Gang Activity Awareness

Awareness is the key to the solution of gang problems. The Stockton Police Gang Unit hopes these questions and answers will help you better understand and recognize gangs.

Definition of a Gang 

Section 186.22 of the California Penal Code defines a "criminal street gang" as: "Any ongoing organization, association, or group of three or more persons, whether formal or informal, having as one of its primary activities the commission of, criminal acts, having a common name or common identifying sign or symbol, and whose members individually or collectively engage in, or have engaged in, a pattern of criminal gang activity."  

Gang Activity in Stockton 

Gangs today are extremely mobile and are not turf oriented as in the past. There is not one neighborhood that is completely free of gang members or gang activity. Residents should be aware of the following signs that might indicate gang activity in their areas: 

  • An increase in graffiti in the neighborhood

  • An increase in crime, especially violent crime

  • An increase in the number of groups of unknown subjects loitering in the neighborhood 

  • An increase in suspected narcotics activity.

Gang Warning Signs for Parents

  • Change in attitude to include violent reactions, disruptive behavior, dislike, and refusal to submit to authority (parents, school, and police).  
  • Becomes secretive regarding whereabouts or activities.  

  • Change in friends; does not bring friends to his/her home.  

  • School attendance becomes sporadic, and grades begin to decline.  

  • Change in clothing selection, such as style, color, or type. Friends or associates dress similarly. Clothing may be altered with gang writing, such as hats or t-shirts.  

  • Increase in gang-type graffiti on schoolbooks, notebooks, or papers. This may also be found on bedroom walls or other locations in the room. They may also mark themselves in the form of graffiti or tattoos.  

  • Son or daughter receives calls from subjects who refuse to identify themselves or identify themselves with a nickname only. They may also refer to your son or daughter by a nickname. 

Gang Clothing 

Clothing alone may not be an indicator of gang membership. Parents must look beyond the clothing and determine the attitude of why the clothing is being worn. Parents should ask themselves the following questions: 

  • If sports-type clothing is being worn, is he or she a true sports fan? 

  • Is he or she wearing only a certain type, style, or color of clothing? 

  • Are all his or her friends wearing the same exact style, type, or color of clothing?  

  • Is he or she wearing exclusively red, blue, or black clothing?  

  • Is he or she wearing clothing that is altered by lettering or numbering indicating gang name, moniker or nickname, or other types of gang insignia?  

  • Is he or she wearing hats that have been altered?

High Risk for Street Gangs 

  • Youth living in areas of high gang activity. 

  • Youth from broken or single-parent homes. 

  • Youth from homes where they are left to fend for themselves most of the time because the parents do not exercise parental responsibilities. 

  • Youth who are looking for a sense of belonging, which they do not get at home. 

  • Youth with low self-esteem who are not given the proper praise for good accomplishments.

  • It is guaranteed members will receive praise from other gang members; unfortunately, it is for the wrong reasons. 


Gang-related Graffiti 

Much of the graffiti located within the city of Stockton is not gang-related, but is linked to groups referred to as "Taggers." Taggers are, typically, teenagers who consider themselves street artists and take pride in putting their moniker or nickname on walls, signs, sidewalks, or other areas.

Gang-related graffiti is normally easier to read, whereas tagger graffiti uses symbols and letters that are difficult to read. Gang-related graffiti can be distinguished as follows: 

  • Normally written in block-style letters. 

  • May be done in gang color (blue or red). 

  • Might contain moniker list (nicknames of members of the gang). 

  • May be crossed out by a rival gang. 

  • Usually done in areas where gang activity is prevalent. 

Gang Solutions and Prevention 

Police are only a part of the solution. Parental involvement, intervention and prevention programs and education are all necessary elements of the solution. Consider the following: 

  • It is easier to prevent a young person from entering a gang than it is to get that person out of a gang. 

  • It often becomes necessary for law enforcement to get involved. The arrest and incarceration of gang members is not a permanent solution to the gang situation; it provides only temporary relief for removing gang members from the streets. 

  • Parents must be involved in the lives of their children.  

  • Parents must give their children a sense of belonging and build their self-esteem by praising their children for good accomplishments. Parents must be there for their children, especially in their times of need. 

  • Young people must be kept busy with positive activities, such as school, community, and church. By keeping them busy in such activities, young people will not have time to be involved in gangs and will develop more worthwhile values. Young people may also wish to participate in the Police Youth Activities, which offers youth many positive activities such as a Boxing Club and the Junior Cadet and Junior Giants Baseball Programs. 

Addressing Violence

We hope this information will assist you in better understanding gangs, but is important that we keep the gang situation in perspective. Only 1% of our total population is involved in gang activity. We cannot forget about the remaining 99% who are not involved in gangs. It is important to keep a positive outlook and work together as a community to put a stop to violent activities.  

The City of Stockton is committed to violence intervention and prevention. For additional information or assistance, please contact the Office of Violence Prevention.