It's a fine line between striking fear into the hearts of your enemies and signing a confession of criminal activity on your face. But in a fast-paced city like Houston with little patience for extensive introductions, some large Gothic letters on your forehead could save everybody a bit of time and trouble in a shootout and/or arrest.
"It signifies to the world that you're in a gang, but for law enforcement it's great," said Special Agent Troy Shalloup of the FBI, who has no complaints.
George Rhyne, Texas Anti-Gang Center administrator, said another reason many criminals are willing to risk their freedom for a flashy piece of ink is because they genuinely want to express devotion to the gang as an alternative family in lieu of actual loving families. Damn. That's real.
In any case, both men agreed that Houston's younger gang members tend to be more subtle about tattoos, or are moving away from them altogether. It's probably because they're more attuned to the self-incrimination pitfalls of social media promotion. No one thinks that drug store stickup selfie is cute, except for the cops. Same goes for that neck tat illustrating your entire rap sheet.
The Houston Police Department, DEA, FBI and local anti-gang agencies combined forces to create StopHoustonGangs.org, which aggregates gang identification signs. Here's a look at some of the region's most prominent street gangs and their favorite tattoo archetypes before they go out of style.More »