3.11 IMPACTS OF GANG LIFESTYLESAfter awhile with the gang, living a life of murder and mayhem, gangmembers can suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) as it ismost commonly called. They lack the ability to feel emotion for killingsomeone. It becomes a norm and a fact of life as they live it. A gangmember once said to me, in complete disgust, when I asked him howhe felt about killing a man, “Why should I feel anything for him, heain’t nothin’ to me.” It can become surreal to them. Many of the youthgang members I knew came from broken homes, domestic violence,and/or homes where it was the norm for members to go to prison andto belong to a gang. Gang membership is passed down in families. It is a tradition. Gangcolors, tattoos, and other identifiers are all part of this tradition. It is pos-sible that some gang-involved families could have probation, paroleand children or social service workers passing each other on their wayinto or out of these homes. There is likely to be information that eachpublic sector agency could legally share with each other, in order totruly put together a plan to assist members of this family, especially thechildren.Gang membership begins most often with an initiation, usually abeat-in for a male and sexed-in for a female. There are some variationsto this depending on the level of violence of the gang. Members don’t34Gangs and Law Enforcement
automatically get their “colors” upon initiation. They have to earnthem. Usually they are told to commit a crime. As they rise in the ranksfrom foot soldier to enforcer/assassin to the management level, theyare now coordinating the crime from behind closed doors. They’vedone prison time probably more than once and don’t want to go backfor another count. They use the new gang members to carry out the hitsand conduct the criminal activity. 3.12 GANG GRAFFITI INTERPRETATIONGang graffiti has gone through some changes since I learned how tointerpret it in 1989. But, the major gang symbols and hand signs havenot changed. A major change has been an effort to hide their gang’ssymbols in other artwork. I first saw this happening in juvenile correc-tional institutions in the artwork created by the inmates in the institu-tion-provided art classes. They were then allowed to hang their work intheir dorms or cottages. Violence followed. I was asked to tour the facil-ities and found that rival gangs were housed in the same dorms/cot-tages. Their artwork was an attempt on the part of each to claim thatarea as the turf for their gang. Most often it was the Gangster Disciples(set of the Folks) disrespecting the Vice Lords (set of the People). Theseare Chicago gangs that have managed to spread through anywherefrom 30 to 45 states.