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The Gang Intelligence Unit (GIU), comprised of members from both the Law Enforcement Division and the Department of Corrections, identifies and tracks members of Security Threat Groups, such as Street and Prison Gangs and Non-traditional Organized Crime Groups. The Unit strives to recognize potential threats to the security and safety of our jurisdictional responsibilities. The Unit is also called upon, from time to time, to assist federal, state, and local agencies as may be required in trying to control the threat to society presented by these groups.

Additionally, the Monmouth County Sheriff’s Office Gang Intelligence Unit actively trains law enforcement officers in recognizing the signs of gang activity in their particular jurisdictions, as well as the appropriate response.

The GIU is affiliated with the East Coast Gang Investigator’s Association, which, in turn, is a member organization of the National Alliance of Gang Investigator’s Associations.

Below is general information useful in recognizing Street Gang Activity in your community:

Defining a Street Gang

A street gang is often defined as a group of young people others perceive and perceive themselves as a distinct group. They will often prompt a negative response from the community. Such a group is often organized, has a distinct leadership, and is involved in criminal activity.

There are various types of gangs, ranging from social or neighborhood gangs, involved only in minor community disturbances, to delinquent gangs with more frequent interaction with the police, to well-organized gangs that commit serious, violent crimes.

How Do We Know Gangs Are In Our Community?

Isolated incidents of criminal activity may not suggest gang activity in a community. However, the following factors, if combined, may point to the existence of gangs:

  • The appearance of graffiti showing gang symbols
  • Observing groups who display gang-symbolic tattoos
  • Observing groups who wear the same style and/or color of clothes
  • An increase in acts of vandalism
  • A rise in violent crime in the area
  • An increase of fighting between groups of young people
  • An increase in citizen complaints concerning “gang activity”
  • An increase in drug sales and use in a community

It should be noted that none of these warning signs, taken alone, is proof of gang activity, but rather all can be indicative of possible gang activity.

What Does Gang Graffiti Mean?

Gang graffiti appears as gangs become more active, and begin to define their individual territory, or turf. Graffiti is often designed to display power, send messages, and to warn intruders. Most graffiti, when written upside down or when crossed out, is a sign of existing rivalries and hostilities between two separate gangs.

What are Gang Colors and Signs?

Gangs primarily use COLORS as a means of identity and to show associate membership. Colors, along with specific brands and styles of clothing, worn in a specific manner and style, along with other identifying factors, may represent an individual’s membership in a particular gang. Additional indications may include hairstyles, jewelry, bandanas, gang logos, sports team apparel and logos, and clothing accessories.

HAND SIGNS and GANG SLANG are a means of communication between members of a particular gang, and even between members of rival gangs. Symbols formed with the fingers, hands and body relay information from one individual to another. Words and phrases are often used to communicate with other gang members in code.

How Do Gangs Recruit Members?

Often gang members will confront young people in their neighborhood or schools, and ask them to join the gang. The individual is presented with all of the supposedly positive aspects of belonging to the gang, such as how a gang member can make easy money, how becoming a member provides friends who become a new “family,” and that there is easy access to parties, alcohol, drugs and sexual activity.

Many times the gang recruiters just pester the youth into joining the gang. In extreme cases, gang members can turn to the use of intimidation and threats of bodily harm to make the young person join the gang. Once the young person has become a member of the gang, it becomes very difficult to leave the gang for fear of physical retaliation against the member or their family.

Why Do Young People Join Gangs?

Kids join gangs to fill a void in their lives. They find in the gangs what they cannot find in their own homes, schools or community. The strongest incentive to belong is just that-the need to belong! Other factors can include:

  • Gangs appear to provide protection from violence both in schools and in the neighborhood.
  • To gain a sense of identity and status by being accepted into the gang. Gangs are ego supporting systems.
  • Companionship created through the sense of belonging and recognition.
  • Gangs provide activity and excitement to the young person, who desires to escape boredom-there is nothing better to do.
  • The gang appears to provide the opportunity to easily make large amounts of money through illegal activity; this would thereby allow the gang member to obtain material possessions, which indicate wealth and seem to provide status, rather than the wages of a low paying legal job.
  • Family members and friends are involved with gangs.
  • The gang overwhelms the neighborhood in which the young person lives.

Are Certain Youths More Inclined to Join a Gang?

Some young people who are having trouble getting along with their parents and in school, or who find it difficult to conform to the norms of society at large, are more at risk of joining a gang. There are certain socioeconomic conditions, which create a large “subculture” of individuals who reside in areas marked by a high crime rate, unemployment, poverty, congested living conditions, hopelessness, broken homes, a breakdown of traditional family values, and boredom which seem to encourage a youngster becoming involved with a gang. These elements add to the risk of a young person becoming involved with these criminal groups.

What is the solution?

There is no single solution. What solutions there may be are not found in law enforcement action alone. Involvement by the family, the church, schools, and communities as a whole are all crucial components in the battle against gang violence.

What can I, as a parent, do to combat gangs?

  • Be a positive role model.
  • Parents can work to improve communication and take seriously the responsibility of raising their children.
  • You can take a deeper interest in your children and their activities.
  • Know the company your child keeps.
  • Monitor your child’s whereabouts and activities.
  • Get your child involved with extracurricular activities in school and with community groups.
  • Become aware of the signs of gang recruitment and involvement; if such sign exists intervene as quickly as possible; seek the help and advise of family, church; schools administrators and police.
  • Do not allow your children to wear gang clothing or styles.
  • Do not allow your child to “hang-out” on the streets.
  • Be suspicious of graffiti and tattoos.
  • Do not allow your child to limit your access to their room.
  • Learn about drugs and gangs, and talk to your children about both of these threats.
  • Develop the attitude of anti-drugs and anti-gangs in your home, and stress the overwhelming negative aspects of both.
  • Start early-the gangs do!


Gang Life Can Lead to a Permanent Position.

Help prevent GANG Violence!

The Monmouth County Sheriff’s Office Gang Intelligence Unit may be reached at: 732-431-7860 Ext. 1230, or by e-mail at

LINKS to Related Gang Web Sites

National Alliance of Gang Investigators’ Association