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Gang Signs and Symbols

Gang Signs and Symbols

Since time immemorial, symbols and graffiti have always been a very important part of the gang culture. Read this OpinionFront article to know more about such signs and symbols.
Natasha Bantwal
Last Updated: Mar 23, 2018
Signs symbols have always been used to identify a certain gang or to disrespect or intimidate rival gangs. These signs and symbols come in many forms and have been adopted by different gangs or created by other gangs.

Ever heard of the pyramid, or the five- or six-pointed star? Ever heard of the heart or the walking cane? The common factor between all these terms is that they all denote signs and symbols that are used to represent gangs.
What are these Signs and Symbols For?
A gang sign or symbol is a method used by gang members to make themselves known to rivals or allies. Traditionally speaking, these signs have manifested themselves in the form of gang-related tattoos, attire, graffiti, and even hand signs. Although most signs are relatively standard amongst some of the larger groups, there are still some that change from place to place, neighborhood to neighborhood, and even sub-group to sub-group.

If you happen to be a parent or even a schoolteacher and you think that your city is safe without the possibility of any gang's presence in your town, then think again. Though most gangs are prevalent in larger cities, these days, they are rapidly expanding and their numbers have been growing in smaller towns and cities as well. How does one distinguish between two or more gangs? The FBI or Federal Bureau of Investigation has said that a street gang is a criminal enterprise that has an organizational structure that employs violence and any form of criminal activity so as to sustain the enterprise. So, that's precisely what a gang is - an organization whose main function is violence and criminal activity.

Most gangs these days consist of young adults and teens who act together to commit acts that are violent and criminal in nature. Many gangs, though not all, sell drugs. Others, however, commit different types of crimes to support the bunch as well themselves, and these acts could range from prostitution to robberies. Usually, a gang will claim a particular neighborhood, area, or street as their own 'turf' and will then defend it as if it is their property. Each gang member will abide by certain laws and customs. Gangs can be differentiated from one another by their attire, colors, graffiti, tattoos, and hand signs.
Different Types of Signs and Symbols
Since the very beginning, tattoos have been associated with gangs of all kinds, whether violent or non-violent. This is because tattoos connote the toughness that is desired by all gang members, and some tattoos are associated with permanence. Most designs are usually symbolic in nature and are often found in all members of the clan, with just a few variations depending on the area. Some tattoos represent specific deeds carried out by members, murder being a common example. The symbols used in tattoos are sometimes very involved, and could also refer to a certain meaning or mythology that the gang has invented for itself. For instance, the Star of David symbol represents the Folk Nation gang that was once led by a man known as King David. What's more, each point of this star was used to represent the value of the nation. The Tidewater and North Carolina Hoodies represent themselves with an hourglass image. The Elizabeth City Mafia use the hourglass figure with three strips on top.
Gangs have also used Graffiti for ages now, and it is closely related to the basic fact that most gangs inhabit specific areas that they keep under control. Like tattoos, graffiti is also extremely symbolic in nature and can sometimes contain information about the gang's values, activities, and their current rivals. However, while gangs may create or use graffiti, it is not an indicator or result of any significant gang activity. More often than not, gangs tend to spray graffiti to mark their territories or to send out threats to rival gangs. When warring with another gang, they sometimes visit certain locations where the rival gang has already made its mark on and cross out the names of enemies or just cover these names with the help of graffiti.
Hand Signs
'Stacking' or 'Throwing Up' is a signal that is used with the hands and is one of the most common forms of 'claiming' or gesturing. It is used in most situations where other signals or identifiers may not be appropriate or possible. Sometimes, it is used to show that a gang member wants to do business. Hand signs are generally made by the formation of fingers on one or both the hands so as to make a symbol. It could also deliver more specific information. Other signs and symbols used by gang members are special handshakes, which is also a component of a hand sign.
These are just a few of the signs used by gang members all over the world, but these are the most common ones. So, the next time you cross a person on the street and you notice that he's giving someone else a hand signal, then it is best you get out of there as soon as possible - you don't want to be trespassing on any gang's 'property' do you?