Is my teenager involved with a gang?
A gang is a group of teens and young adults that hang out together and initiate violent, illegal, or criminal activity. They usually have a name and/or symbol. They often choose to wear a certain style or color of clothing. Many people think of gangs as just an inner-city problem. That is clearly not the case any more, with more than 24,500 different youth gangs around the country, counting more than 772,500 teens and young adults as members. In the 1970’s, gangs were active in less than half the states, but now every state reports youth gang activity, including smaller cities, towns, and rural areas. Youth gangs are responsible for much of the serious violence in the United States and pose one of the greatest threats to the safety and security of average Americans. Teen gang members are much more likely to commit serious and violent crimes than other teens. A survey in Denver found that while only 14% of teens were gang members, they were responsible for committing 89% of the serious violent crimes. Teens join gangs for a number of reasons (excitement, money, prestige, protection, or acceptance) but joining a gang is dangerous. Violence between gangs is common, and gang members are at least 60 times more likely to be killed than the rest of the population. Few teens are forced to join gangs; teens can usually refuse to join without fear of retaliation. For most teens, gang membership is a brief phase. One-half to two-thirds of teen gang members leave the gang by the end of their first year. You can help slow the spread of gang violence by learning what a gang is, what the signs of gang involvement and gang activity are. If you are concerned that your teenager may be involved with a gang, take this quick assessment to learn more about the warning signs and help you determine if your child may truly be getting into gang activity.