Gang Hotline:(703) 228-GANG (4264)
This hotline is available in English and Spanish, and you may be anonymous if you wish.
To report graffiti, contact our non-emergency number at (703) 558-2222 or file a report using this online form.
Many cities and suburban areas have serious problems with gangs. While Arlington has but a handful of gangs, they spell trouble wherever they exist. Gangs can create fear, destroy property, threaten residents, and drive out businesses.
Parents can do a lot to prevent gang problems or to reduce gang-related consequences. Most important, there's a lot parents like you can do to keep your own child from joining gangs.
- Learn about gangs and signs of gang activity.
- Sharpen your parenting skills and use them.
- Join with others to make or keep your neighborhood gang-free.
Young people (as young as nine or ten) join gangs for reasons that make sense to them, if not to adults. The reasons they give are varied:
- to belong to a group
- for excitement
- for protection
- to earn money
- to be with friends
Some signs of gang involvement:
- Specific colors or emblems on jackets, hats, etc.
- Special hand signals
- Unique symbols and lettering on tattoos
- Gang symbols on walls such as graffiti or on books or clothing
- Clothing (hats, bandannas, etc.) suggesting group or gang involvement
- Possession of unexplained large sums of money
- Change(s) in attitude: violent reactions, disruptive behavior, refusal to respond to authority (teachers, police, parents) etc.
- Secretive behavior by your child regarding activities and locations
- Change(s) in friends or friends who are not brought home
- Truancy or poor school performance
- Phone calls from individuals who either refuse to identify themselves, give unusual nicknames, or use a nickname to identify your child
- Negative contact with school officials and law enforcement officers
- Involvement with known or suspected gang members
- Interest in or possession of weapons (guns, knives, etc.)
Sharpen Your Skills as a Parent
Many gang members say they join gangs because it offers them a feeling of support, caring, belonging, and a sense of purpose — all the things typically provided by parents. Odds are the better you are providing these needs, the less attraction your child will find in gang membership. Parenting skills are especially important.
- Talk with and listen to your child. Schedule quality and quantity time with each child.
- Place a high value on education and help your child do his or her best in school. Do everything possible to prevent your son or daughter from dropping out. Take an active interest in education and grades.
- Help your child identify positive role models and heroes, especially people in your neighborhood.
- Do not be a "Do as I say, not as I do!" kind of parent.
- Do everything possible to involve your child in supervised, positive group activities.
- Praise your daughter or son for doing well and encourage her or him to fully develop skills.
- Know what your child is doing and with whom.
- Know who your children's friends are and their parents.
- Don't forget to talk about gangs. The best time is before there is a major problem.
- Don't allow your children to have large amounts of un-obligated time. Have them participate in organized activities. ("hanging out" is not an organized activity)
- Look at your children's schoolbooks and book bags for gang drawings.
Tell your child that:
- you disapprove of gangs.
- you see him or her as special and worth protecting.
- you don't want to see him or her hurt or arrested.
- you want to help with his or her problems.
- family members shouldn't keep secrets from each other.
- you and other parents are working together against gangs.
Four Things You Can Do to Help Keep Gangs Out
First, develop positive alternatives. What activities currently exist for after-school involvement? What can you do to support them? What recreational facilities exist for your people? Support positive youth-related activities such as sports, scouting, social clubs, church groups, and after-school programs.
Second, support anti-crime programs such as crime and delinquency programs that discourage gang involvement. Invite efforts in your community to combat graffiti and vandalism. Keep your community pleasant, neat and well cared for.
Third, work with the Arlington County Police and start or join a Neighborhood Watch Program. Statistics show that active Neighborhood Watch programs deter crime. Is suspicious activity in your neighborhood reported to police, or does it go unreported? Do you report suspicious groups and activity that you observe?
Fourth, take a zero tolerance stand on any gang-related activity and share your view whenever and wherever appropriate.