Facts About Gangs

Each year there are several hundred gang-related crimes in Monterey County. These crimes include homicide, felony assault, robbery, and other crimes. In Monterey County there are over 60 active gangs with an estimated 5,000 individuals involved in various levels of gang activity. Of the 60 active gangs, 16 are located in Salinas with an estimated 3,000 members.

Violence is inherent in gang activity and men, women, and children of all ages are subject to attacks. Years ago, gang members used chains, knives, and an occasional homemade “zip gun,” in their violent attacks. Now, they use shotguns, automatic rifles, handguns, explosives, and Molotov Cocktails. Certain gang areas are frighteningly similar to war zones and there are many people who sleep on the floor taking cover for fear of getting shot.

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What to Do?

Fighting crime and dealing directly with violent gang members is best left to experts trained to handle dangerous situations. However, everyone has the responsibility to overcome apathy and fear. All of us must work toward a solution to the gang problem. One approach is to offer youth alternatives to gang involvement. Lack of afterschool activities and other outlets can create a void in a youth’s time that can be easily filled by gang involvement.

Becoming Aware.

The first and most important step is to become aware of gangs, gang members, and their activities. Citizens armed with basic knowledge are able to avoid becoming victims of gang attacks. 2nd Chance conducts training programs that provide ways of identifying gang members and activity. If you would like to host a training program, contact us at the number listed below.

Neighborhood Involvement

A gang’s power grows through instilling fear and intimidation in rivals and citizens alike. Citizen action groups, such as Neighborhood Watch or Neighborhood Patrols, can counter this. A neighborhood that is united and dedicated to a spirit of cooperation toward stopping crime and violence will greatly hamper a gang’s efforts to intimidate and victimize


Prevention is the key to affecting gang activity. Parents can do a lot to prevent their children’s involvement in gangs. We recommend parents look for changes in their children’s behavior patterns for indications of gang involvement. Examples of these changes include truancy, a decline in grades, friends and attitude, late hours, graffiti in bedrooms or on school notebooks, and especially dress (wearing of one specific color). Remember, staying positively involved in your child’s life can make a tremendous difference when it comes to their possible involvement in gangs. When incidents occur, get involved and cooperate with authorities. Information concerning gang crimes or activity should be referred to the local Police or Sheriffs Department in your community.

Teamwork between community based organizations, schools, concerned citizens, service groups, and law enforcement can keep Monterey County an enjoyable place in which to work and live.

Community Approach

An intelligent response to gang problems demands input and commitment from all segments of the community. Organized gangs are not established spontaneously. In most cases, a group of juveniles create a loose association and then begin to mimic the culture of an established hard-core gang. Communities sometimes ignore the activities of these so-called “wannabes” because they are not considered the activities of a bona fide gang. However, this is the traditional evolutionary pattern of gangs and must not be ignored. It is imperative to vigorously address those issues that signal the emergence of a gang.

Gang symbols drawn on notebooks or other school materials should be banned and removed. Any display or representation of gang membership should not be acceptable in a school setting or sponsored event. Student dress codes should also be considered. Graffiti should be brought to the attention of the local police and, where appropriate, school authorities. Prior to removal, it should be photographed or otherwise documented. Community task forces should be appointed and mandated to explore the full spectrum of issues related to the emergence of gangs such as housing, counseling, recreational alternatives, employment opportunities, parental responsibility, prosecution and law enforcement capability. When necessary, a community should enact ordinances to deal with graffiti, curfew violations, loitering and other activities associated with gangs. Law enforcement can provide leadership in identifying gang crimes but should not be held solely responsible for the necessary response. A prevention approach through social services and related agencies is as critical as a police suppression approach. Gangs are a threat to the entire community and each of us can and must contribute to a collective response.

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