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Changing Face of Gangs

NCJ Number
Police: The Law Enforcement Magazine Volume: 25 Issue: 8 Dated: August 2001 Pages: 74,76,77
Al Valdez
Date Published
August 2001
3 pages
This article discussed the potential by law enforcement to stereotype gangs and gang members by appearance and/or age causing possible misidentification.
Since street gangs in the United States are dynamic, there are likely to be unique changes within the gang culture. The behavior of gangs is viewed as important. Many gang members have a unique mentality toward peer and rival gang members, non-gang members, law enforcement, and society. Sometimes their outward appearance becomes an extension of this mentality, not the identifier. However, these unique dress styles, tattoos, words, and graffiti have been used by law enforcement to assist in identifying, investigating, and prosecuting gang members. Because of this gang members no longer use these identifying markers. Clothing styles may be more contemporary. Law enforcement and criminal justice professionals have used stereotyping in identifying suspected gang members. It was suggested that law enforcement and criminal justice professionals be prepared for changes within the street gang culture. With pressure placed on street gang crimes, these gangs may move into non-violent crimes that generate money. As these transitions are made, there may be changes in general appearance. It is the behavior and actions that make an incident gang-related and a special mentality that makes a person a gang member, not external appearances.