GANG ACTIVITY: A youth gang is a group of people who get together on a regular basis to carry out violent, illegal or anti-social activities, including intimidation, assault, vandalism, burglary and even murder. Gang members generally tend to be male teenagers, but they can also be female and even as young as 7 years old.
If you think your child’s school or social group is immune from gang activity, think again. Police and sheriff’s offices throughout the country have observed evidence of gangs in every social, academic and ethnic category.
Look for these signs that may indicate a child may be involved with a gang:
- The child begins hanging out with a new group of friends.
- There’s a marked change in the child’s habits or personality.
- You find evidence of or suspect drug or alcohol abuse.
- The child frequently shows signs of being bruised or injured.
- You observe the child using unusual hand signs, nicknames or street language.
- The child is carrying guns, knives or other weapons.
- You observe strange symbols or graffiti on notebooks and folders.
- The child withdraws from family members or friends.
- Grades fall and/or incidents requiring discipline become more frequent.
- The child obtains money without your knowledge.
- The child dresses in the same color clothing every day or wears tattoos, unusual jewelry, hairstyles, or clothing that could identify a particular gang.
If you suspect gang involvement, contact your school’s resource officer, the school’s administration or speak with local police to report what you have seen and put authorities on the alert for potential danger.
STREET CRIME: When you’re out of the house…shopping, driving or walking…you could become a victim of street crime. Stay safe by using these guidelines:
- Do not shop or conduct bank business on the 1st or 15th of the month (that’s when government checks and many paychecks are issued). Talk with your bank about setting up a direct deposit system for social security checks, and check with your employer about direct deposit for paychecks.
- Never carry large sums of money, jewelry or valuables while you’re out.
- Leave your important papers at home. Documents such as birth certificates and medical records are difficult for you to replace if you are the victim of a street crime.
- Walk confidently. Behave in an alert and self-assured fashion. People who appear to know exactly where they are going and are aware of their surroundings are less vulnerable than those who appear timid and confused.
- Keep one arm free when you are waiting for a public bus. Wear comfortable clothing and shoes in case you must flee and pay close attention to what is going on around you. Also, put a whistle on your keychain and have it handy for emergency use.
- Avoid getting into an elevator alone with a stranger.
- When traveling, use credit cards instead of cash.
- Keep your distance from drivers who stop you to ask for directions. Stay out of the person’s reach by remaining a few feet from the vehicle.
When you’re driving:
- Drive with your car doors locked.
- Vary your driving/walking route when commuting to work, shopping or conducting personal business.
- Never leave your car keys or valuables in an unattended automobile, and don’t leave packages where they will be visible to thieves. .
- Never leave small children unattended in your vehicle, not even for a minute.
- Park your car or walk only in well-lit, populated areas.
- Check your surroundings before venturing into parking lots or other unfamiliar areas. If you observe something suspicious, remain indoors and report it immediately.
- Check the back seat of your car before entering.
The most important way to stay safe and protect yourself in any situation is to remain alert and aware of your environment. The best prescription for your personal security is simple: PAY ATTENTION.