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Juvenile Court Service Unit
Signs of Gang Involvement

Although gangs are not a problem that is overwhelming our community, gang participation by some youth is an issue that we must confront. One of the first steps in dealing with gangs is to raise community awareness of the signs of gang involvement by our youth.
Listed below is a short list of some possible indicators of gang involvementGRIT Closet wall.jpg

  • Changing friends suddenly
  • Referring to a group of friends as family
  • Changed appearance; special haircuts, eyebrow markings or tattoos
  • Wearing belt buckles, hats, and outer clothing items to either the right or left side
  • Wearing certain styles and colors of clothing
  • Marking or drawing on personal items, bedroom walls: especially a series of numbers, series of letters, and symbols such as crowns, stars, pitchforks, etc.(this also applies to tattoos)
  • Practicing/exhibiting hand signs
  • Unexplained bruises

The list is not comprehensive and any one of the indicators may or may not be indicative of gang involvement. Some of the current teen fashions emulate certain fashions that are used by gang involved youth because they are looked upon as cool and are marketed as such. Look for multiple indicators in order to better determine if there is a gang issue in your child’s life.
The key is to communicate with your child if you believe that there is a problem. He or she might just be open about what they are up to. Most do not just flip into a gang. They approach the gang, or are courted by a gang, in a tenuous way as they try it out. They might deny any involvement or try to explain certain behaviors away. However, armed with knowledge you can keep a more informed eye on their activities.  
If you suspect that your child might be becoming gang involved and you are seeking help, or would like more details, contact the Gang Response Intervention Team (GRIT) Coordinator who can discuss your questions and concerns with you. You are not alone, and there are community resources available.
Richard Buchholz, MA, MPA
Gang Response Intervention Team (GRIT) Coordinator
Serving Prince William County and the Cities of Manassas and Manassas Park
9540 Center Street, Suite 200
Manassas, VA 20110
Office: 703-792-5392   Cell: 703-209-1937


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