Signs that your child may be in a gang

Published 6:50 pm Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Several years ago, a prominent juvenile court judge and I traveled down to the Macon Coliseum to speak at a conference that was sponsored by the then, Governor’s Office of School Readiness. He and I spoke on the topic of juvenile crime.

We shared with attendees that taking into consideration, the shootings and murders that have taken place in schools around the country, the incidence of such crime, about 1 percent, is minuscule.

What is increasing however among youth is their involvement and participation in gang activity. Do you as a parent know if your child is involved in a gang? If not, you need to become familiar with identifying the early warning signs of involvement.

A few of the signals of potential gang involvement are truancy; change of friends; keeping late hours; and having large sums of money or expensive items which cannot be explained.

On the other hand, you can be certain that your child is in some sort of gang if you observe gang graffiti in their bedrooms on items such as books, posters, and bedroom walls; wearing gang clothing colors; and using signals to communicate with other game members.

A parent needs to understand that game members will even attempt to recruit children as young as seven and eight years of age. Once in the gang, the child’s behavior may change either suddenly or gradually, but it will follow a pattern. To be accepted by the gang, he or she must adopt a defiant attitude toward authority figures. The defiance may be expressed by violent behavior at home or school.

At school, the child lets everyone know of his or her new status. He wears gang clothing and becomes disrespectful toward teacher and others. The new gang member may find others to harass to gain a reputation for being bad. He will pick a victim, but before doing so, he will announce his intentions to friends and others so they can be there to cheer the gang member on, and spread the word about his toughness.

When at home, the new gang member’s defiance may not manifest itself in violence, depending on the relationship with his or her parents and other family members. However, if they interfere with the child’s gang involvement, confrontations may occur.

Why do youth want to become members of gangs, especially in that in some instances they must undergo considerable pain and suffering as part of the initiation rite or ceremony? Youth are beaten in some instances, savagely; forced to endure pain inflicted by game members, that their parents would be taken to jail for, in this day and time of children’s rights. The answer to the question is simple. Every youth has basic needs for feelings of self-worth, identity, acceptance, recognition, companionship, belonging, purpose and security.

Is your child in a gang? If so, get help now.

Dr. Glenn Dowell is an author and columnist who currently lives in Jonesboro, Georgia. He has been a guest speaker on major college campuses , including having appeared on TV programs such as the Oprah Winfrey Show. He may be reached at