Washoe Country School District

August 19, 2014

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Regional Gang Unit

In 2001, Reno Police Department, Sparks Police Department, Washoe County School District, and the Washoe County Sheriff's Office completed an inter-local agreement which established a single multi-jurisdictional gang unit.  The multi-jurisdictional gang unit is not bound by jurisdiction limits. The officers from each agency have been deputized by the Sheriff to investigate cases anywhere in Washoe County.
The Washoe County School District has two Officers assigned to the Regional Gang Unit (RGU).  Officers assigned to the RGU investigate gang crimes, graffiti crimes, and interview gang members and individuals who interact with known gang members.  Along with investigating gang crimes, Officers in the RGU work to suppress gang crimes, as well as gang membership.  Officers speak with parents and students about the dangers of the gang lifestyle, and what warning signs parents can look for if they are concerned their son or daughter might be involved with a gang.

What defines a Criminal Gang:

A gang is a group of individuals who meet the following criteria:

  • A combination of persons organized formally or informally.
  • They continue their operation if people enter or leave the organization.
  • Has a common name or identifying symbol. 
  • They engage in criminal or delinquent activity

Active Gang Members

Those persons who Officers have been able to document affiliation with a gang based on self-admission, markings (tagging/tattoos), criminal or other reliable sources of information.

Associate Gang Members

Associate gang members are individuals who associate regularly with gang members.  Associates display the same level of participation as a member but have not been fully initiated.



Graffiti is an increasing problem throughout Washoe County.  There are four main  types of graffiti that have different offenders and purposes.

Gang Graffiti

Gang members use graffiti primarily to gain recognition and to express the identity of the gang.  Gangs also use graffiti to issue challenges to rival gangs. 


Tagger Graffiti

Taggers commit graffiti to paint, write, and deface, as much physical area/property in public view as possible, leaving their "signature" and artwork as identifiers.  Groups of taggers or "crews" as they are called may be considered gangs by definition.

Party Crew Graffiti

Party crew graffiti does not differ greatly from gang graffiti.  It is used to express the identity of the crew byt rarely uses nicknames or gang identifiers. 

Juvenile Graffiti

Juvenile graffiti is mainly used to destroy property and to express childish expressions of admiration or hostility.

The damage incurred from graffiti and tagging is substantial.  In addition to the cost to repair the damage, loss of business, intimidation and fear to the citizens living in the area, quality of life, and the general deterioration of the neighborhoods are associated with graffiti.
The District Attorney has been very aggressive in prosecuting graffiti cases by assigning a variety of sentences including but are not limited to:

  • Work Crew
  • Restitution to property owners
  • Incarceration

Parents can be civilly liable for restitution up to $10,000 (per NRS 41.470).


Click poster to report a graffiti crime

Gang Clothing


Clothing and Styles* - Boys

  • Shaved, bald head or extremely short hair
  • Polo type knit shirts (oversized) and usually worn buttoned to the top and not tucked in
  • Oversized Dickie, Ben Davis or Solos pants
  • Pants worn low, or "sagging" and cuffed inside at the bottom or dragging on the ground
  • Cut off under-the-knee, short pants worn with knee-high socks
  • A predominance of dark or dull clothing, or clothing of one particular color
  • Black oversized jackets, sweatshirts, jerseys, etc.
  • Black stretch belt with chrome or silver gang initial belt buckle
  • Oversized shirts
  • Clothing a mixture of gang colors, black and silver or white
  • Backpacks and other accessories tend to have gang symbols or nicknames (monikers) written on them

Clothing and Styles* - Girls

  • Black or dark clothing and shoes
  • Black oversized jackets, sweatshirts, athletic football jerseys, etc.
  • Oversized shirts worn outside of the pants
  • Oversized white T-shirts
  • Dark jackets with lettering (cursive or Old English style)
  • Baggy, long pants dragging on the ground
  • Heavy make-up, dark excessive eye shadow, shaved eyebrows, dark lipstick, dark fingernail polish
  • Tank tops or revealing blouses
  • Stretch belts with initial on belt buckle
  • Backpacks and other accessories tend to have gang symbols or nicknames (monikers) written on them.


Gang Tattoos:

Tattoos have long been associated with gang membership, and connote the toughness desired by gang members as well as the permanence of gang affiliation. The designs used are frequently symbolic and often occur again and again in the symbolism of a particular gang, with some variation from area to area or to represent particular deeds.


Tips for Parents/Educators:

Some of the warning signs parents should look for if they are concerned their son or daughter is involved in a gang: * 

  • Graffiti on notebooks, walls or other property.
  • Tattoos or writing on their skin.
  • Use of gang language, such as "scrap" or "buster", "slob", "cuz", etc.
  • Use of monikers (nicknames) rather than their given name.
  • Use of gestures and hand signs that show gang affiliation.
  • Wearing certain clothing associated with gangs that could include the color of clothing, hats, and methods of grooming.
  • Admitted gang membership.
  • Loitering, riding, or "hanging" with a known gang member.
  • Recognition of a combination of these signs, along with a drastic change in behavior may warrant further inquiry (grades in school tend to decline).
  • Signs of injury from fights, or possibly being "jumped in." 

Useful links for parents, and administrators:

* We understand that indicators vary due to geographic location, and other factors.  The indicators that are listed above are preliminary indicators known to have been found within the Washoe County School District.