Walking down the street, you are bound to see a great number of tattoos. Some are full-body, some full sleeves, others on an ankle or wrist. What you are also bound to see is a great number of gang-related tattoos. It is hard to deny that gang activity is up in America and that gangs are not just a problem in cities like New York or Los Angeles. Gangs can show up anywhere in America, from coast to coast, in any town or city, even near you and your family. Given this, it is important to know how to keep your loved ones safe. This means learning to recognize the signs of a gang member so you’ll know to avoid them. Gangs use tattoos to broadcast in-group membership and to mark their territory on their members’ bodies.

There are a wide variety of different gang tattoos. One common sign that someone is in a gang is that they have a “14” or “88” tattoo. This identifies them as a member of the neo-Nazi Aryan brotherhood, a large prison gang. It is common for those who spent a long time in prison to join a gang for protection, and many such gang members will have a spiderweb tattoo on their elbow. Teardrop tattoos are famous, though their meaning changes depending on the gang. Most often, this tattoo designates a murder committed on behalf of a gang. You will also see a “three-dots” tattoo on some gang members. This denotes the “mi vida loca” gang lifestyle. This means that the gang member is unaffiliated. Five-dots can mean that the gang member is even more dangerous since this particular tattoo means that its bearer served a lot of hard prison time. One of the most notorious gangs in the world is the MS-13 gang started by Salvadorian immigrants. Its members will have an “MS” tattoo somewhere on their bodies. Members of MS-13 have been known to randomly attack tourists, travelers, and innocent bystanders for no apparent reason.

Knowing the signs that someone is in a gang can help keep you and your family safe. Recognizing gang tattoos is the best way to identify if someone is in a gang. If you see one of the tattoos listed above, stay away! Given the wild anti-cop rhetoric that has become in vogue in the past year, gangs have been able to flourish. Police departments have had to fight against the “defund the police” movement. In some localities, police officers have been quitting at alarming rates. All of this has caused a sizeable spike in crime that has empowered gangs in ways that haven’t been seen since the 1990s. This means that it is important now more than ever to recognize the signs of gang activity. It can save your life and the lives of the people you love. Gangs are vicious and they demand a total takeover of the lives of the people in them. Given this, it’s usually best just to stay away from them.