Knowing The Difference Between Graffiti and Gang Signs (Part II)

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HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV)-- In part one of our series, "Gangs in the Valley," we learned gang members are here committing violent crime and dealing drugs.

But how do you know if there are gangs in your neighborhood?

What are the signs you should know?

Under Route 33 near Interstate 81, Master Police Officer J.C Aderholtz with the C.H.A.R.G.E Gang Task Force, decoded some tagging, "This is actually a clown, the gang that we have in this area that will use this particular tag or they'll use it in their drawings is Sureños 13. We also have the three dots inside the head of the clown right here, this is very common with our Sureños gangs and other gangs also, but Sureños it's very common with which also means 'my crazy life' or 'my vido loco' in Spanish."

Aderholtz explained that gangs disrespect one another through graffiti, "This is another Sureños 13 or Sur 13 graffiti. Puro is a street name of a local Sur 13 member who was involved in this graffiti. On this side of the pole we have the number five. The number five is used by the East Coast Bloods; they represent with the number five. The Sureños have put two arrows next to this number five showing disrespect to the Bloods."

The Crips and The Latin Kings are other gangs present in the Valley, "Yes this is gang graffiti. This is Latin King graffiti. You have the L and the K which stands for Latin King and you also have the five dots here. Latin Kings will represent with the number five or the five dots," said Aderholtz.

However, not all graffiti is gang-related, "No this is not, any of this gang graffiti. This is what we call tagger graffiti. It's a form of art. People think of this as a form of art."

So how does someone tell the difference between the two types of graffiti?

"It's hard to tell the difference. We're trained to be able to tell the difference so the best thing to do is for people to call the police department or the sheriff's office so an officer can come out and take a look at it. It's good intelligence for us so we can gain information from it," said Aderholtz.

People used to be able to pick out gang members on the street by their clothing or the color of their bandanna, but in recent years, gangs gave taken a lower profile.

"They don't want to draw the attention of law enforcement and instead, that street corner is now online. It's now Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, those are the locations that gang members are displaying their bravado, their machismo," said Cpl. Bryan Horowitz, the coordinator of C.H.A.R.G.E Gang Task Force for Harrisonburg and Rockingham County.

Gang images are also on different social media sites.

"These are local Sur 13 members, they're throwing up the 13 hand sign. The man in the black is throwing up the one. The man in the white is throwing up the three," said Aderholtz, "These are five local Blood members. They're wearing the color red, and the male in the middle is just throwing up the hand sign V-A."

Tattoos are another way gang members distinguish themselves.

"That's a Sur 13 member. He's got the one and the three on his arms. This is an M-S 13 member. He has the M above the one and the S above the three. This is a Crip tattoo. They represent with the six-pointed star and the number 6. This is a K-C tattoo, which our Kelly Park Crip members will, will wear," said Aderholtz.

Another indicator is drawings.

"This is a Sur 13 drawing. As you can see on the right they also represent with the name Southside 13. These types of drawings are good for teachers and parents to be aware of," said Aderholtz.