Just take a look at graffiti around Memphis and you should have no doubt, gangs are
here and they are making their presence known. Unfortunately, more times than not, gang
graffiti is not merely writing on the wall. For many gangs and gang members this type of
vandalism only serves as a reminder of more violent and heinous criminal acts they are
capable of. It's a fact, gangs are here and the more we learn about them, the better we
will be able to take preventive action to protect ourselves, our property, and more
importantly, our children, against them.
HOW DID GANGS ORIGINATE IN MEMPHIS ?
More times than not, the emergence of gangs in Memphis can be linked to places like Los Angeles, Chicago and other large cities. Gang enhancement laws and pro-active police techniques are the main reasons gangs are branching out to other cities. The emergence of gangs has also been linked to problem youths from other cities being sent to Memphis to reside with relatives. As a result, these problem youths also bring with them old gang affiliations. They then recruit Memphis youths and they're off and running.
HOW IS A GANG STRUCTURED ?
For the most part, gang structure is fairly loose. Leadership is usually assumed by a member who demonstrates dominant control at any given time. Most times, members are males from 13 to 28 years old, but police are also seeing female subsets of existing Memphis gangs. Contrary to popular belief, gangs are not just restricted to youths from disadvantaged and low income areas, many middle and upper class youths are also involved in gang activity. In addition, gangs are not just comprised of African-American youths, gang members represent all racial and ethnic groups.
HOW DO THEY WORK ?
Gang members display recurring interaction. They hang out together. They then seek to engage in, and encourage, a growing cycle of criminal activity. Then, through names, symbols and leadership, they claim a specific territory or turf. Frequently, gang members seek confrontations with rivals. These confrontations can occur most anywhere - shopping malls, schools, entertainment facilities and other areas. And while violence is mostly what we hear about, property damage and vandalism to local property and businesses is also frequent.
HOW DO MEMPHIS GANGS DRESS ?
Gang members wear specific apparel to show gang affiliation or "colors". They dress in a basic style or color chosen by gang leaders. However, as pressure from police, school officials and parents increases, gang members may change their appearance to become less noticeable. Today, many members wear professional sports team jackets, caps and shirts, so identify- ing them is more difficult. Law enforcement officials now depend on other criteria and intelligence rather than clothing to identify gang members. In other words, don't let appearances fool you, clothes may make the man (or woman) but they don't necessarily identify who is in a gang and who isn't.
GANG GRAFFITI - WHAT DOES IT MEAN ?
Almost always, the first sign of gang activity is graffiti. In essence, it's the underground newspaper of gangs and it serves several basic purposes. It identifies the gang and their territory, graffiti serves as a warning and challenge to rival gangs. And it glorifies the gang in general. Graffiti can also point out which gangs are fighting with each other. It immortalizes deceased gang members and epitomizes leaders within each gang. Of course, all of this occurs at the cost of property values in both residential and business areas.
GANGS - WHATS THE BIG ATTRACTION
Young people get involved with gangs for a variety of reasons. Things like peer pressure, low self-esteem, excitement, status, attention, brotherhood and even intimidation by gang members all play a role in gang involvement. In addition, the economic profits from gang activities like drug trafficking, thefts and robberies also seem quite attractive to youths. In some instances, parents even support gang and drug activity as a means of providing for the entire family.
Prevention will be designed to educate, inform and assist in recognizing hazards involved with gang activity. As increased peer and financial pressure occur, today's youths are being forced to make meaningful life choices.
In addition to current programs, new activities are needed to provide alternatives and
create productive environments for positive personal growth.
As soon as a youth exhibits any gang behavior, parents must take steps to prevent further association with gangs. Once warning signs become evident, immediate intervention and counseling becomes necessary to prevent further participation. Effective programs must be available regardless of socioeconomic status.
The single most important step in intervention is prohibiting a youth's continued
contact with negative influences. Help is available through numerous organizations. (Phone
numbers for helpful organizations are listed on the back.)
