ALBANY -- Having concrete examples of just what gang attire and symbols look like had an impression on members of the Albany Rotary Club at a lunch meeting Tuesday.
"Having this gang material and hearing about the sophistication of gang membership is informative," said Doug Porter, director of Chehaw Park. "I had no idea about the extent of this."
Albany Police Department Capt. Bonita Childs, commander of the gang unit, and Roosevelt Kearney, gang investigator, brought a jacket, white belt, various color bandanas and some gang graffiti examples as part of the talk at the Doublegate Country Club, on Old Dawson Road.
"They become part of a gang to give themselves a sense of validation," Childs said. "It is part of a human need for connection."
Gang members range in age from younger than early teens to men in their 30s, Childs said. They wear different colors and articles of clothing with symbols to show they belong to a gang.
Kearney pointed to a display of gang materials as he described some of the ways gang members communicated their membership.
Five-pointed stars mean Bloods while six-pointed stars mean Crips. Various color bandanas such as black for Black Gangster Disciples and red for Bloods also identify various gang members.
Various rapper celebrities have started clothing lines with gang themes, Childs said. Many children buy the clothing to be stylish.
Gang members have become more secretive in wearing their bandanas, Childs said. Sometimes the bandanas show just a corner from a pocket.
Wearing the wrong colors, or styles with gang symbols in the wrong neighborhood could spell trouble for anyone who just happens to think it fashionable to wear the colors, Childs said.
Other times the child has been recruited.
"It is important to pay attention to what your children are wearing," Childs said. "If you suspect anything, call us and we will come and inspect their room and belongings."
A spray-painted BK with the B crossed out is meant to show disrespect to the Bloods gang. Other graffiti includes numbers that stand for the letters of the alphabet such as 3-11 for CK, which means a Crip Killer.
Childs emphasized the constant message of the gang unit and the Albany police to the Rotarians. If you see anything suspicious, call the police.
"I've heard her (Childs) speak before," said Judy Randle, a Rotary member. "I think we are lucky to have her here and she is doing a fantastic job."