Covington Police Department
Gang Task Force
133 E Pleasant Ave
Covington, TN 38019
Fax (901) 476-0243
A Guide to Gang
Awareness in Your Neighborhood
– A gang is defined as a group of three or more people who have a name
or an identifiable leadership and engage in delinquent or criminal
– A gang member usually will meet two or more of the following
1. Admits to criminal gang involvement.
2. Is identified as a criminal street gang
member by a parent or guardian.
3. Becomes a documented reliable informant
in gang activity.
4. Resides in or frequents a particular
area of criminal activity and adopts the style, dress, hand
signals, and tattoos of
a known gang.
5. Is arrested more than once in the
company of known gang members.
6. Meets 10 points or more on the 10 point
identification validation sheet.
Gang members usually follow a fairly well
structured set of rules in their dress, signs, and colors. Members of
the People Nation
and the Bloods
Sign to the left, i.e., their ball caps
will have the visors turned to the left, the left trouser leg will be
rolled up, their hand signs will be to the left, etc. Whereas, the
Folk Nation and the
Crips will sign
to the right.
The primary color of the
People Nation and the
Bloods is red. They use
the number five in their graffiti, and their star signature will have
five points. The Folk Nation
and the Crips
on the other hand wear blue, and their number is six.
Breakdown and Origins of the Gang Culture
Also known as Black Gangster Disciples, GDs, or BGDs, the gang's origins
go back to the 1960s and the south side of Chicago. The Gangster
Disciples are part of the "Folk Nation." Some members will claim to be
members of "Growth and Development" and out of criminal activity. The
Gangster Disciples were the first modern street gang to show up in
significant numbers in Memphis, back in the 1980s. For several years,
they had the streets virtually to themselves.
Symbols, colors, and
Utilize the six-point star as a primary symbol. "Six Poppin," a phrase
used in graffiti, is another way to reference the six-point star. Other
major symbols include a three-point devil's pitchfork pointed upward and
a heart with wings. They will use several colors, including black, gray,
silver and white. Among the pro and college sports clothing favored: New
York Yankees, Oakland Raiders and Georgetown Hoyas.
For many years, leader Larry Hoover ran the gang from inside prison.
Members still speak of Hoover, now in the so-called federal Super Max in
Colorado, with reverence. He is still considered Chairman. The gang has
a Chicago Board of Directors, and there is a separate Memphis Board of
Directors. There is an Overseer for Tennessee, and three for Memphis.
Among the ranks below Overseer in Memphis: governors, assistant
overseers, chief enforcers and chiefs of security, regents and soldiers.
The GDs are rivals of the Vice Lords and will use an upside down "A" to
disrespect the Vice Lords, whose full name is Almighty Vice Lords.
Began in the late 1950s in the Illinois State Training School for boys
and became a full-on gang on the west side of Chicago. Members of the
"People Nation," their literature instructs that they follow Islam. In
Memphis, VL "sets" include Universal, Unknown, Traveling, Insane,
Conservative and Four Corner Hustlers.
Symbols, colors and
Common symbols include the five-pointed star, the dollar sign, a pyramid
with a crescent moon and the Playboy bunny. Their main colors are black
and gold, and black and red. The latter might be worn as a war color.
They will wear Pittsburgh Pirates and Steelers clothing; the "P" on the
Pirates cap refers to the "People Nation." Michael Jordan jerseys are
popular for the color and the number: the 2 and the 3 add up to 5, for
the five-point star. They use the thumb, index and middle fingers on a
single upraised hand to form a "VL."
Vice Lords have a Chief of Chiefs over the South. Other ranks include:
supreme chief, five-star universal elite, three-star universal elite,
city-wide enforcer and city-wide chief of security, five-star branch
elite, three-star branch elite, and solider. Ronald Terry, who in 2006
went to prison for attempted murder, was a five-star universal elite in
VLs will turn the GDs' pitchfork upside down to show disrespect.
Founded in 1969 in L.A., many Crip sets in Memphis are named after
California sets, including Grape Street, Rollin 20s, Kitchen and West
Color, signs, symbols,
Blue is the main color, and blue bandanas hanging from a pocket are a
way to fly their colors. But the gang will use purple, black and orange,
too. A Lakers cap might be used to symbolize the Grape Street Crips, a
Kansas City Royals cap to represent the Kitchen Crips. Los Angeles
Dodgers caps are popular, too. The three-point crown is a favored
tattoo. They refer to Bloods as "Slobs" as a way of disrespecting them.
Crips call each other "Cuzz."
Considered to be less structured on both the national and local levels,
the Crips nonetheless are known to be selective about allowing
membership to the gang. Little Loc, a 16-year-old Memphis Crip, says:
"You don't come to Crip; Crip comes to you."
Crips use grapes as a symbol when tagging. Rivals with the Bloods, they
will use "BK" for Bloods Killer.
Created in the early 1970s in South-Central L.A., the Bloods were the
alliance that grew out of war between the Crips and the Piru Street
Boys. The Bloods are in Memphis in smaller numbers than the GDs, Vice
Lords and Crips. Like the Vice Lords, they identify themselves as part
of the "People Nation."
Their chief color is red and they avoid blue and the letter "C" because
of their longstanding rivalry with the Crips. Bloods, and sometimes VLs,
will wear the red No. 8 Budweiser jacket of NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt
Jr. The "B" represents Bloods to them, and the beer maker's five-point
crown fits with the five-point star of the "People Nation." They refer
to each other as "Dawg" and a dog is a favored tattoo. They will
derisively refer to a Crip as a "Crab."
