A group of young people is not necessarily a gang. Teens often find safety in numbers through staying with a particular group of friends, and usually like to avoid trouble. Knowing what a gang is and how it is classified can be useful for those who are worried about their child or local young people.
What is a gang?
A gang is usually considered to be a group of people who spend time in public places that:
- see themselves (and are seen by others) as a noticeable group, and
- engage in a range of criminal activity and violence.
A group may be classed as a gang if it:
- has a name
- has a defined territory
- uses a specific colour, particularly in clothing
- uses specific hand gestures or signs
- uses symbols shown in tattoos or graffiti.
A person can be identified by the police as a gang member if he or she:
- admits membership to a group which meets the criteria of a gang
- is identified by a reliable informant as a gang member
- lives in or frequents a gang’s area and adopts its style of dress or other signs – or associates with known gang members
- has been arrested in the company of identified gang members for offences consistent with gang activity.
While the definition of a gang is quite vague, one important thing to note is that membership or association with a particular group of people is not illegal in itself – however, gangs are often linked to criminal activity, so it can be useful to recognise certain types of behaviour and signs that may be involved in gang-related crime.