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While most of our sons and daughters have the ability to make good decisions, some cannot resist the allure of gangs and becoming involved with those who influence them to engage in delinquent behavior. It is important to be aware of why youth join gangs, what gang behavior looks like, and things that you can do to help guide your son or daughter away from gangs and other bad behaviors.

Although people join gangs for various and personal reasons, in general, these are the main drivers of gang recruitment. Young people who are attracted to gangs, including girls who make poor decisions about males who they believe to be caring boyfriends, are generally seeking something from that experience. They are seeking something that they lack in their lives such as love, attention and support in their home life or community, so they run toward a life style that they believe will provide love, attention, support and respect. They are not sufficiently connected to family, school, community or church.

Besides knowing why young people are attracted to the gang lifestyle, parents need to be aware of some indicators that they can be watchful for:

·        Drawing or writing on personal property such as school books, walls, furniture, clothing. Look for numbers (use of the number 13 or area codes), letters or combinations of letters and numbers, nicknames or street names

·        Refer to friends as family

·        Secretive about who friends are

·        Comes home with unexplained bruises, money or material goods

·        Tattoos

·        Likes one or two colors of clothing and refuses to wear another particular color

·        School attendance and grades start to suffer

These are some basic indicators, and while any one of them might not be indicative of gang behavior, if several of them are occurring, you should be concerned and seek help.

The gang lifestyle is a culture. Gang culture has a past, present and future. The best way to prevent your child form adopting gang culture is to replace it with your own culture, that of your family and that of your heritage. Identify your child’s strengths and leverage those strengths. Steer your child toward those positive activities that they show an interest toward. Get them to those activities and build networks of support in your community, neighborhood and family that help facilitate keeping children connected to those positive activities.

If you need help reach out to resources in the community that are available to you such as school counselors, school resource officers, ministers neighbors family and friends. These are people who want your children to thrive and become happy and successful adults. Request for help or answers can be directed to the Greater Prince William Gang Prevention Coordinator:

Richard H. Buchholz,
Gang Response Intervention Team (GRIT) Coordinator
Serving Prince William County,the Cities of Manassas and Manassas Park, and the Town of Dumfries

9540 Center Street, Suite 200
Manassas, VA 20110
(O) 703-792-5392   (C) 703-209-1937


Rather than let the gang culture thrive in our communities and children, we must let our own culture thrive. The gangs consider themselves as “family”. Don’t let a gang family replace your own. Gangs are ready to become the family that your child might be seeking.