Know What to Look For
Gang Signs and Symbols
One way to identify a gang member is by the signs and symbols he/she uses. These symbols are often displayed on their clothing, items they wear, hand signs, tattoos and the graffiti they use. Click here to view common symbols used by San Antonio area gangs.
Gang Clothing and Colors
It should be noted that gang members often wear clothing that is currently popular among juveniles in general. The wearing of the clothing that is described in this section does not automatically make that person a gang member. However, a combination of the clothing worn, along with a certain color scheme or the manner in which the clothing is worn can indicate membership in a gang. As gang members find out what clothing is becoming too noticeable to people, they may change what they wear. What is fashionable today, may not be tomorrow and gang members follow trends.
Gang Hand Signs
The use of hand signs is a popular form of communication among street gangs. They are usually unique to each gang and can identify a gang member's affiliation as well as their rivalries.
Gang tattoos are the sign of a hardcore gang member. Individuals who mark themselves with gang writing have usually made a decision to stay in the gang for a long time. Besides tattooing, branding oneself with gang signs is a popular form of showing allegiance to their gang. Usually, the gang tattoo or brand are the same symbols or words used in gang graffiti. Important to remember - Just because someone has a tattoos does not make them a gang member.
Gang graffiti is often referred to by law enforcement as the newspaper of the street. This is because a lot can be learned about the gang from their graffiti. Graffiti usually names the gang and its members. It marks the gang's territory and is a warning to rival gangs. It can also reveal what gangs affiliate with each other. Many times, graffiti will show disrespect and warning to rival gangs and individual gang members when tags are crossed out, cracked or symbols are turned upside down.
Source: San Antonio Police Department - Youth Crime Service Unit
San Antonio Area / Regional Gangs
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- Gang related signs, symbols, or tattoos
- Bandanas, flags, or rags of a color
- Gang attire, clothing, pendants, shoes
- Weapons (guns, knives, clubs etc.)
- Criminal record (jail, probation, parole..)
- No or limited employment and unexplained large amounts of cash
- Drug usage/sale/treatment
- School/public/neighborhood issues
- Hip hop music, movies, stacking
- Family detachment
- Secret activities
- Code numbers, letters, writings
- Gang signs or symbols on personal items or self
- Group photos displaying hand signs or other gang identifiers
- Drawings in bedroom, front porch, or on furniture
- Tattoos written in pen, marker or homemade