Gangs

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Mesa PD Gang Unit

The Mesa Police Department Gang Unit is comprised of a Police Investigator and three gang squads.  The Detectives are responsible for monitoring gang activity in each of their respective districts in the City of Mesa.  They investigate gang motivated and gang related crimes and liaise with other police agencies to track gang offenders' activities.  The City of Mesa also has a Youth Intervention Specialist who participates in some proactive intervention strategies.

The City of Mesa Street Maintenance Unit offers to paint over graffiti on public property, which is a valuable service to citizens to help eradicate graffiti in neighborhoods. The graffiti hotline is available for people who would like to report graffiti in their neighborhoods to be painted over.

Gangs exist in urban areas, and more recently in rural areas as well. Gangs often form along ethnic and racial lines, although there is an increasing trend of youth joining gangs for economic motives. Violence is inherent in gang activity, which leads to innocent bystanders being killed or injured. Per the Arizona Revised Statutes (ARS) 13-105.8, a criminal street gang is an ongoing formal or information association of persons in which members or associates individually or collectively engage in the commission, attempted commission, facilitation or solicitation of any felony act and that has at least one individual who is a criminal street gang member. However, a simpler definition is that a gang is a group of people who form an allegiance for a common purpose and engage in violent and criminal activity.

Graffiti

The purpose of gang graffiti, or "tagging," is to mark a gang's territory or turf, declare their allegiance to the gang, advertise a gang's status or power and to challenge rivals. Gang graffiti is meant to create a sense of intimidation and may increase the sense of fear within a neighborhood.

The City of Mesa Street Maintenance Unit offers to paint over any type of graffiti on public property (and private property with permission), which is a valuable service to citizens to help eradicate graffiti in neighborhoods.

The graffiti hotline is available for those who would like to report graffiti in their neighborhoods to be painted over.

You can also report graffiti and send photos of graffiti in your neighborhood through Mesa's CityLink.

Signs of Gang Involvement

Gang involvement can begin as early as elementary school. Children as young as seven or eight years of age have been recruited to work in criminal street gangs. Young people join gangs for recognition, fellowship and protection. Parents and educators should watch for signs that their children and students might be involved with gang activity. There may be noticeable changes in the young person's behavior and/or activities.

Early warning signs can include:

  • Experimental drug use
  • Decline in school grades
  • Truancy
  • Unwillingness to attend family gatherings or share regular meals
  • Change of friends
  • Rebellious behavior at school and/or home
  • Poor family bonding
  • Keeping late hours
  • Possessing large sums of money or new expensive items which cannot be explained

Telltale signs of gang involvement are:

  • Gang graffiti in their bedroom on items such as books, posters and bedroom walls
  • Wearing gang clothing or gang colors
  • Excessive swearing or cursing
  • Using hand signals to communicate with "friends," other gang members
  • Having photos showing gang names, gang slogans, gang insignia or gang activities
  • Disclosure of gang membership
  • Witness connecting the young person to gang activity
  • Initiation activities / "rites of passage"
  • Contact with law enforcement and/or probation officers
  • Carrying hidden weapons

What You Can Do

Prevention is the key to controlling gang activity. Parents and educators who suspect gang activity should:

  • Talk to the child or teen and discuss the consequences of being in a gang.
  • Talk to school officials and counselors inquiring if they are aware of campus problems and if there are any school programs that might help.
  • Contact government agencies, such as your local law enforcement agency or juvenile authority. The Mesa Police Department's Gang Unit can provide you valuable guidance and can be contacted through the Gang Hotline.
  • Seek advice from religious leaders. They may know of programs that help neighborhood children stay out of gangs.
  • Report and immediately remove any graffiti in your neighborhood or local school grounds. The longer it remains, the more it attracts gang members.

The Mesa Police Department and City of Mesa offer several crime prevention and youth services. 

  • Making Every Student Accountable (MESA) Program uses collaborative efforts between at-risk youth and families to educate teens on how to become successful members of the community.
  • Parks and Recreation offers an array of service and programs (athletic and non-athletic) to children, teens, adults, seniors and special needs populations.
  • Neighborhood Watch is the cornerstone of crime prevention programs. It enlists the active participation of citizens, in cooperation with law enforcement, to reduce burglaries and other neighborhood crimes.
  • Crime Prevention Unit can assist with all areas of crime prevention. All of our crime prevention literature is online.
  • Neighborhood Outreach strives to provide a quick response and collaborative problem-solving to Mesa residents concerned with neighborhood safety, appearance and cohesiveness amongst neighbors.