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Everyone wants a gang-free community, except gang members of course. Gangs are often violent and intimidating. The family stands to lose the most from gangs. The well-being or even the life of a loved one can be lost to gang activity.

What is a Gang?

  • A gang is an organized group with a recognized leader whose activities are either criminal or, at the very least, threatening to the community.
  • Unity, identity, loyalty and reward are normal characteristics that are admired, but when associated with gangs they become distorted. They are traits each gang shares in order to survive.
  • Gangs display their identity and unity in obvious ways, such as the use of jewelry, selected colored clothing, jargon and signals. Members remain together in quiet times as well as in conflict. In response to this twisted loyalty, gang members are rewarded by being accepted and recognized as a gang member.
  • The main source of income for most gangs is narcotics. Members of all gangs are used by the gang in the illegal sale of narcotics and other unlawful activities. It is a mistaken belief that gangs operate only in less affluent neighborhoods. Gangs exist in virtually every community.

Who are Gang Members?

Simply put, the hard-core gang member is a LOSER. Lacking recognition in the family, school, athletics or employment, the member seeks the acceptance, support and protection of other losers and cowards. Students, working youths and other young adults trying to become successful in life want NOTHING TO DO WITH GANGS. Gangs are usually a product of the area in which they are active. The individuals who belong to gangs are members of the community which they intimidate. Gangs rarely invade a community; rather they develop within the community.

Street gangs typically have three components:
  • Leaders
  • Hard-core members
  • Marginal members ( often referred to as "wanna-bees" )

The leadership is directly related to the character and number of members in the gang. The hard core members, whose entire ego is involved in the gang's identification, are generally the most violent criminal members of the gang. These two groups influence and encourage others to become involved in criminal activities.

The marginal or fringe members drift in and out of the gang accordingly to their needs. These members lack direction and, unlike the hard-core members and leaders, can be positively influenced to a constructive role in society. The marginal members join gangs for a variety of reasons. For some, the gang offers a level of status they do not believe they can otherwise achieve. Others join for protection. They submit to a gang so they may travel in their neighborhoods without fear. Intimidation often plays a part in gang recruitment, with techniques ranging from extorting lunch money to physical violence. To protect themselves, youths often give in to the demands of the gang.

Often these "wanna-bees" or potential gang members are young people finding themselves in confusing, uncomfortable situations.

Here are some examples:

  • A well-meaning youth is approached, intimidated and coerced into joining a street gang. The youth is uncomfortable with the situation and does not want to get involved, but is confused as to where to turn.
  • A young woman-- a dedicated student during the school year-- finds herself with nothing to do during the summer. She spends more and more time hanging around with gang members for the excitement and acceptance.
  • Yet another youth, the oldest of several children, desperately looks for employment to assist his mother in supporting the family. The leader of the street gang tells the frustrated youth that there is money to be made as a gang member.

A Gang Is Only as Strong as a Community Allows it To Be

The more aware your community is, the better prepared it is to deal with gang problems. One simple step you can take to fight gangs is to remove graffiti from your property as soon as possible - and as often as necessary. Graffiti is often the first indication that gang activity is in your community. Once a community allows graffiti to remain, it is seen as giving in to the gang. Your wall becomes their wall. Graffiti is NOT a juvenile prank; it is a powerful message from the gangs that they control your neighborhood. For a community to rid itself of gangs, the community must remove the graffiti and report gang activity.

The best defense against gangs begins in the home! Parents should be aware of the identifiers gangs use and be observant that they do not appear on the personal articles of their children. Book bags, posters and gang colors are used to convey the gang message. Parents should be alert that their homes are not being used by the gang to hide contraband. By directing their sons or daughters into constructive activities and by knowing their friends, parents are not only protecting their offspring but are also helping their neighborhoods combat gangs.

Following is a list of items to assist you in recognizing street gang members that you may encounter in your neighborhood. Please remember that if a person is wearing one of the following identifiers it does not always mean that he or she is a gang member. Parents should be on the lookout for multiple identifiers, or patterns in the use of these identifiers.

  • Right ear, gangs affiliated with the Disciples (Folks)
  • Left ear, gangs affiliated with the Vice Lords or Latin Kings (People)
  • Tilted to the right, affiliated with the Disciples (Folks)
  • Tilted to the left, affiliated with the Vice Lords or Latin Kings (People)
  • One on right hand, affiliated with the Disciples (Folks)
  • One on left hand, affiliated with Vice Lords or Latin Kings (People)
Right / Left Rule

The same right-and-left rule applies to other items, including belt buckles, parts in hair, hair coloring or streaking, combs or picks in hair, eyebrows cut on one side, pant leg rolled up, bandanna hanging from one pocket, etc.

  • Right represents the Disciples (Folks)
  • Left represents the Vice Lords or Latin Kings (People)
  • Six-point (Folks)
  • Five-point (People)
  • Pointed--Latin Kings
Rabbit Heads
  • Straight ears--Vice Lords
  • One ear bent--Two Six
Gym Shoes
  • The color of the shoe vs. the color of the laces
  • Two different colors of laces
  • "Converse" shoes with the five-point star shaded in
  • Tongues--one side up, the other down
  • Laces--halfway laced on one side
  • Knitted with gang colors
  • Five or six-pointed stars
  • Rabbit Heads
  • Italian Horns
  • Crescents
  • A variety of professional or homemade tattoos (or between) fingers, wrists, etc. Tattoos can be as simple as dots or as complete as a king image.
Finger Nails
  • Painted with gang colors and / or symbols
Starter Jackets
  • The latest fad in outerwear is also the most prominent gang wear. Usually the colors of the starter jacket represent the gang's colors.


Gangs in Will County

Gangs have been in Will County since the early 1980's. In 1984 the Joliet gangs came to the serious attention of law enforcement when a Latin King shot a Joliet Police Officer to death. Four predominant gangs emerged in Will County and were largely based in the Joliet area. They included Gangster Disciples, Two Six, Latin Kings, and Vice Lords. The Gangster Disciples and Two Six align under the banner of "Folk". The Latin Kings and Vice Lords align under the banner of "People". Under examination of the constitution and by-laws of both "People" and "Folk" there seems to be little difference between the two. The gangs just use these banners as a way to determine who is friend or foe.

At first the gangs criminal activity consisted of a variety of burglaries and acts of violence against rival gang members. Selling the items taken in the burglaries subsidized the weekly membership dues that each member had to pay. The acts of violence went from protecting the gangs prestige to protecting the gangs established turf. The gangs would take profits from their drug dealings and send a portion of the profits to the parent organization. This money was to keep the parent organization going and the parent organization would in turn supply the gangs with drugs to sell. At one point the gangs had one day out of the week designated as "Nation Day".

Due to the amount of violence caused by the gang rivalry, law enforcement started paying attention to the structure of the gang organization. It was realized that the best way to hurt the gangs criminal organization is to aggressively arrest and prosecute the leaders of the gang. This aggressive prosecution proved to be effective and sent many of the local gang leaders to prison. As law enforcement learned so did the gangs. The gangs realized that the more violent the act, the more scrutiny the gang would receive from law enforcement. As a result the gangs found it beneficial to stop committing drive-by shootings and concentrate on the sale of illegal drugs. This theory is supported by the fact that in 1999 the murder rate and violent crime rates are at the lowest they have been in almost ten years.

Today the gangs in Will County still exist and they are still selling drugs but for the most part the random acts of violence have been reduced to a minimum.