"They're a walking billboard," said Nathan Scarano, a San Bernardino County Sheriff's gang officer.
"It's a challenge to other gang members and an intimidation to others in the community," he
said."For us, we love it, because they are showing us their identity without us even having to ask for it."Scarano
said common gang tattoos in the Victor Valley include ‘HD' for High Desert; the number 13, for "m" the 13th letter in the alphabet; ‘m' for Mexican Mafia; ‘IE' for Inland Empire; and ‘760' for the local area code.
Some gang members are more specific and identify their region, town, area and street by name.
When gang members go to prison, they often display their sentence in the form of tattooed symbols such as bars, and indicate how many years were served, Scarano
interviewed a gang member Wednesday who described tattoos as something earned, and compared earning tattoos to earning points in video games.
Tattoos are essential to identifying wanted gang members.Many crime witnesses give generic descriptions of perpetrators that end up fitting about half the population, Scarano
But when witnesses can describe tattoos, officials can often narrow down the search to a particular region, then sift through individuals in that region that fit the physical description, Scarano
"The more tattoos, the bigger, the more flamboyant, the more easily seen - this shows a higher degree of ego involvement and commitment of the gang culture," Scarano
"They are constantly throwing their gang signs without throwing their hands up," he