer gang pressure means that he/she is letting someone else make decisions for him/her. It makes him/her dependent rather than an independent thinker.
  • Encourage him/her to make new friends that are not gang members; provide new experiences or activities outside the community to expose him/her to new friendships.
  • Involve your child in supervised, positive group activities in school, in church, in the community. Give him/her responsibilities at home.
  • Do not allow your child to write or practice writing gang names, symbols, or any other gang graffiti on books, papers, clothes, bodies, walls or any other place.
  • Let him/her know that you will help with whatever problem he/she has.
  • Express the importance of education and help your child do his/her best in school.
  • Spend time with your child. Plan activities that the whole family can enjoy.
  • Set limits for your child. Let him/her know what is acceptable and unacceptable behavior.
  • Be a good example and model the expected behavior.
  • Teach your child to respect others’ property.
  • Know what your child is doing and with whom. Ask questions----Who?, Where?, When?, Why?, How? And follow up with your child’s activities to verify information.
  • Seek help from community services that help prevent gang violence.


Helpful Links


Gangs in Schools

National Youth Gang Center

Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention: