Gang codes: Not hiding in plain sight
Gang identifiers are deeply ingrained in every gang member
Gary Klivans is a retired Captain from the Westchester County (NY) Department of Correction. Please visit his columnist page to read all of his articles about prison gang codes.
By Gary Klivans
Gangs are secret societies who advertise their identity. They hide in plain sight. Gang members wear colors, have identifying tattoos, flash hand signs, put up graffiti and use symbols in their codes that help to identify them and their gang affiliation.
But sometimes gang members want to hide their gang affiliation; these cases are the exceptions that make the rule. The following gang code sample was confiscated by the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) in New York, and sent to me to try to decipher. The officials at BOP said the code was from a “high-ranking” member of the Bloods gang.
As I examined the document, the first thing that I noticed was that there were no Bloods gang identifiers, but the folks at BOP were adamant that the writer was a member of the Bloods.
As I looked for patterns or identifiers in the document, a word located on the top of page two Illustration 2 caught my attention.
It was the word “Bloods!” I now had five letters of the alphabet. Eventually, I was able to decipher the document and determined that the writer used the following symbols:
The deciphered message confirmed what the good folks at BOP had assured me: that the writer was in fact a member of the Bloods gang.
In Illustration 4 the writer states “I see that your fillin (sic) the way that I showed you how to write these letter did you show your bloods yet if you did tell me if there is fillin (sic) it…” In other words, ‘I see that you are feeling the way that I showed you how to use this code. Did you show your bloods yet (how to use this code)? If you did, tell me if they are feeling it…’
We have thus found a gang code with none of the usual identifiers. Though none of the letter c’s were crossed out (as is common in the Blood’s gang codes), a glance at the symbol for the letter ‘C’ in Illustration 4 does look similar to a crossed-out C.
Gang identifiers are deeply ingrained in every gang member, and so the writer of this document was still hiding in plain sight.