Times have changed. Many gangs have learned that dressing in
clothing that may identify them as a gang member may easily bring them
to the attention of law enforcement. Thus, gang clothing,
while still worn by many gang members, is not as prevalent as it once
Gang hand signs are used by street gangs and some prison gangs, as a silent language to communicate
with others and unless the hand signs are used in front of the law
enforcement officer, there may not be any other indication that the
person is a gang member.
Gang hand signs are frequently used as a means
of identifying gang members with other gang members and
each gang has their own gang hand signs
that they use to show allegiance to their gang or to
(dis) rival gang members.
have created hand signs, using their fingers and hands, to represent letters of the alphabet and other signs to represent a word or a
phrase. Most members become highly proficient at this "art" and can
communicate with others without speaking. Displaying these gang hand signs
is known as "flashing" or "throwing" the signs.
Often we are asked for a list of gang hand signs and it is
impossible to fulfill these requests. Why? Because there is no master
list of the signs used by each gang. There are approximately 25,000
gangs in the
States and if each gang has its own hand sign that alone would be a list
of 25,000 hand signs. If you add several other signs used for greetings
or disrespecting, plus 26 letters of the alphabet, you can see that the
list could contain at least 750.000, or more, hand signs.
For parents, teachers, counselors, or others who work with youths,
it is not necessary to learn gang hand signs. If a child is observed
flashing or practicing gang hand signs, just knowing that gangs use hand
signs should be a warning that their child or their student may be about
to join a gang or is already in a gang. This practice should not be
allowed and a rule of “zero tolerance” should be established.
A good practice for police officers and other law enforcement
personnel, whether they encounter gang members occasionally,
frequently or daily, they should only concern themselves with the hand
signs used by gangs in their immediate vicinity. If a community has
only several gangs, officers should find a gang member who is willing to
discuss and demonstrate the hand signs used by his gang. Attempting to
learn hand signs of gangs that do not exist in your area is meaningless.
If there are large numbers of gangs in a city or area, an officer
should attempt to make contact with as many gang members as he can for
the areas or zones in which he works in order to try to learn some of
the basic hand signs for each gang that he may encounter. At a
minimum he should learn the signs that identify the gang, the signs that
disrespect rival gangs, and any other signs that could be used to alert
a group of members to attack or assault someone.
LAW ENFORCEMENT PERSONNEL SHOULD USE EXTREME CAUTION AT
WHEN CONFRONTING GANG MEMBERS
IF POSSIBLE, THE MEMBERS SHOULD BE PREVENTED FROM USING THEIR HAND
A SPECIAL WARNING TO YOUNG PEOPLE: While it may seem
to be a "cool" thing to do, It can be extremely dangerous for anyone to use any form
of a hand sign in public. Regardless of how innocent the sign
may be, a gang member may take the sign to be that of a rival gang
with a meaning of disrespect.
The use of hand signs could result in an immediate physical
altercation, causing serious injury or even death.