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Montgomery County Gang Prevention Task Force
What is a gang?
What is not a gang?
Who joins gangs?
Signs of gang involvement
What can you do as a parent?
What resources are available?
Teen Information and referral lines
Reading resources
Useful links

Introduction - top
The word “gang” brings up many different pictures and images. The presence of gangs in our community can affect the quality of life, both for the youth involved in gangs and for residents in general. This website is intended to be a resource for parents, teachers and other concerned individuals in Montgomery County. The information was compiled with the help of members of the Montgomery County Gang Prevention Task Force.

What is a gang? - top

By definition, a “gang” is a group or any association of three or more persons with common interests, bonds and activities characterized by criminal activity. This activity may include robbery, assault or destroying property with graffiti. Members of a gang often use an identifying sign, symbol or name, dress in a uniform way or establish a claim to a specific neighborhood or area. (source: Montgomery County Police Department and State's Attorneys Office)

What is not a gang? - top

A gang is not a group of youth from a particular ethnic group that grows up together, goes to school together, plays sports together, or hangs around in any neighborhood because there is nothing social for them to do. It is not a group of youth that wears baggy clothes, name brand clothing, unique hairstyles, or certain colored attire, unless the attire is related to committing a crime, or is specifically labeled as a gang identifier.

Who joins gangs? - top

Youth join gangs for many different reasons, including peer pressure, financial gain, seeking a sense of identity, fun and excitement, and protection in certain neighborhoods.

Gang members range in age from 13 to 24 years old and can include all ethnic groups. There are certain risk factors that may increase the chances that a youth might become involved with a gang. Risk factors include the lack of a positive support system at home, too much unsupervised free time, a lack of respect for authority, low self-esteem or a sense of hopelessness about the future.

Signs of gang involvement - top

  • Clearly says that he/she is a gang member
  • Wears clothing that is directly linked to an identified gang
  • Withdraws from family, and spends unusual amount of time with individuals involved in criminal activity
  • Uses hands signs while with friends, alone, or out in the community
  • Owns or keeps documents on which gang names are explicitly drawn or painted
  • Consistently participates in gang-sponsored social activities, including "skipping parties" with drug abuse, alcohol abuse, and high-risk criminal behavior
  • Takes part in gang specific graffiti activity, where an individual writes or paints the name of the gang on property, including buildings
  • Carryies weapons
  • Develops a bad attitude towards family, school and authority figures
(source: Montgomery County Police Department and State's Attorneys Office)

What can you do as a parent? - top

  • Maintain open communication with your child.
  • Get in the habit of discussing problems with your child and his/her friends.
  • Look for opportunities to show your child how important he or she is to you.
  • Regularly spend time with your child.
  • Take time to know your child’s friends. Know where your child is going and with whom.
  • Set clear and consistent boundaries and limits for children. Enforce these limits consistently.
  • Provide discipline that is fair, appropriate and timely.
  • Investigate activities available for your child and his/her friends - sports, art, dance, theater, music, cooking, swimming, camping, and scouting. If you don’t find the activities, start them yourself.
  • Be a good role model. Educate yourself on issues important to young people.
  • Use community resources: individual and family counseling, support groups. There are many organizations that help families deal with this problem.
  • Discuss concerns with the social worker and/or counselor at school.
  • Talk with your clergyman.
(Source: University of Illinois Extension Family Works)

What resources are available? - top

To report any alleged gang-related graffiti or a gang-related crime, call the:
Montgomery County Police Department’s Gang Unit, 240-773-4264. In an emergency call 911.
For information on the County’s Gang Prevention Initiative, call Luis Cardona, Youth Violence Prevention Coordinator, 240-777-1001, Cell 240-372-3829, or email Luis.Cardona@montgomerycountymd.gov
If you live in the Takoma Park – Langley area and need to find services, such as mentoring, individual and family counseling, and relocation and safety planning for youth or families impacted by gangs, call the Crossroads Youth Opportunity Center 301-422-1270
To find services such as mental health, addiction and counseling for high-risk youth, call Michelle Shay at the Collaboration Council for Children and Youth, 301-354-4904 or email michelle.shay@collaborationcouncil.org

To find out about after-school prevention programs call 240-773-5421, or Rita Rumbaugh, MCPS Safe and Drug-Free Schools, 301-279-3041, rita_rumbaugh@mcpsmd.org

For information on counseling services (domestic violence, child abuse, neglect, suicide, and sexual assault), call the Crisis Center at: 240-777-4400

For information on job referrals call Montgomery Works, 301-946-1806 or 301-519-8252 or go to www.montgomeryworks.com
For information on medical and social service programs for pregnant teens, call Medical Assistance/Health Choice Client Services at 240-777-1635 or Jane Larson 240-777-1570 or email jane.larson@montgomerycountymd.gov
For before and after school programs, call the County’s Recreation Department at 240-777-6985 or 240-777-6820
For information on community-based mental health services, call the Mental Health Association, 301-424-0656 or the Responsible Father Program 301-963-5900

Teen Information and Referral Lines - top

  • Teen Time 240-777-6985
  • Youth Crisis Line 301-738-9697
  • Maryland Choices 301-947-0023
  • Bethesda Youth Services 301-652-2820
  • Rockville Youth Services 301-314-5000
  • Gaithersburg Youth Services 301-590-9864
  • Silver Spring Youth Services 301-593-1160
  • Olney Youth Services 301-774-3581
Reading Resources - top

  • “Adventures in Parenting” (spanish)
  • “Makes Me Want to Holler” by Nathan McCall
  • “Always Running” by Luis Rodriguez
  • “Hearts and Hands” by Luis Rodriguez
  • “Life in Prison” by Tookie Williams
  • “It Doesn’t Have to Be This Way” by Luis Rodriguez
  • “Freedom Writers Diary” by Erin Gruwell

Useful Links - top

Last edited: 5/24/2007