Gangs? In Kosciusko County?
Yes, we have gang activity in Kosciusko County. It's been here since at least 1988. Not of the magnitude that has often been depicted on TV and in the movies, but it is still gang activity, and it causes problems for everyone. Much of the activity here is of the street gang type, including vehicle break-ins, batteries, etc. As a parent, you have the opportunity to affect the level of gang activity by educating yourself about the problem, talking with your children about gangs, and working with other parents to ensure a safe and healthy neighborhood for your children.
Who joins a gang?
Male and females, from all neighborhoods, races, cultures, religious and economic levels are involved in gangs.
Female Gang Members
Females have traditionally been involved in gangs through boyfriends and friends who are gang members. They have not been allowed to be members, but have been used to carry and conceal weapons, drugs, etc., and act as drivers and lookouts. They are often ordered to provide alibis for male gang members, as well as provide sexual companionship or demand. More recently, increasing numbers of females have formed their own gangs, not affiliated with male gangs. Some are extremely violent.
Why do youth join gangs?
- Family Substitute
- Economic benefit
- Thrill and Excitement
What do they look like? What do they wear?
- Use of one or two colors, and/or refusing to wear certain colors.
- Wearing the same style, much like a "uniform."
- Bandanas on head, an arm or leg, or both.
- Hats & baggy clothing with gang street names, nicknames, etc. (often done in stylish lettering).
- Tattoos (often handmade) showing nickname, gang affiliation, numbers/letters that indicate a particular gang. Burn marks, scratches and magic markers are also used to make "tattoos."
*None of the above are absolute proof that an individual is a gang member, but they do serve as indicators, which along with other indicators, can be used to prove gang membership.
All children are at risk to be recruited to join a gang, or are subject to being victimized by gang violence. Early warning signs that something is wrong include changes in a young person's behavior and attitudes. Other pre-gang and gang behavior include:
- Withdrawal from participation in school, family life, church or other activities, compared to earlier behavior.
- Changes in dress and color preferences.
- Habitual lying and denial of problematic behavior.
- Major attitude problems with parents, teachers or those in authority.
- Changes in language, including use of gang slang and profanity, and use of hand signs.
- Displays money and property that are beyond child's income, and is evasive about where the items came from.
- Use of drugs and/or alcohol.
- New friends, possibly fewer friends, that have a negative influence.
- School grades drop, truancies increase and discipline problems become more frequent.
- Appearance of different looking graffiti and gang related writing on school books, clothing and other personal items.
- Carrying or possessing weapons, such as a gun, knife, screwdriver, bat or club. Unable to identify the owners of these weapons.
- Gang-related tattoos (initials, names, numbers), burn marks in a pattern, or use of markers to make temporary tattoos on hands, arms, legs, and other parts of the body.
Graffiti and Tagging
Graffiti is advertising of gangs. It is used to claim territory, challenge and disrespect rival gangs, show respect for fallen members, and show strength by listing its members.
"Taggers" (graffiti vandals) create ornate and detailed graffiti to show their talent and ability to get away with tagging.
It is imperative that graffiti be removed quickly, after it is reported to police and photographed.
Is it illegal to be in a gang?
It is not illegal in Indiana to be a member of a gang. However, by legal definition, gangs engage in criminal activities. There are laws in effect that target gang crimes, provide stiffer penalties for gang members, and allow additional charges for criminal gang activities.
What Can Parents Do?
- Spend time with your child!
- Ban gang related clothing and markings from your child's wardrobe.
- Know your child's friends, and monitor their activities and interests.
- Get to know the parents of your child's friends.
- Listen, really listen, to the lyrics of the music that your child listens to. Discuss with your child the ideas and images presented to them.
- Supervise your child's television watching, and make time to watch selected programs together.
- Discuss with your child proper ways to deal with conflict, hate and racism.
- Know your child's school and teachers. Find the time to get involved in your child's education.
- Direct your child to the wholesome activities that are available in your community. Recreation centers, libraries and churches offer free activities for children. Use them! If they are not available, help create them!
- Learn how to be parents. Many organizations and schools have parenting classes that are fun and provide valuable tips on dealing with children.
- Share information with your local police officers. Many times, gang associations are identified by tips and questions from concerned parents.
- Help promote gang awareness through civic group and neighborhood activities. Police officers, trained and experienced in gang activities, are available for talks to your group.
If you have a question or concern about gang activity in Kosciusko County, contact Detective Sergeant Ronald Nethaway at the Warsaw Police Department, (574) 372-9512.