The Dalton Police Department is working to stop gang violence and gang crimes. The department began investigating street gangs in 1995, and the department started a Federal Safe Streets task force with the FBI in 2005 to work to prevent the spread of street gangs in our community. This web posting is meant to help Dalton’s citizens understand more about criminal street gangs, and to help families avoid and prevent their spread.
To report possible gang or drug activity, call the Dalton Police Department’s tipline at 706-278-9085 extension 221.
What is a Gang?
The term “Criminal Street Gang” means any:
- Organization, association, or group of three or more
- Associated in fact; AND
- Engaging in “Criminal Gang Activity”.
What does “Criminal Gang Activity” mean?
- The commission
- The attempted commission
- Conspiracy to commit
- Solicitation, coercion or intimidation of another person to commit
ANY of the following offenses:
- Racketeering offenses
- Stalking offenses
- Rape, aggravated sodomy, statutory rape or aggravated sexual battery
- Escape and confinement offenses
- Security of correctional facilities offenses
- Encouraging a child to escape from custody
- Criminal trespass or criminal damage to property resulting from gang related Tagging, Marking, Writing, or Graffiti on the property of another
- Violating any federal, state, or foreign gang law
- Crimes of violence
- Weapons offenses
It is also against Georgia law to commit offenses related to:
- Acquiring/maintaining property or proceeds from gang activity
- Encouraging participation in, organizing or maintaining gangs
- Retaliating against people for or discouraging people from leaving a gang
How do street gangs identify themselves?
- Clothing: Gang members may wear clothing from a particular athletic team to represent their gang. Clothing may also include jewelry displaying gang symbols and/or names.
- Colors: Gang members may dress in colors that represent their gang (sweat bands, hats, bandannas, shoe laces, belts, etc.).
- Tattoos/Brands: Members may have tattoos/brands professionally drawn, self-drawn, and/or burned or carved on any part of their body. Symbols, monikers, names associated with the gang may be displayed.
How do street gangs communicate?
- Graffiti: Gangs use graffiti to show gang membership, gang superiority, territory, rivals, and revenge.
- Hand signals: Gangs use hand signals as non-verbal communication between gang members. Hand signs may also be used to challenge and/or disrespect rival gangs.
- Symbols: Gangs use certain symbols that are specific to each gang
- Alphabet/Codes: Gangs use certain codes or made-up alphabet letters to conceal written communication. Different codes or alphabets are specific to each gang.
What are the different types of gangs?
- Traditional Gangs: These groups have a well-defined structure, organization, along with an established system of motivation, and identifiable colors and hand signs. Many profit from the drug trade. Violence is prevalent. Members generally can range in age from 8-30 years old or more.
- Non-Traditional Gangs: These groups have little organization. Usually evolve into a traditional gang and are unique to a local area. Sometimes these gangs call themselves a “rap group” to avoid the stigma and law enforcement attention that traditional gangs attract. They provide a false identity of the group to mislead others.
- Hybrid Gangs: Some non-traditional gangs still adopt the same colors, signs, and symbols of traditional gangs. These “hybrid gangs” mix and match the identifiers of established gangs and have very loose affiliations with Traditional Gangs.
- Criminal Enterprise Gangs: These groups are highly organized and focused on financial gain from criminal activities such as as prostitution, gun trafficking, fraud, and others. Violence is only a tool used to protect the integrity of the enterprise or to make more money. Typically, members of these gangs are older.
- Nations: Nations are groups of traditional gangs that align under a set of symbols and identifiers. Example: The Folk and the People Nations
- Taggers/Tagging Crews: These are typically groups that are focused on vandalism and artistic expression. No other criminal acts are engaged by these loosely defined groups.
Why do young people join gangs?
- Status, identity, or recognition
- Excitement of gang activity
- Breakdown of family
- Low self-esteem
- Poor communication at home
- Lack of success in school
- Need for acceptance or belonging
- Lack of involvement in activities
- Perceived or real need for protection
- Peer pressure from gang members
- Financial benefits from drug sales, burglaries, robberies, and other crimes
- Family member is already involved
- Confidence, loyalty, sex, rules, structure, discipline, and organization
- Powerful group identity
- Relieve boredom and gain reputation
How do gangs recruit members?
- Hanging out at schools and neighborhoods
- Promising security, money, and respect
- Intimidation or threats
- Seeking out those individuals that have special talents to assist with crimes
- The Internet
- Targeting younger children to handle many tasks and create long term loyalty
- The ideal target age for recruitment is 10-13 years old
How do gangs initiate members?
- Beat-in/jumped-in: Enduring a severe beating from members
- Blessed-in: Member vouches for a person
- Sexed-in: Females must engage in sexual acts with members
- Criminal Act: Commit a crime to show loyalty
What warning signs may indicate that a person may belong to a gang?
- Drawing graffiti (names of symbols)
- Gang names, logos, and nicknames written on personal property
- Withdrawal from family/normal activities
- New friends that parents don’t know
- Staying out late at night
- Secretive activities
- Sudden changes in behavior and personality
- Unexplained injuries, body markings, and tattoos
- Unexplained gifts of money, expensive items or jewelry
- Possession of weapons
- Use of hand signs and/or body gestures when communicating with friends
- Expressing a preference for one color or avoiding others
- Skipping school/work
- Multiple suspensions/expulsion
- Shows strong disrespect for authority
- Alcohol or drug use
- Mentions the need for protection/weapons
What warning signs may indicate that a street gang may be operating in my area?
- Clustering of rival groups
- Movement of groups not common in your neighborhood (carloads of strangers)
- Reports of fights and arguments on school property
- Increased gang graffiti
- Violent incidents reported in the area
- Sudden/excessive change in dress (groups wearing or displaying a particular color)
What can parents do?
- Develop open and frequent communication with your children.
- Encourage children to become involved in other activities for a sense of belonging.
- Monitor/limit children’s exposure to violence contained in television, music, and video games.
- Cultivate respect for others’ property and pride in community.
- Know the real names of those your child is spending time with and their families.
- Don’t let children stay out late or spend a lot of time unsupervised.
- Become involved in your child’s education and in your community.
- Praise your children for doing well.
- Talk to your children about gangs.
- Spend quality time with your children. Ask them for their opinion on family matters.
- Identify with positive role models.
- Be a good observer.
- Seek the facts – kids will tell you what you want to hear and adults will believe what they want to hear… dig deeper.
- Set clear limits and follow through with proper discipline.
- Teach your children about decision making.
- Team up with other parents.
- Learn about gangs and drugs.
- Help develop alternatives for the children in your neighborhood.