The Memphis Police Department has a suppression program that is an on-going process. Any success in prevention and intervention strategies will not diminish efforts to identify, arrest and prosecute gang members.
The Memphis Police Department has developed a PARENT NOTIFICATION LETTER to inform
parents when youths have met criteria that suggest gang association or membership.
Officers will emphasize the importance of immediate intervention.
GANG MEMBERS - HOW DO YOU IDENTIFY THEM ?
It's not that simple. Some are easily spotted by tattoos or clothing styles. Their personal belongings may be covered with gang names or symbols. And, of course, anyone who is often seen with known gang members or has a record of gang-related arrests is certainly not above suspicion. In addition, members can be seen flashing hand signs or signals which are used to identify their specific affiliation or to issue a challenge to rival gang members.
GANG PRESENCE IN MEMPHIS
The Memphis Police Department's Gang Response and Intervention Team (G.R.I.T.) is presently conducting a thorough and comprehensive intelligence program. During the course of their research, G.R.I.T. has identified a number of gangs and gang-related activity in the Memphis area.
As the Memphis police Department continually pursues established gangs, the gangs will
undoubtedly continue to relocate to areas previously unaffected. It is clear that gang and
drug presence is a community problem not limited to any one area or population in Memphis.
The number of reported gang/drug-related crimes continues to rise. During the summer,
with an increase of idle time, gang activity increases.
The City of Memphis is only one city, among a number of cities nationwide, witnessing
the emerging presence of gangs. Fortunately, our community and civic leaders are
cooperating with other agencies and organizations to create a plan to deal with this
The Memphis Police Department is reviewing policies and programs to assess their
effectiveness in responding to any potential gang situations. The department is playing a
leading role in educating the entire community about the gang issue. To address the gang
problem in the Memphis area a multifaceted approach is needed, utilizing all segments of
the community (example: educators, parents, law enforcement, clergy, judicial system and
social service agencies). The department is also addressing the gang problem by pro-active
enforcement, street-level enforcement and gathering criminal intelligence. It is
imperative that agencies share information and collaborate in order to combat gang
problems. Information from the public is also necessary to achieve our goals of developing
strategies that balance prevention, intervention and suppression.
I. Attend police community relations and neighborhood meetings.
II. Discuss gangs with your children.
Many parents are unaware that their children are involved in gang activity. It is your
role to help them understand the realities of a criminal record. They need to know the
finality of death, which so often is the result of gang violence. Parents should encourage
children to identify and report other youth who are pressuring them to use or deal drugs
or participate in gang activities. Intimidation and fear can preoccupy and destroy a
child's ability to concentrate on schooling and pursue a meaningful life.
III. Look for warning signs in your child.
1. Changes in child's behavior
IV.Positive steps that parents can take to prevent gang involvement by their children
1. Don't ignore warning signs
V.Encourage immediate graffiti removal.
Because graffiti is the most visible sign of gang presence, it is imperative that it be
VI. Provide information to the Memphis Police Department regarding
The Memphis Police Department has a Gang Hotline number where you can anonymously leave
information. Call 527-GANG or 527-4264.
