Children And Gangs: Is Your Child Gang Member Material?

Children join gangs at a young age. Gang members use a variety of methods to recruit new members into their gangs. Find out how they do it!

Parents and teachers may falsely believe that gangs are not present in their communities and their schools. However, gangs aren't confined to large cities anymore. More and more often, police are finding evidence of gang activity in smaller cities and towns. Wherever gangs go, they will need to recruit additional members. It is mainly the young recruits that carry out the majority of the crimes for the gangs, including prostitution, robbery and the selling of drugs.

Most gangs are lead by one person or a small group of people: these are the ones that give the orders. The recruits, usually teens or young adults are the ones that carry out the crimes. You may think that because your kid or your student is a good kid that make good grades, he would never get involved in a gang. In actuality, gangs use a variety of methods to lure kids into their group. They may offer to give them money, clothes, jewelry or love that they feel that aren't getting elsewhere. Or they may resort to other methods to force a kid to join them. Gangs have been known to use threats and coercion to recruit new members.

Some of the most popular methods of recruiting new members includes:


At first the recruiters may try to lure kids in by offering them money, clothing, drugs or jewelry. They attempt to make the gang life look glamorous. The money and material possessions may be tempting, especially to those kids that have little of it at home. Sometimes the gangs use parties as a means to lure new members. They may give the kids drugs and promise that they can have all the drugs they want if they join the gang.

Deceit and Misrepresentation

Gangs sometimes resort to deceitful tactics to recruit their members. Knowing that the word "gang" gives a bad image, they may try to convince the youth that they are not a gang but are a club or group. They may target kids that seem to come from a bad home environment with little parental supervision. The teens are told that their parents don't care about them but the "club" will be their new family and love them unconditionally. Often, female gang members are used to lure new members in. She may claim that the gang takes care of her and protects her. This may sound enticing to girls from bad homes or that live with fathers or step fathers with whom they don't get along with.

Debt and Obligation

Often, a gang member will do a favor for someone or loan them money, drugs or cigarettes and then later demand that they join the gang as a method of repayment. They will try to convince the teen that they owe the gang a debt of gratitude and it must be repaid.

Threats and Coercion

If all the friendlier methods fail, they may resort to threats or coercion to force the youth to join the gang. Gangs have been known to use threats, including threatening to harm the youth, their friends or family. They have also resorted to carrying out the threats. These tactics are most frequently used in larger gangs in large cities where gangs are abundant, however, they may be used by smaller gangs as well.

Self Recruitment

For whatever reasons, many teens go looking for a gang and ask to join. It could be due to the glamourous looking life of other gang members or it may be a method to make money. Many teens have joined gangs out of desperation. They need money quick and easily and the gang is the way to get it. Also, kids that use drugs may think that they will have easier access to drugs if they are in the gang. Kids that have a bad home life may feel that they can "escape" through the gang.

What happens when a kid joins a gang?

The initiation process is different for each gang. In many cases the new recruit must be "jumped in." Being "jumped in" usually means the kid must fight one or several members of the gang and still be standing when the beating is over. Some gangs allow the recruit to choose which members they will fight, while others simply deliver a gang beating to the recruit, punching and kicking the youth for up to 10 minutes. Some gangs forego the beatings and require the youth to create a criminal act such as stealing a car.

How can you tell if your child is involved in a gang?

Here are some warning signs that your child may be involved in a gang or in gang activities.

1. They may have new friends or stop hanging out with their old friends or they may not let you meet any of their friends.

2. They may start spending a lot of time away from home.

3. They may display a lack of interest in school or school related activities and their grades may drop.

4. They become difficult to deal with, argumentative.

5. They may start to use drugs or alcohol.

6. They may start to dress differently, wearing only one color or specific colors, refusing to wear a specific color (usually red or blue).

7. They may have themselves tattooed.

8. They may start to use nicknames or refer to their friends by nicknames instead of their real names.

9. They may get into trouble with the law.

10. They may have graffiti like artwork on their school books or folders.

If you suspect that your child is involved in a gang, you should act immediately. The longer that a person remains in the gang, the less chance that they will get out. Gang members often end up in prison or end up being killed. For more information about gangs and gang activity in your area, contact your local police department.

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