Home Turf: Gangs in the Valley

Finding Solutions to the Gang Problem (Part IV)

Updated: 11/27/2013 - In the final part of our Gangs in the Valley series, we look at how neighbors in our community are working to stop the gang problem from impacting the next generation.


Gang Awareness

Is your child in a gang? 


The "gang look" is meant to intimidate those who are not in a gang. Children and teenagers who dress in clothing that resembles gang attire are showing an interest in gangs, will attract the attention of gangs, and could be putting themselves in extreme danger. In recent years children have been shot and killed by gangs simply for wearing gang related clothing. For the safety of your children, it is very important that you do not buy or allow your children to wear any item that gang members use to identify with the gang. Some of the current and traditional gang clothing and styles are listed below:

Gang Related Clothing and Styles - Boys

  • Shaved, bald head or extremely short hair
  • White oversized T-shirt creased in the middle
  • White athletic type undershirt
  • Polo type knit shirts (oversized) and usually worn buttoned to the top and not tucked in
  • Oversized Dickie, Ben Davis or Solos pants
  • Pants worn low, or "sagging" and cuffed inside at the bottom or dragging on the ground
  • Baseball caps worn backwards (usually black and sometimes with the initials of the gang)
  • Cut off under-the-knee, short pants worn with knee-high socks
  • A predominance of dark or dull clothing, or clothing of one particular color
  • Black oversized jackets, sweatshirts, jerseys, etc.
  • Black stretch belt with chrome or silver gang initial belt buckle
  • Oversized shirts
  • Clothing a mixture of gang colors, black and silver or white

Gang Related Clothing and Styles - Girls

  • Exaggerated use of mousse, gel or baby oil on hair
  • Black or dark clothing and shoes
  • Black oversized jackets, sweatshirts, athletic football jerseys, etc.
  • Oversized shirts worn outside of the pants
  • Oversized white T-shirts
  • Dark jackets with lettering (cursive or Old English style)
  • Baggy, long pants dragging on the ground
  • Heavy make-up, dark excessive eye shadow, shaved eyebrows, dark lipstick, dark fingernail polish
  • Tank tops or revealing blouses
  • Stretch belts with initial on belt buckle
  • Overalls not fastened

Gangs in the Valley Q & A

Why do gangs do the things they do, like mug people?
Many criminal activities and concepts, such as thefts, violence, etc., are somewhat normalized in gang culture. Furthermore, committing those acts garner respect within the gang, which ultimately leads to elevated status.
Are gangs in one specific area?
There are no steadfast rules as to where gangs are present in the Valley. Though members often live and operate in lower socioeconomic areas, the CHARGE Unit has investigated gang related cases in very lucrative neighborhoods, college areas and even public places such as parks, restaurants and other businesses.
Are gang members unemployed?
We do not currently have any local statistics regarding members' employment status. However, in conducting investigations and interviews we often find that many members do not hold steady employment.
Are gang members drug addicts?
In the gang culture, drugs are often a source of income or cause for violence. Drug use and/or distribution are some of the most common illicit acts performed by gang members and their associates.
Do gang members commit murder or violence to get what they want?
Violence and intimidation are vital aspects of gang activity, and are often used to further the advancement of group and individual goals within the gang culture.
I noticed references to Interstate 81 in the pictures of gang tattoos. What is that about?
Gang members frequently combine pride in their gang with pride in their geographical area. Often this is reflected in tattoos or writings involving areas codes, neighborhood names, streets, roads, etc.

This is not to say that those indicators are necessarily gang-specific or only associated with gangs, but it is a relatively common practice within the gang culture.
What is the biggetst gang around here?
In the Harrisonburg/Rockingham community, gangs related to Sur 13, Crips and Bloods are the most prominent, though many more have been identified in the area.
Why aren't the leaders of gangs locked up?
The Harrisonburg Police Department, Rockingham County Sheriff's Office and CHARGE Gang Task Force make every effort to identify members and leaders within gangs. Many times they are successful and these subjects are prosecuted.

In fact, there are many gang members, with high stature in their gangs, currently incarcerated. It is however an ongoing process, and one that requires the assistance of multiple law enforcement entities, as well as the community.

It is encouraged that anyone with information related to gang activity contact the CHARGE Gang Task Force at 540-437-2643.
Is the gang problem because of the Mexicans?
No. The gang problem, or as I prefer to call it, gang presence, is not gender/ethnic/race specific. Locally, and across the state and nation, all walks of life are exposed to the gang culture, and all walks of life can find themselves involved.
What is a bong? my son told me he wants to buy a bong. are bongs gang related?
A bong is a smoking device often used for marijuana. Though many people linked to gang activity are also involved in drug activity, bongs would not be considered gang-related
Where are gangs most likely to hang out or live? Is there a certain area of the county that is more prevalent to gang presence or activity?
Gang members hang out and live all over.

Regarding residences, we find a larger concentration living in older neighborhoods, lower income neighborhoods and apartment complexes; however, it's certainly not exclusive.

Similarly so, we tend to see gang members and associates hanging out predominantly in these locations, as well as off campus housing typically associated with JMU, retail establishments, parks, bars and restaurants.
Why is that police categorize people in a gang by them wearing polos?
First I would suggest that if anyone feels as though they have been harassed by a law enforcement officer, it is encouraged that they notify that agency of their complaint. This is important to ensure that quality customer service is being provided by their local agency.

Second, to address the topic, members of the CHARGE Gang Task Force look for indicators of gang activity based on their training and experience. If they observe indicators they may initiate a variety of responses. The word indicator is plural because one indicator is not of very much interest. In most cases, investigators look for multiple indicators of activity before initiating contact and/or a response. Indicators can include specific style of dress (including colors, styles, brands, specific apparel, etc.), location of contact, gang specific tattoos, investigatory tips, case-specific details, etc. Then, after accumulating several indicators, investigators will often initiate contact and/or a response.
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50 North Main Street Harrisonburg, VA 22801 540-433-9191 - Switchboard 540-433- 4028 - Fax 540-433-2700 - News Fax

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