|EMERGENCY- POLICE, FIRE, AMBULANCE||911|
|MEMPHIS POLICE DEPARTMENT||528 - 2222|
|MEMPHIS FIRE DEPARTMENT||458 - 3311|
|SHELBY CO. SHERIFF'S DEFT||576 - 2627|
|CRIME PREVENTION||576 - 5555|
|SCHOOL SECURITY, M.P.D||325 - 5779|
|CRIME PREVENTION, M.P.D||528 - 2192|
|MEMPHIS LIGHT, GAS E WATER||544 - 6500|
|ORGANIZED CRIME UNIT||528 - 2338|
|M.P.D. GANG HOTLINE||527 - 4264|
|M.P.D. DRUG HOTLINE||525 - 3673|
|M.P.D. SEX CRIMESIJUVENILE ABUSE||576 - 5330|
|JUVENILE COURT||528 - 8400|
|CRISIS CENTER||274 - 7477|
|EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT SERVICES||523 - 1313|
|SALVATION ARMY||526 - 1066|
|SHELBY CO. COMMUNITY SERVICES AGENCY||278 - 3893|
|LAWYER REFERRAL SERVICE||527 - 6002|
|MEMPHIS AREA LEGAL SERVICES||523 - 8822|
|MEMPHIS SHELBY COUNTY BAR ASSOCIATION||527 - 3573|
|LITERACY COUNCIL||327 - 6000|
|MEMPHIS AREA VOCATIONAL TECHNICAL SCHOOL||527 - 8455|
|AIDS HOTLINE||576 - 7575|
|AMERICAN RED CROSS||726 - 1690|
|BABYLOVE||722 - 7860|
|BETHANY HOME||525 - 1837|
|BIRTHRIGHT OF MEMPHIS, INC||327 - 8109|
|CHURCH HEALTH CENTER||272 - 0003|
|GRACE HOUSE OF MEMPHIS||722 - 8460|
|HEALTH DEPARTMENT, CLINICAL SERVICES||528 - 7551|
|LES PASSES CHILDREN'S REHABILITATION CENTER||529 - 0233|
|MEDICAID||1800-543 - 7398|
|MEDICARE||1800-722 - 1413|
|MEMPHIS ALCOHOL AND DRUG COUNCIL, INC||274 - 0056|
|MEMPHIS CENTER FOR REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH||274 - 3550|
|MEMPHIS JEWISH HOME||758 - 0036|
|MEMPHIS PLANNED PARENTHOOD||725 - 1717|
|ST. FRANCIS HOSPITAL BABY-LINE||765 - 1MOM|
|COUNTY TRUSTEE||576 - 4420|
|HOME WEATHERIZATION||576 - 4523|
|HOUSING AND COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT||576 - 7330|
|HABITAT FOR HUMANITY||761 - 4771|
|MAYOR'S OFFICE ON AGING||525 - 2273|
|MEMPHIS HOUSING AUTHORITY||578 - 4100|
|ASSOCIATED CATHOLIC CHARITIES||722 - 4777|
|THE CENTER FOR NEIGHBORHOODS||526 - 6627|
|FREE THE CHILDREN||276 - 0843|
|DAY CENTER||525 - 8626|
|CITY COUNCIL||576 - 6786|
|MEMPHIS AREA NEIGHBORHOOD WATCH||726 - 6912|
|MIFA||527 - 0208|
|SHELBY COUNTY COMMUNITY SERVICES ACENCY||278 - 3893|
|CAREER SEARCH (STATE TECH)||377 - 4173|
|EQUAL EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITY COMMISSION||722 - 2617|
|NAACP||521 - 1343|
|OPERATION PUSH||946 - 5272|
|PRIVATE INDUSTRY COUNCIL||576 - 6536|
|TENNESSEE DEPT.OF EMPLOYMENT SECURITY||543 - 7849|
|UNITED METHODIST NEIGHBORHOOD CENTERS||323 - 4493|
|URBAN LEACUE||327 - 3591|
|BIG BROTHER/BIG SISTERS OF CREATER MEMPHIS||327 - 4279|
|BOY SCOUTS OF AMERICA||327 - 4193|
|BOYS CLUB OF MEMPHIS, INC||278 - 2947|
|COMM.OF MISSING AND EXPLOITED CHILDREN||528 - 8441|
|DENEUVILLE HEIGHTS||357 - 7316|
|THE FAMILY LINK||725 - 6911|
|FUND FOR NEEDY SCHOOL CHILDREN||576 - 6600|
|MEMPHIS POLICE DEPT., MIDNIGHT BASKETBALL||528 - 2192|
|OF-ACT, INC||526 - 7513|
|PORTER-LEATH CHILDREN'S CENTER||577 - 2500|
|YMCA||458 - 3580|
|YOUTH SERVICES OF MEMPHIS, INC||452 - 5600|
|YWCA||323 - 2211|
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