Transforming Uses

Previously, gang tattoos were a way to show membership or representation. Tattoos that have affiliation with a gang, show dominance and power in a social setting and are therefore a prevalent and an important part of gang culture. In addition, when an incarcerated gang member receives a tattoo in jail, it shows dedication to the gang and it shows power. The act of receiving a tattoo, as well as the conditions in which it is completed, has a deeper meaning to gang members than a person who is trying to be part of the current fad (Lichtenstein 1). Gang tattoos however are starting to be used against gangs. Police are now using tattoos as a way to track them in a similar way to how they use graffiti to track gangs. By recording all previously completed tags or graffiti, police build a record of where gangs are, how they move, and maybe if they grow in number based on the location and amount of graffiti in a given area (Ferris 1). Having a competent understanding of gang tattoos makes it possible to use them as a tracking device.


Muñoz, Isabel. Centro Cultural de México Contemporáneo, Mexico City. Web. 2 Dec. 2010.

Tattoos as Clues
Permanent Pictures
Not Pop Culture
Police Work Uncovered
Gang Retort
No Profiling

Works Cited:
-Ferris, Marc. “Graffiti as Art. As a Gang Tag. As a Mess.” The New York Times, 8 Sep. 2002. Web. 29 Nov. 2010.

-Lichtenstein, Andrew. “Flesh and Bloods: Body Art from the Texas Penitentiary.” 51.6 (1997): n. pag. Web. 29 Nov. 2010.

Anika McEwan