Options for Youth: There are many types of gang identifiers
Anyone who has gang-related questions can use these resources to access more information:
• Gang Task Force, 458-0238.
• Colusa County Sheriff's Department, 458-0200.
• Probation Department, 458-5871.
• Colusa Police Department, 458-7777 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
• Williams Police Department, 473-2661 or email@example.com.
• National Youth Gang Center, www.iir.com/nygc.
• National Criminal Justice Service, www.ncjrs.gov.
• Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, www.ojjdp.gov.
Although colors, signs and other indicators of gangs are constantly changing, parents and community members can benefit from learning about typical gang identifiers and behaviors.
Gang members may use a particular style of dress to identify with a particular gang, set, clique or crew.
Clothing that might be worn by gang members could include pants worn well below the waist (sagging); gang-themed T-shirts with pictures of gang members, prison scenes, graffiti or slogans; two- or three-toned bead necklaces; sports clothing of specific teams; or colored fabric belts, occasionally with a metal buckle that includes the initial(s) of the gang.
Many gangs use one or more colors as a symbol to represent their gang. These colors may be worn on shirts, bandanas, multicolored or single-colored beads, belts, hats, shoes, shoelaces, headbands, jewelry and other items.
Some symbols and numbers may have special significance within the gang culture in a particular area. A few common symbols are crowns, pitchforks (pointing up or down), hatchet man logo, three dots in a triangle, or four dots in a variety of formations and numbers. In some areas, stars — five- and six-pointed — are used to indicate gang affiliation.
Tattoos are used to show an individual's loyalty to his or her gang. These tattoos often include the name, initials or symbols of the specific gang and may be found on the hands, neck, face, chest, back or arms.
Letters, colors or symbols may have a specific gang meaning in local street-gang culture, such as the color red and the number 14 to indicate Norteños, and the color blue and the number 13 to indicate Sureños.
These two gangs are the ones most prevalent in our area. Numbers may be displayed as three or four dots. And X3 or X4, XIII or XIV also identify these two major groups.
Another common number that may appear on clothing is 530, which indicates the telephone area code, and may be used by multiple gang groups. Sports items may be purchased in a nontraditional color to correspond with the gang's colors or may be altered with graffiti or extra symbols or writing.
Gangs use graffiti to mark their territory, brag about their reputation, mourn fallen mem bers and threaten or challenge
rival gangs. For this reason, graffiti can be very dangerous and should be removed as soon as possible.
Graffiti "artists" may have items such as spray paint, spray-paint plastic tips, wide-tipped markers, or sketchbooks with graffiti works in progress.
Some gangs use specific hand gestures to communicate their affiliation with the gang and issue threats or challenges to rival gangs. Verbal communications may include certain codes to call for help, identify gang affiliation, or indicate an impending event.
One of these verbal signals is the shout "Shaooo," as well as a loud melodic or bird-like whistle.
Gangsta/gangster rap is a style of rap music characterized by violent, tough-talking lyrics that glorify gang culture. Many popular movies also focus on street gangs and their activities.
Youths may show their interest in gangs through fascination with music and movies that portray street-gang culture.
Parent and community awareness and involvement can be instrumental in preventing gang activities and violence. Our youth can have a more positive outlook for their future if the whole community comes together to support safe and healthy activities and to reinforce the possibility of a happy and successful life.
The next article in this column will address what parents can do with and for their children, and particular behaviors that might indicate interest or involvement in gangs.
Kay Spurgeon is the elected Colusa County Superintendent of Schools. Ed Conrado is the Youth Services coordinator in the county Office of Education.