Communities may wonder, “How would they know if there was gang activity in their community?”  What would that mean and how could you tell if there was a risk of youth involvement in gang activities?

The Hamilton Police Service is committed to crime prevention and there are resources available to support communities in preventing gang issues.

Signs that your child may be involved in a gang

  • Dressing differently/same colour or certain brands worn
  • Wearing bandanas, beads, shoelaces, etc. depicting one colour
  • Hanging out with different friends
  • Unexplained source of income/jewellery
  • Drawing gang symbols on school books
  • Attitude change, especially towards authority.
  • Skipping school or poor grades in school
  • Gang style tattoos
  • Unexplained scars or burns
  • Accessing gang information on the Internet
  • Using special gang hand signs
  • Adopting a new nickname
  • Change in language, using special phrases or terms
  • Becoming more private
  • Staying out late

These signs together or alone do not mean that your child is involved in a gang.  However, parents should be concerned and talk to their children about their activities.

  • Involvement of young people who come together for the primary purpose of for-profit criminal or violent activity
  • Criminal activity is for the purpose of advancing the cause of the group (i.e. a street gang)
  • A shared common allegiance to a set of values
  • For a sense of belonging or to be part of a group/accepted by your peers
  • For the excitement and risks of the gang lifestyle
  • To seek protection from potential violence
  • To earn money
  • To be with friends
  • Have low self-esteem or motivation
  • For the perceived power and status associated to gangs
  • Friends or family members belong to a gang
  • Drug and alcohol abuse
  • Poverty
  • Abuse or neglect at home

A gang isn’t just a group of people hanging out together. Most gangs engage in criminal activity. The gang phenomenon is more widespread that we imagine-there are more than 430Active gangs in Canada.

Gangs and the Law

Any contribution to gang activity is ILLEGAL

According to the Criminal Code S. 467.1, being involved in a gang or its activities or even being aware of the gang’s criminal activities-past, present, or future-can lead to as many as 14 years in prison… and that doesn’t even account for any other crime committed while being part of the gang!

Recruitment is done mostly through friends, acquaintances, and siblings. The average age of gang members is 17; however, youth as young as 11 are targeted.  They will pay for meals, snacks, etc. They want to make the recruit feel at ease so he or she feels welcomed and befriended.

They take the recruit along as they commit a small crime, observe his or her reaction and maybe ask him or her to participate. After a short period of time, they will ask the recruit to join the gang. By that time, they know the recruit’s weaknesses and motivations to join the gang, and they can use those against him or her.

Girls are often lured by males who promise them an exciting future. They are often lured by clothes, jewellery, money, etc.

For boys, the initiation will most likely consist of forced drug or alcohol consumption or organized fights with gang members, called a “jump-in”. As for girls, they are often required to take part in sexual acts with multiple gang members.

The Truth About Gang Life

  • There’s a high risk of getting injured or killed
  • Changes of getting a criminal record are increased
  • Involvement in selling illegal drugs and stolen property to obtain money
  • Solve problems with violence and intimidation
  • Required to complete an initiation to join a gang
  • May have to commit criminal acts just to prove themselves
  • High frequency of drug and alcohol abuse
  • Gang life is a self-destructive lifestyle

Getting out a gang is not easy. The other members of the gang are often long-time friends; they hang out in the same places, or even attend the same school.  Leaving the gang requires avoiding all those places and leaving friends behind. In addition, once trying to start a new life, the people in the community may still see that person as a gang member and never forget their gang involvement.

If gang activity begins to control your community parents may lose the most, the wellbeing or even the life of their child.  Parents can do a lot to identify, prevent, and reduce gang issues.

  • Spend quality time with each of your children. Keep them ACTIVE and INVOLVED in supervised positive community programs.
  • Talk to them and LISTEN with your full attention.
  • Respect your child’s feelings and attitudes and help them develop self-esteem.
  • Establish rules, set limits, asd be consistent, firm and fair in discipline.
  • Help your children identify with positive role models.
  • Know what your children are doing at all times and with whom. Meet their friends. Know what influences these friends have on your child.
  • Support your child in their schoolwork and special interests. Show your interest by attending parent/teacher nights and communicate with educators regularly.
  • Monitor your child’s room and its contents and clothing choices. If your child starts dressing in gang-style clothing, they will attract attention from those involved with gangs.
  • Educate yourself and be aware of potential gang involvement and be aware of local resources in the community.
REMEMBER – if you want your children to follow in your footsteps, be very careful where you place your feet.


Reporting Gang Activity

You can report gang releated activity to the Hamilton Police Service 905-546-4925 or Crimestoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477)


Related Websites

Kids Help Phone 1-800-668-6868

No To Gangs

Public Safety Canada – Youth Gangs


Related Content


gangs.pdf (293 KB)