Gangs are far more sophisticated than a decade ago and some gangs even make it mandatory for members to have ‘straight’ jobs. This mandate is enforced for a number of reasons. One reason to have a job is to have the ability to pay the gang’s weekly or monthly dues. Another reason is to utilize the job as a good cover in case the police have the member in their sights. Often, many gang members want to develop a normal lifestyle to assist in the transition away from gang life. Unfortunately, gangs often don’t go away that easily and use members with jobs to make money. A common reason for the ‘straight’ job, often connected with my preceding statement, is for a member to have a job to facilitate the theft of products to act as a profit endeavor for the gang. In one such incident I investigated, a large hardware chain store was losing product inventory rapidly to the tune of ten-thousand dollars a month. After looking at their employee roster, especially in the section that showed the biggest losses, I discovered that one of the employees was a member of a street gang. With a little pressure on the gangster employee, he gave up the entire operation to steal for his gang.
It is important for corporation leaders, store managers, and small business owners to understand the potential problems that exist when they unknowingly hire a gang member. For a gang member, a job is just a job but the gang is their life. This means that a gang member in the midst of a workplace poses many problems for the workplace. These problems can manifest themselves into theft, drugs, extortion, intimidation and violence. In Silicon Valley, home of the mega-computer corporations, a gang infiltrated the workplace and stole millions of dollars of computer chips. Look at the problems in the NFL and NBA when it comes to gangs and gang violence. And what about the problem with Russian Organized Crime in the NHL where a handful of players were ‘connected’ to organized crime and assisted in the extortion of fellow players while others were victimized by these same criminal organizations.
Understanding that gangs are, undoubtedly, in the workplace, posing a variety of problems, makes for a simple solution: Don’t hire them! The problem, though, is that most companies don’t even know they are hiring gang members. This happens for many reasons. Most companies don’t do background checks on potential employees. The ones that conduct background checks use private companies or private investigators. Their resources are limited and seldom uncover a criminal record. These same private entities, no matter how much they try, unless they have a close contact, will never be able to access any police agency’s gang database. In fact, many background companies and private investigators never even think of the gang angle.
Below, I offer some advice to help identify gang members in the workplace, help prevent the hiring of a gang member, and increase your ability to avoid crime and violence in the workplace:
- Monitor the colors, insignias, clothing worn by employees and potential employees. Are they consistent with the gangs in your area?
- Do the clothes, colors, tattoos, and insignias worn by the employee show a pattern? Are they consistent with each other? Is the employee wearing these types of clothing colors, insignias frequently? Does he conspicuously avoid wearing other colors?
- Does your employee have a nickname? Do his friends have nicknames?
- Does your employee have an email address with the following words or numbers in it: Black and Gold, ALKN, Blood, Crip, MS13, Neta, GD, Disciple, Vicelord, Sur, Sureno, Gangster, Gangsta, 187, or others consistent with gangs?
- Is the employee or potential employee on probation or parole? If so, talk to the parole or probation officer.
- Is your employee irresponsible? Does he come late? Is he on the phone too often?
- Does the employee or potential employee reside in a known gang area? Is it consistent with local gang activity?
- Does the employee get visitors at the workplace from his friends and family? Is their clothing, colors, or actions consistent with gangs?
- Have you noticed any graffiti in your workplace, especially in bathrooms, and near shipping areas. If you do, photograph it and have an expert analyze it.
- Attend or sponsor a gang awareness training session for you and your managers.
- Develop a close relationship with the local law enforcement agency and specifically request information on gangs.
- Always consider that your company is just as susceptible as any other company.
- Never assume your company is immune.
- Establish a stringent and consistent hiring process.
- Conduct thorough and comprehensive background checks.
- Make security an everyday commitment!