Even in one of the safest U.S.
cities, deputies are constantly addressing gangs.
Here’s a cold, hard dose of reality; Santa Clarita has
This relatively quiet, little-big town filled with shopping
centers, neatly kept baseball fields and bike trails…has gangs.
One of the reasons that gang life isn’t as noticeable here,
is because of a two-pronged approach taken by our local Sheriff’s detectives
First, they have kept a finger on the pulse of gang
activity. They track gang members’ activity, monitor when they’re released from
prison, and keep an unwavering presence on their streets.
According to Sheriff’s Detective Dan Finn, 5 gangs call
Santa Clarita home, with 250-300 active members total. All of our gangs are
Hispanic based, although there are several black and white supremacist gang
members living locally. Those members are all active in other areas with other
The second major approach our law enforcers take is to cut
off new recruitment. They do this by consistently offering intervention
programs. They teach a two-day gang prevention class at local Jr. High schools,
and high school deputies regularly speak to Government classes. They also offer
a diversion program called VIDA, which stands
for Vital Intervention and Directional Alternatives, designed to keep at risk
youth on the right path.
Of course, parents can help the effort too, simply by being
aware of a few warning signs that their children may be headed for gang life.
Detective Finn tells parents to look out for the following:
“It used to be that when you saw a guy in a [tank-top style
undershirt] with a shaved head and goatee that he was a gang member,” Detective
Finn told KHTS. “But a lot of kids emulate that look now, so it’s hard.”
While clothing may be deceiving, it is still worth noting
that gang members usually wear baggy clothing, pleated white cotton t-shirts,
undershirts and button up shirts, usually buttoned all the way to the top.
Most gangs, says Detective Finn, have also adopted a sports
team. This is because the teams’ abbreviations often reflect the gang’s name
and a large supply of apparel is available. For example, the #81 Raiders
football jersey is popular among Hispanic gang members because it was worn by
Tim Brown, therefore the word “Brown” is on the back of the jersey. Hispanic
gang members often claim to have “brown pride.”
Change in Friends
“At that 12, 13, 14 year old age, you’ve developed a core
group of friends,” says Detective Finn.
When teenagers turn to gang life, parents will generally
notice that they stop associating with their core group of friends. Often, they
will also refrain from bringing their new friends around their parents.
Change in Activities
A change will most likely be noticed in a child’s social
activities. If they used to take a profound interest in playing baseball,
acting or other extra curricular activities, and then suddenly stop, there may
be a problem.
Also, Detective Finn says to watch what your kids write.
“Kids doodle,” he said. “Generally, you will doodle what you
are interested in.”
A musical student might doodle a drum set, while an aspiring
gang member will generally doodle their gang name, moniker, or common gang slogans.
Disrespect for Authority
Detective Finn says that gang members commonly show a severe
lack of respect for authority, oftentimes without cause.
Sheriff’s officials believe that these warning signs are important for
parents to pick up on, as it is usually easier to deter a “would be” gang
member, as opposed to a hardened member.