Gang Awareness 101

    While youth gangs are not a major concern in Universal City, there have been over 500 different gangs in the San Antonio area.  All citizens should know certain things concerning their activities.  Detective Bob Borg from the San Antonio Police Department (SAPD) Gangs Unit recently spoke at the monthly meeting of the U.C. Citizens Police Academy Alumni Association.  The information provided in this article was compiled from Detective Borg’s presentation and the SAPD Gangs Unit website.

    Graffiti or tagging is often associated with gangs.  Gang graffiti is a way for members to delineate their territories, while tagger graffiti is used by gang members to brag and become noticed.  Unfortunately, graffiti often shows up on private as well as public property.  You should always report graffiti whenever you see it.  If any of your personal property is marked with graffiti, remove it immediately and hopefully discourage the taggers from returning.  Many communities have ordinances that require you to remove graffiti from your property.  Simple washing often does not work and you must repaint the surface.  For graffiti on concrete surfaces, another option is to scrub with Easy-Off and a wire brush.  Set the example and keep your neighborhood clean.  

    Avoid contact with gangs whenever possible.  Since tagging is a way to delineate territories, stay away from areas where there is graffiti.  Some gang members wear distinctive colored clothing, exclusive tattoos or use special sign language.  Since this is not a sure-fire way to distinguish gang members from non-members, always be aware of any suspicious characters.  Do not frequent areas where gangs are known to congregate or areas known for high crime or drug use.  If you must travel in these areas, try not to be alone.  Criminals often look for easy prey, so try not to be a target of opportunity.  Do not park in dark or strange places and always be aware of your surroundings.

    You also must also take care to protect your family from gangs.  Even young children can be attracted to gangs.  Watch your children for any signs that may indicate they are involved with gangs, such as a repeated wearing of a particular color of clothing.  Methamphetamine use is also high among gang members.  Watch for any erratic behavior or sudden mood swings by your children.  Two primary factors can make children more prone to join gangs.  Firstly, most gangs are like families and respect is paramount.  Children, who feel unwanted or taken for granted by their natural families, may look to gangs as a replacement family.  Secondly, boredom or the lack of wholesome activities may drive children to join gangs for something to do.  Spend time with your children and do your best to create worthwhile things for them to do.  These activities can be family or community oriented.  Get involved.