Resources for Dealing with Gangs, Gun Violence and Trauma

Dec. 6, 2019
Four elementary students walk arm-in-arm on a field

DPS is actively working with community members, school leaders and city officials to support the needs of our neighborhoods. Our top priority is the safety and well-being of each of our students—your children.

Adults can often feel uncomfortable discussing sensitive issues like gangs and violence with young people. However, if young people are dealing with gangs in their school or community, they need opportunities to talk candidly about these issues with trusted adults. The significance of an anti-gang message increases when it comes from a person who has a caring relationship with the young person.

How Do I Know if My Student is in a Gang?

Some signs that may indicate gang involvement include:

  • Shirts, hats, and other clothing in matching colors or with matching logos and symbols. Also check for insignia on jewelry, belts, shoelaces, or tattoos.
  • Gang graffiti on notebooks, clothing and other personal belongings. Watch for things written in Old English-style letters or in hard-to-decipher handwriting.
  • Newly acquired and unexplained money or expensive possessions that are displayed, worn, or shared with peers.
  • Carrying or showing off a gun, knife, or other weapon.
  • Changes in the student’s behavior and lifestyle, such as:
    • Poor or failing grades in school
    • A hostile or defiant attitude
    • Secrecy about activities or time away from home
    • Drug or alcohol use
    • Involvement in illegal activities or trouble with law enforcement

Factors to consider when talking about gang-related issues with youth:

  • Be sensitive to the child’s level of understanding. What is he/she aware of? What is he/she seeing in the neighborhood and at school?
  • Take a strong, no-tolerance stand against gangs and violence. Do not allow your child to glorify gangs, dress in gang-style clothing, or use gang-related slang or insults.
  • Talk about the negative effects of gang membership on young people, their families, friends, schools and communities.
  • Have everyday discussions with your child about positive life choices.
  • Emphasize to young people that their choices matter because their happiness and well-being are important not only to themselves but to the people who care about them.
  • Emphasize your child’s positive qualities and give them positive feedback regularly.
  • Finally, please understand that consistency is key. Young people need to hear consistent messages about gangs delivered by the adults they know and trust: family members, teachers, coaches, neighbors, etc. Remain accessible and involved with these young people. These long-term, caring relationships with adults can provide them incentives and a support network to stay out of gangs.

Below is a list of DPS- and community-created resources that can be helpful for supporting students and families experiencing trauma:

Person-to-person Resources

Mental Health Center of Denver
Free mental health services

Colorado Crisis and Support Line
Resource for mental health, substance use, or emotional crisis help – information and referrals
844-493-8255, or Text TALK to 38255
Frequently Asked Questions about Colorado Crisis and Support Services

National Suicide Lifeline
24-hour, toll-free, confidential suicide prevention hotline

Safe2Tell Colorado
Anonymously report anything that concerns or threatens you, your friends, your family or your community. Offers phone, app and online reporting options.

City and County of Denver Resources
Crime Stoppers Anonymous Tips: 720-913-7867 (STOP)
Gang Hotline: 720-913-1339
Report Graffiti: 720-913-1311
Hate Crimes Hotline: 720-913-6458
Gang Reduction Initiative of Denver (GRID)

Colorado Legal Services’ Anti-Violence Program
Works to eliminate violence within and against the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) communities in Colorado, and provides the highest-quality services to survivors.

Open Door Youth Gang Alternatives
Works with at-risk youth, their families and the communities affected by gang culture, violence and recruitment by providing alternative positive and structured activities, family support and gang intervention services.

GRASP (Gang Rescue and Support Project)
Peer-run intervention program that works with youth who are at risk of gang involvement or are presently active in gangs, helps families of gang victims and advocates for youth.

Informational Resources to Share

Far Northeast Denver Community Violence Reduction Resource Guide (map and resource list)
Map and resource list of safe places for kids and families to spend time outside of school.

Letter from DPS Safety About Gang Violence

Talking to Children About Violence (handout)
from the National Association of School Psychologists

A Parent’s Quick Reference Card: Recognizing and Preventing Gang Involvement
from the U.S. Department of Justice’s Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS)

Parents’ Guide to Gangs
from the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention

Resources for Victims and Survivors of Gun Violence
available at Everytown for Gun Safety

Suicide Warning Signs
from the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

Safe2Tell Informational Poster

Hate Crime Resource Guide
from the Colorado Coalition Against Hate, convened by the Anti Defamation League’s Mountain States Regional Office

Colorado School Safety Resource Center
Links and other resources related to violence prevention.