Gang Information

What is a gang?

"Criminal gang" means a formal or informal ongoing organization, association, or group that consists of five or more persons who form for the purpose of committing criminal activity and who knowingly and actively participate in a pattern of criminal gang activity.

What is a gang member?

"Criminal gang member" means an individual who is an active member of a criminal gang.

What is considered gang activity?

"Pattern of criminal gang activity" means the commission or attempted commission of, commission as an accessory before or after the fact to, or solicitation or conspiracy to commit, by a criminal gang member, while knowingly and actively participating in criminal gang activity, four or more of the following offenses occurring within a two-year period, provided that at least three of these offenses occurred after July 1, 2007:

(a) a violent offense as defined in Section 16-1-60 committed as a part of criminal gang activity;

(b) financial transaction card crimes as defined in Chapter 14 of Title 16 committed as a part of criminal gang activity;

(c) first degree lynching as defined in Section 16-3-210 committed as a part of criminal gang activity;

(d) second degree lynching as defined in Section 16-3-220 committed as a part of criminal gang activity;

(e) breaking into a motor vehicle as defined in Section 16-13-160 committed as a part of criminal gang activity;

(f) grand larceny as defined in Section 16-13-30 committed as a part of criminal gang activity;

(g) blackmail as defined in Section 16-17-640 committed as a part of criminal gang activity;

(h) malicious injury to property as defined in Sections 16-11-510, 16-11-520, 16-11-530, and 16-11-535 committed as a part of criminal gang activity;

(i) drug offense as defined in Sections 44-53-370 and 44-53-375 committed as a part of criminal gang activity;

(j) harassment, stalking, or aggravated stalking as defined in Article 17, Chapter 3 of Title 16 committed as a part of criminal gang activity;

(k) pointing a firearm at any person as defined in Section 16-23-410 committed as a part of criminal gang activity;

(l) discharging a firearm at or into dwellings, structures, enclosures, vehicles, or equipment as defined in Section 16-23-440 committed as a part of criminal gang activity;

(m) the common law offense of assault and battery of a high and aggravated nature committed as a part of criminal gang activity; or

(n) the common law offense of obstruction of justice committed as a part of criminal gang activity.
*Ref:  16-8-230 – SC Criminal Gang Prevention Act

What is considered a Gang Related Incident?

(a) the participants are identified as criminal gang members acting collectively to further a criminal purpose of the criminal gang;

(b) a reliable informant identifies an incident as criminal gang activity based upon first-hand knowledge or personal observation; or

(c) a person other than a reliable informant provides information that identifies an incident as criminal gang activity, and it is corroborated by independent information.

What are gang membership identifiers?

Graffiti, hand signs, verbiage, jewelry, tattoos/brands, clothing and colors were previously the common identifiers.  Presently, gang members are more covert with any identifiers however social media, informants and other investigative techniques has been useful resources to identify gang members.

Who joins gangs?

Gang members come from all walks of life, rich or poor membership crosses all economic boundaries.  Some gang members are school drop-outs, others excel as a student, athletes, other.  Below are some common indicators that a youth maybe involved in gang activity.

What are the signs of possible youth involvement??

1.     Social media and or cell phone (post, pictures, videos, text, etc.)

2.     Money and/or other material items from an unexplained source.

3.     Tattoos/branding/shavings of stars, pitchforks, or unexplained symbols.

4.     “Hangs-out” with gang members

5.     Frequent encounters with law enforcement and/or arrested with gang members or gang related criminal activity

6.     Admits membership

7.     New nickname, does not know friends real name are refuse to call them by their birth name

8.     Fails to attend school regularly, drop-out, decreasing grades and/or shows a significant change in attitude…a strong disrespect for authority. (Police, Administration, and Parents)

9.     Baseball caps or other accessories worn distinctively to the left or the right.

10.  Youth reject the biological family in favor of new "family" of peers and older adults.

11.  Unexplained initials or symbols on paperwork/homework: Ex. Replacing B’s with C’s or numbers for letters or inverted…also stars, pitchforks, etc.

12.  Clothing with particular colors , new sports team logos, bandannas (observe changes in dress)

**Please do not assume that just because a child is displaying the above listed indicators that he or she is in a gang, some gang identifiers emulate youth trends (especially clothing) therefore, more effort needs to be put into the investigation prior to identifying a person as a gang member.

