BALTIMORE (WJZ) — The FBI report MS-13 gangs continue to grow their memberships by targeting younger recruits more than ever before.

Hundreds of MS-13 gang members are currently active in Maryland. The gang is known for its brutality; using machetes to behead vulnerable, young victims.

READ MORE: Arrest Made In Incident Where Officer Was Hit By Car, Dragged Two Blocks

Related Coverage: 

The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) says parents play an important role in keeping young people out of gangs.

The OJJDP said, oftentimes, youth get pulled into a gang because they think they might gain status, or think it is a good way to show family, neighborhood or cultural pride.

READ MORE: Fire Breaks Out At Camp Airy For Boys In Thurmont, No Injuries Reported

Other times youth get pushed into a gang because they are afraid for their safety and think a gang will provide protection from neighborhood crime and violence.

They also are pressured by the gang to join.

The OJJDP is offering the following information to parents about gangs:

  • Between the ages of 12 and 14, youth are exposed to gangs and may consider joining
  • The most common time youth join a gang is around the age of 15
  • Parents should pay attention to small changes in behavior

The OJJDP says parents should look for common gang identifiers:

  • Colors: Many gangs still use one or more colors to represent themselves
  • Symbols & Numbers: Symbols and numbers have special significance within gang culture
  • Clothing & Apparel: Youth may dress a specific way to identify with a particular gang
  • Graffiti: Gangs use graffiti to mark their territory, brag about their reputation, mourn fallen friends and threaten or challenge rival gangs
  • Social Media: The Internet has provided a new medium for gang communication and promotion
  • Gang Influenced Music & Movies: Youth may show their interest in gangs with music and movies that portray street-gang culture
  • Sports Items: Letters, colors or symbols with professional sports teams may have specific gang meanings
  • Gang-Related Tattoos: Often show affiliation, rank and crimes committed
  • Hand Signs: Some gangs use specific hand gestures and handshakes to communicate their affiliation
MORE NEWS: Maryland Weather: Mostly Sunny & Warm

For more information, visit the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention website.