How To Identify Gang Signs and What to Watch For

understanding gang behavior for safety

Gangs can be a significant problem for many individuals in the United States. The United States Department of Justice estimates that about 20,000 gangs are active in the United States, with at least 780,000 members of gangs residing within communities across the country. There are many potential reasons for gang membership, and gangs can enact significant violence, especially on members inside their gang or rival gangs. If you want to keep yourself and your family safe, here are a few things you might want to consider.

1. Learning About Gang Signs

Gang signs can be much more complex than you may think, and it can actually be very difficult to tell a gang sign from a general trend. For example, the phrase, “What’s poppin’?” can be associated with the Bloods gang, but it’s also general slang that someone might use innocently, with absolutely no gang intentions. Certain colors of bandannas may signal gang affiliation—or just be a way to keep hair off your neck.

Rather than focusing too much on individual signs, it’s a better idea to consider whether their interest in certain things appears to be strangely motivated. If they wear red all the time, it might just be a fashion preference, but if they refuse to wear anything else, there’s likely a reason for it.

2. Educating Your Children and Keeping Them Safe

Education can be a huge part of avoiding gang affiliation. Some individuals become entangled with gangs because they don’t know how dangerous it is. Make sure your kids know that gangs are very unsafe and can easily pull in anyone, even people who come from relatively well-off suburbs.

It’s also important to maintain open communication with your children. Often, individuals join gangs because they feel like they don’t have a sense of belonging, and that can start at home. Rather than rigorously and coldly maintaining a curfew and limits on certain violent video games, it can be more effective to make sure your children feel safe and happy at home among family.

3. Keeping an Eye Out for Warning Signs

As with pointing out gang signs, general warning signs of being in a gang can actually be very difficult to pin down; every potential warning sign also has plenty of innocent explanations. However, if someone checks most or all of these boxes, it’s often wise to be wary: 

  • Takes many calls from unknown numbers
  • Uses a lot of unknown slang
  • Is obsessed with certain colors or patterns
  • Has lots of money and no explanation as to where it comes from
  • Has tattoo designs they will not explain
  • Disappears regularly and has unconvincing explanations of their whereabouts

Again, one or two of these things doesn’t necessarily mean the individual is in a gang, and someone could even check all of the boxes and be an outstanding citizen. However, they are all potential warning signs.

4. Looking Into People’s Backgrounds

One way you may be able to discern whether or not someone has gang affiliation is by looking into their background. Many individuals join gangs while in prison, and many gang members end up in jail at some point due to gang affiliation. That means looking at someone’s criminal record, which you can do through PeopleFinders, can help.

With a PeopleFinders criminal records search, you can learn more than just whether or not someone has a criminal record. You can also find arrest records, misdemeanors and felonies, as well as plenty of other information about someone’s criminal past. These are all crucial pieces of information if you’re trying to discover someone’s past and potential gang affiliation.


Gang affiliation is not often something that’s easy to uncover, and just randomly accusing an individual of potentially being a gang member can lead to hurt feelings and burned bridges. However, it’s also important that you know about someone’s potential affiliation with gangs. Rather than using surface-level indications of gang affiliation, which can certainly lead you wrong, it’s important to get genuine data you can use to understand someone’s history. PeopleFinders’ criminal record search can do far more than just looking at the color of someone’s bandana, and that’s why it’s a more reliable option.

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