Fairfax Co. police warn of signs of gang activity

WASHINGTON — Following a recent increase in gang-related crimes in the region, including multiple killings with alleged gang ties, police are telling residents what to look for to keep their communities safe.

Many gang members have taken their messages to social media. But graffiti is also “making a comeback a little bit,” as gangs work to mark territory, according to Fairfax County Detective Ken Compher. “They may be having a dispute with another gang” over territory, he said.

Graffiti that has been crossed out with paint is a concern for officers.

“If you see something x-ed out, please let us know about it, because that could be an issue between two rival gangs in the same area,” Compher said.

Police also want to hear from residents who have noticed multiple cars parking on neighborhood streets and who have seen the occupants of those cars walk to a nearby park. Compher called that activity potentially suspicious and “something that we would want to know about.”

Compher listed off warning signs for parents to look for in their children, such as wearing specific clothing colors while refusing to wear other colors, changing their appearance with different haircuts and shaved-off eyebrows and communicating using hand signals. Although he called these indicators of gang behavior, he said none of the items necessarily means a person is in a gang.

Additionally, he said signs of potential gang activity are similar to signs of potential drug activity: a change in attitude toward family or school, staying out late and bringing home weapons.

Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a reporter at WTOP since 1997. Through the years, Neal has covered many of the crimes and trials that have gripped the region. Neal's been pleased to receive awards over the years for hard news, feature reporting, use of sound and sports.

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