Why do youth join gangs?

1.     Lack of positive influence (family or other)

2.     Lack of economic opportunities

3.     Environmental seclusion

4.     Lack of resources / under-performing schools

5.     Lack of self-esteem, respect or identity

6.     Protection (bullying) / peer intimidation

7.     Surrogate family

8.     Desire for excitement / machismo

9.     Desire for prestige/power/friendship/brotherhood

10.  Every kid wants to belong to something – good or bad

11.  Glorification of gang lifestyle (media, music, magazines, etc.)

What can Parents do?

Have the Right Attitude
  • You play a major part in keeping gangs out of your family's life
  • The "W's"
  • Where your child is
  • What is your child doing
  • Who is with your child
  • Be Involved in your child's life
  • Show interest in your child's school work or hobbies.
  • Work to build open, ongoing communication with your child.
  • Listen without being quick to judge.
  • Set aside a time for positive family activities.
  • Monitor what your child watches and listens to, especially TV shows, music, and movies that promote gangs or are full of violence.
  • Encourage your child to spend time wisely- studying, doing chores, or participating in sports, hobbies, art, scouts, or volunteer groups.
  • Educate yourself regarding youth/gang related trends.
  • Familiarize yourselfwith local youth related resources and support groups.
  • Teach Good Values and Responsibility
  • Be consistent about discipline
  • Hold your child accountable for his or her behavior.
  • Teach your child respect for others and authority.
  • Establish clear limits and rules; expect your child to follow them.
  • *Youth needs an appreciates a balance between love and discipline*

    Can your kid or a kid that you care about get out of the gang?

    Most people believe that once you're in a gang, you're in it for life. The truth is that you have to know the gang culture in your perspective community.  Leaving the gang varies from community to community, county to county, state to state. Through our experience one key factor in leaving a gang depends on what involvement a person has had while being an active member.  If the member was very active and well known by rivals it will be a lot more difficult for that person to leave the gang versus someone who may have joined for the glorification of the gangster lifestyle but seldom partakes in actual gang activity.

    Here are some steps you can take if a child you care about admits to being involved with a gang:

    1) Ask Questions:

    Try to identify any information about the child's involvement, such as how long they have been with the gang, what they are expected to do for the gang, what is their level of involvement (are they affiliated or hard core members?), and what are the options for leaving the gang.

    2) Discuss Consequences of Staying in the Gang:

    Young people know that being in a gang is dangerous - that may have been part of the allure. Focus on the consequences that gang life could have on them and their future, such as:

    • Loss of Freedom - "You will never be your own person in a gang. You will always do what is ordered, wear what they say, and spend your free time building up the gang. What about your dreams?"
    • Arrest record - "If you get arrested, an arrest record will make it hard for you to get a job. I want you to have a future."
    • Prison or Jail – “Gangs are primarily loosely structured criminal organizations which will likely lead you to more encounters with law enforcement leading to incarceration.
    • Injury or Death - "You will be just another enemy to those rival gangs - those bullets won't care that you're my child. You could get injured, or even killed. I don't want to lose you.
    • Threats to Family - "Once those gangbangers know where you live, your house will become a target. How would you feel if they attacked your grandma or your baby sister, just to get to you?"
    • Future - "A gang may seem cool now, but what happens when you get tired of the lifestyle? What if you want to get married or start a family? What if you want to get a legitimate job, who's going to hire you with all of those gang tattoos and future criminal record?"

    3) Offer Your Support:

    Let them know that they are not alone.  If you are not the child's parent or caregiver, decide what level of support you are willing to offer, and how to get the child's family involved.

    Ask them if they are ready to leave the gang:

    • If they are ready to get out, let them know that getting out of a gang isn't easy, but it can be done. Some critical steps need to be taken to protect the child as they try to get out.
    • If they will not commit to an answer, you should reinforce your clear expectations:
      "I do not want you to be a gang member. I cannot support your gang affiliation, and will not allow gang activity to come into my house or around my family. I will support your efforts to get out of a gang, but I cannot support your decision to stay in a gang."
    • Establish some age-appropriate boundaries and consequences to help maintain a safe home environment for you and the rest of your family


    © 2017, Richland County Sheriff's Department.