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