Ranks range from First Superior or General to soldier. Bloods are more
likely to form alliances with Vice Lords to sell drugs or engage in
other criminal activity than they are with Crips and GDs.
They will tag with "CK" for Crip Killer and consider anything red, such
as a stop sign, as representative of the gang.
Gangs are not either just a big
city or inner city problem, nor are they a problem of a
particular race or culture.
Gangs cross all ethnic, racial, socioeconomic, gender, and geographic
They bring fear and violence to neighborhoods, traffic in drugs, destroy
youth in crime, and drive out
Gangs pull teens away from school and
home into a life of violence.
One of the scariest aspects of gang violence is its often indiscriminate
Gang members have been known to kick, punch, hit, or even kill their
People get hurt if they are in the wrong place at the wrong time.
If gangs or gang members are in your
school or neighborhood, you know it.
Gangs can be organized around race or ethnic group, moneymaking
activities, or territory.
Gangs usually claim a particular area of town that they call their
"turf." They spend much of
their time fighting rival gangs to
keep them out of this territory.
Most gang members are males ranging in age from 8 to 22 years old.
Females, especially Asian and Hispanic, are moving away from the
traditional role of being
merely girlfriends of gang members
and are forming their own gangs.
wear particular items, styles, brands, or colors of clothing. Some gangs
bandannas of a certain color or
baseball caps of a specific team. Some gangs mark their
bodies with tattoos with their gang
symbol or name.
Gangs often use special hands signs or handshakes to tell others the
gang to which they
"Gangsta" rap paints a realistic picture of daily gang activity. The
lyrics glorify violence,
abuse of women, and disrespect for
authority, especially the police.
Contrary to what you may think, gangs are not around to help you. These
groups of young
people break the law, beat up people, and
ways to get out of a gang; death or prison
Why Do Young People Join Gangs?
What causes some teens to join gangs?
Among the most common reasons are to
Belong to a group
End boredom and seek more excitement
Be with friends and be more popular.
For some it is even a family
None of these reasons are good reasons to
belong to a gang. Most of the other kids who don't belong to a gang will
be afraid of you and won't hang out with you. If you think you will be
safer joining a gang, you're wrong. Most likely, you will increase your
chances of being injured or killed. Think you'll be rich? Not likely.
Over a lifetime, gang members make far less money than those who are not
in gangs. And by joining you usually don't end up with a good education,
making it hard to find a good job.
WHAT DO KIDS HAVE TO DO TO GET INTO
There are many different ways that gangs
initiate recruits into the gang. The following are some examples of how
gang members get initiated:
Rolled in - ( Jumped in, Quoted,
Lined in) This ritual usually consists of the recruit having to
fight 3 or more members of the gang for a specified amount of time. The
time limit is different from gang to gang, but usually last somewhere
between 15 seconds and 1 minute. The reason for the beating is to see
how tough the recruit is and if he is a fighter. Lined in is slightly
different in that the gang has two lines of its members and the recruit
has to go between the line as the gang members beat him or her. Often
times officers are called to new gang members homes at the request of
the parent to take Assault reports. The child is often uncooperative and
unwilling to tell the officer or his parent who his assailants are
because he has just joined a gang. This is the most common initiation
into the gang.
Courted in - Sometimes an
individual is asked to join a gang without going through any initiation.
The individual usually has some type of special talent that the gang
wants to learn or take advantage of. The individual may have a good
connection for drugs, is good at stealing cars, or has some other
criminal talent. It may also be that the individual has a car that the
gang needs to commit criminal activity or just to get around town in.
Walked In - Some gangs have
no formal initiation and may just be asked to join the gang.
Sexed In - Sometimes female
recruits are required to roll 2 dice. Whatever number is thrown is the
number of gang members that the recruit has to have sex with. There have
also been stories of gang recruits required to have sex with HIV
positive people. This information has never been verified and still
remains only a story.
Commit Crimes - Some gangs
require that a recruit commit a crime or a series of crimes to prove
that they are good candidates for the gangs. Often times, gangs that
specialize in a particular crime such as auto theft, will require the
recruit to steal a car or commit the crime that they specialize in. Some
gangs have point systems for the crimes and the recruit has to have so
many points. The crimes required to be committed can be as violent as
drive-by shootings or murder.
What Does the Future Hold for a
Gang membership can severely hurt one's
health and future.
Gang members may be killed or injured.
Many put themselves in danger of
disease, prison, and death.
Many become dependent on alcohol and
Gang members usually drop out of
school, limiting their chances for higher education or good
They are likely to be involved in
crime throughout the rest of their lives.
They may commit serious and violent
crimes that lead to lengthy jail time.
Once you are in a gang, it's not easy
getting out. You may risk your life if you leave a gang.
If gang members threaten you, don't
overreact. Stay cool and try not to act scared.
Ignore their threats and tell them you
have no argument with them.
If threats from gangs continue, tell
your parents, the police, or school officials.
Don't be a "wannabe" by dressing or
acting like you want to be in a gang.
Hang out with kids who are not
involved and don't want to be in a gang.
Get involved in activities that are
not gang-related, such as organized sports, summer jobs, community
organizations, volunteer groups, faith groups, or arts and drama
Start showing gangs you have zero
tolerance for their activities. You can:
Start a graffiti clean-up program in
Start a youth group or club whose
purpose is to improve the neighborhood or school
Attend Neighborhood watch and report
Report suspicious activity.
For more information
Covington Police Department (901)
Dispatch (901) 475-4300
Fax (901) 476-0243