Trending Topics

Gang codes: The contraband code

In order to arrange for the contraband to be brought into the facility, the inmate and the co-conspirator often use a code like the case we’re about to examine

Contraband doesn’t creep into a correctional facility on little cat feet, like the fog described by Carl Sandburg. Contraband is brought in deliberately and secretly. To do so, inmates need to be able to give very specific instructions to a co-conspirator outside the facility. This person is often a member of the same gang, a family member or a girlfriend / boyfriend. In order to arrange for the contraband to be brought into the facility the inmate and the co-conspirator often use a code like the case we’re about to examine in illustration #1. This illustration shows a complete page and two lines that were on a second page.


As you examine illustration #1, look closely for any patterns that will give you an idea what words the symbol groupings may be.

In illustration #2, I have identified one major pattern. The letters “YP” indicate the end of each word and each sentence. Now that you can identify a symbol group, look for a pattern that identifies what the meaning of a group may be.


If you were looking closely, you would have seen the pattern shown in illustration #3. Examine the pattern and see if it matches a pattern you are familiar with. Look at the pattern this way: ???-???-????.


Did you come up with a telephone number? Something like, (518)-123-4567. Now you need to examine the sample further and look for other patterns.

In illustration #4, I have identified a four-symbol group that begins and ends with the same symbol. Think about some words that match this pattern.


How about words like: GanG, BomB, ThaT, DeaD, KicK, etc. The word turned out to be “that” which gave us the start to deciphering the code and enabled me to create the template shown in illustration #5.


Now that we have deciphered the code, we can transcribe the sample and see what intelligence can be gathered from the message. The translated message is shown in illustration #6.


The “MRR STRIPS” seems to refer to Suboxone, a narcotic that can be used to detox from drugs and can be used like Methadone. Suboxone can be given as a strip that dissolves in your mouth, which is why the writer is concerned about not getting the strips wet. You will note that the writer gives very specific instructions about how to wrap the contraband.

And that pattern (???-???-????) that could be a phone number? Turned out to be “SIR-RAN-WRAP” or Saran Wrap!

In this example, contraband didn’t creep into the facility on little cat feet, but rather, it was wrapped in Saran Wrap and rubbers.

This article is reprinted with permission by The Gang Enforcement Company. The original appeared in GFORCE Magazine Issue 02.

GS KLIVANS is a gang consultant and lecturer specializing in gang codes.
It is important that all staff know and follow their agency’s policies on security, inspections, contraband and escapes
Among the items found during the search of the employee’s vehicle were nine cellphones, five packages of tobacco and two cellphone SIM cards
Laramie County Sheriff’s deputies swept the entire jail in a 7-hour operation because “things have gotten kind of lax in the jail”