and GANG ACTIVITY
Graffiti is a crime. It is
not art. Graffiti is vandalism to public and private
property and should be removed promptly. This page will
provide information on deciphering graffiti, suggest
methods for removing it, and will provide information
on identifying “gang” activity through graffiti
and other signs.
THE MEANING OF GRAFFITI
Graffiti is often a spray painted message or slogan
that may also contain information on: crime; gang activity;
group memberships; and clues on authorship. The City
of Bethlehem Police keeps a photographic record of graffiti
and shares information with other police agencies. Graffiti
should be reported to the police before it is removed.
Well-known nationwide gangs include the “Bloods,”
the “Crips,” and the “Latin Kings.”
Such large gangs have smaller gangs existing in many
cities across the country. Some are large organized
gangs that are affiliated with the national gang, and
some are just local copycat gangs consisting of a few
local teens. Gang activity should be taken seriously.
Gang members may be involved in major crimes and drug
trafficking, or just be a group of “want-a-be”
teens that need social intervention. Graffiti is utilized
by Police to track gang activity, gang membership, rivalries
and affiliations with larger gangs, as well has to help
predict future criminal activity. This graffiti is an
a example of a local “Gang Tag.” It serves
to identify the name of the gang, “G.K.B.”--
which stands for “Gangsta Killer Blood”—and
that they claim to be “110%” Blood. “Eastside”
refers to the territory they originated from.
This graffiti is a gang tag for a neighborhood gang
of youths in one of Bethlehem’s low-income housing
developments called Pembroke. They are a small gang
consisting of teens that grew up in, or live in, the
development and hang out together. “P.B.C.”
stands for the “Pembroke Crew” and the names
listed under it are nicknames showing their affiliation
with the P.B.C.. Gang members are not afraid to have
their names tagged along with the gang name in graffiti
and will often admit their gang affiliation if asked.
Just because you may have a lot of graffiti doesn’t
mean that you have gang activity. This graffiti is a
large example of graffiti that is just tagged with the
persons initials “M.E.S.” and not associated
with a group or gang. And this is just a Punk Rock graffiti
promoting a group called “Toxic Shock.”
Graffiti is more than just the nuisance of kid and
a spray can. It is a costly, destructive force that
when left unchecked promotes the decay of the community
and lowers property values. Graffiti should be reported
to the police and removed as soon as possible.
Techniques for removing graffiti vary depending on
the size and type of graffiti. Smaller incidents and
graffiti with permanent markers can often be removed
with aerosol spray cans of products such as “Goof-Off”
with a little elbow grease. Larger areas may require
pressure washing and the use of strong chemicals. Painted
surfaces may need to be first covered with a primer-based
stain blocker such as “Kilz” before re-painting
with the finish coat. Your local hardware store will
have many of the needed products and will be able to
provide you with protective gear, eyewear, and gloves.
Solvents can flammable and may cause harm or irritation
if not used properly. Keep a bucket of fresh water available
for clean-up. Consider contacting a professional cleaning
WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW ABOUT GANGS
A gang is a group of people, usually youths, who join
together as tight-knit friends in common unlawful goals.
They may be a small group of local youths or a large
group with affiliation to nationally known gang organizations.
Members often take part in violent crime, theft, and
Although they may have similar characteristics, each
gang is different. A gang usually has its own name,
colors or symbols, and a territory which they often
claim by force. For example, a gang may choose to roll
up their right pants leg; all wear certain color clothing
such as red or blue bandanas; all get the same tattoo
such as a black tear drop on the face or use hand signs
to identify themselves to fellow gang members. They
often mark “their” territory with graffiti.
Youth join gangs for different reasons. They may seek
money, excitement, want protection, feel peer-pressure
to join, or may falsely believe the gang offers a sense
of family and belonging. Gangs grow from common bonds
such as ethnicity or growing up on the same block and
seem to offer security, but members lose their sense
of self-identity and may become involved in drugs, robbery,
assaults, and drive-by shootings. Gangs destroy the
community they originate from by spreading crime, vandalism,
and fear throughout the neighborhood.
Youth gang problems can be prevented with good parenting,
positive role modeling, and involvement in community
activities. A child who has good self-esteem and feels
loved is less likely to become involved in gangs. Children
should be praised for their efforts and achievements.
They should be taught non-violent ways of resolving
problems and have positive role models available to
speak with in times of need. Encourage children to become
involved with community events and organizations that
provide positive ways to spend time.
If you think a child, relative, or friend is involved
with gang activity, talk to them about it but do not
accuse them. Discuss the dangers of gangs and the consequences
that may come from being associated with gangs. Show
the child they are important and meaningful. Get advice
from other professionals such as: counselors, community
police officers, and community youth workers.
City of Bethlehem Police also teaches the G.R.E.A.T.
Program, Gang Resistance Education and Training, to
all middle school students of the Bethlehem Area School
District. The anti-gang, anti-violence program was founded
in 1992 in Phoenix, Arizona and is funded by the Federal
Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms. “G.R.E.A.T.
is designed to help children set goals for themselves,
resist pressures, learn how to resolve conflicts without
violence, and understand how gangs and youth violence
impact the quality of their lives. G.R.E.A.T. students
discover for themselves the ramifications of gang and
youth violence through structured exercises and interactive
approaches to learning. Through the combined efforts
of law enforcement, the schools, and the community,
we can make a difference in the lives of children across
America by providing them with the necessary skills
and information to say "NO" to gangs and acts
of random violence”