Skip to main content

Be Aware of the Signs of Gangs from Extra Newspaper

Extra News
Posted on 03-20-2008

Be Aware of the Signs of Gangs

by Silvana Tabares

There has been a massive shift in gang activity, and now a newer, younger generation is being targeted.

Community organizers say more involvement is needed to take action against gang activity in their neighborhoods to help minimize misguided youth.

The changing trend in gangs was addressed during a Chicago Alternative Policing Strategy (CAPS) meeting on March 18 at St. Nicolai Church, 3000 N. Kedzie Ave. Community residents received information to help decrease gang activity in their area.

Miriam Alvarez, a youth service coordinator, works for the CAPS Area 5 program, primarily in the 14th District, which encompasses the 1st, 26th, 32nd, 33rd and 35th Wards, for the Chicago Police Department. For more than 20 years, Alvarez has been actively involved in the community. She conducts gang awareness presentations and speaks about to how to identify present-day gang activity.

“The more information people have about gangs, the more prevention [that] can be done,” Alvarez said.

She said that what once were racially divided gangs are now multicultural. Gangs are dealing drugs, fighting with each other for street corners and as a consequence, making neighborhoods unsafe for children.

Gangs in Chicago have divided themselves into two factions, folks and peoples, Alvarez said. Gang symbols, hand signs and the way gang members tilt their baseball hat, left or right, can determine their gang affiliation. Body language such as holding a cigarette on either the left or right hand can also represent a person’s association with a gang.

Alvarez said graffiti is another form of gang communication for members to challenge each other, mark their turfs and send messages. She said community residents must call 311 when their property is vandalized with gang-related graffiti such as the “pitchfork” or “crown” symbol and to follow-up if graffiti is not cleaned immediately.

“The more I do this and the more information that’s out there, I feel very strongly that at least some child is going to be saved,” Alvarez said.

She said she wants communities to be empowered and not let gangs take over their neighborhoods and the lives of the children in those neighborhoods.

Arnulfo Nava, a health block club organizer at the Logan Square Neighborhood Association (LSNA), said the community must understand that it is their responsibility to address their concerns about gangs.

“It is their community [that has to] to take action against gang violence, but in a way where they can give themselves to the younger ones that are headed to that path or on that path for a chance or an opportunity to get out,” Nava said.