Police Work Uncovered

Brown, Mike. 2007. Memphis, Tennesee. The Common Appeal. Web. 2 Dec. 2010.

Gang members have previously used tattoos as a way to recognize a member of a rival gang however there is now a tracking side of tattoos. Police are now able to use them as a way to follow gang members much like how they use the similar form of art, graffiti, to follow activity on the street. By looking at how tattoos change, where they are placed, who has gang tattoos, and possibly the removal of the tattoo it becomes possible to track a gang or a gang member over time. Because tattoos have become so popular and are now such a large part of gang life, it has become easier to use body art. The increased amount of tattoos has become a positive for the police who wish to gain information. In an article by O’Deane and Murphy, the regulations for questioning suspected gang members gives an insightful view into how police use gang tattoos as a tracking device. When a police member interviews or questions any person, they must fill out a field interview or FI. When completing an FI the police officers take notes about the conversation they have, note other people loitering around, and determine if they can classify the situation as gang related. They can also ask to take photos of the people that they are talking with. Police officers sometimes ask to take a photo of a group of people that they expect to be in a gang promising that the gang will receive a copy of the photo. Because the gang members have never had the opportunity to receive a picture as a group or because they want to show their pride gangs often times accept this offer. In this setting, the members of the gang may throw up their gang signs or show their tattoos. This photo can be used later if a prosecution occurs. Taking photographs of gang members with tattoos can be very important. By beginning to compile photos police can see changes in gang tattoos, see when new members have joined if new people become tattooed, and even track when a person gets out of a gang. If a picture is taken of a suspected gang member and then later on another FI takes place leading to more photos, the police can see if the person has any new tattoos or if any of the tattoos have been altered in any way. Police can use a compilation of tattoos to learn more about gangs, and find ways to prevent gang violence.

Tattoos as Clues
Transforming Uses
Permanent Pictures
Not Pop Culture
Gang Retort
No Profiling

Work Cited:
-O’Deane, Matthew, and William Patrick Murphy. “Identifying and Documenting Gang Members: Extract as much information as you can from contact with gang members.” Policemag.com. Police: The Law Enforcement Magazine 23 Sep. 2010. Web. 29 Nov 2010.

Anika McEwan