Photo Gallery of Gang Tattoos

Taking some color
South_agency / Getty Images

Gang tattoos identify gang members, symbolizes commitment and allegiance to one's gang, and can also identify a particular crime, threat or another gang-related event. Tattoos are also often used to send a message of intimidation and ownership to other gangs. Only gang members are permitted to wear the group's tattoo.

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Teardrop Tattoos

Teardrop Tattoos
Sorrow and Murder Teardrop Tattoos.

David McNew / Getty Images

Teardrop(s) under the eye or on the cheek-bone are generally associated with prison gang tattoos.

If outlined it often means the person is in sorrow for a fallen gang member. It can also be given to commemorate a loved one who died while the wearer was incarcerated

If the teardrop is filled in it could indicate the wearer killed someone. The number of filled teardrops usually shows the number of people a gang member killed.

Pictured: "Bloodhound", a 'shot caller' or boss with the LA Bloods gang, speaks to a reporter in support of granting clemency for Stanley 'Tookie'' Williams, co-founder of the arch-rival Crips gang, on December 1, 2005, in Los Angeles, California.

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Closed Teardrop

Closed Teardrop
A Heavily Symbolic Prison Gang Tattoo Closed Teardrop. Gary Porter/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Online

Teardrop tattoos around the eye or cheekbone are associated with prison gangs by authorities and other gang members. This is a picture of a closed teardrop which is an indicator that the person is a gang member responsible for murdering someone. 

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African American Council Tattoo

African American Council Tattoo
Also known as the AAC African American Council Tattoo. Arizona Dept. of Corrections

An African American Council tattoo may include a double outline of the African continent and the letters AAC or 113 which are the numbers that represent the acronym AAC.

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Aryan Brotherhood

Aryan Brotherhood
Also known as the AB. Aryan Brotherhood. Arizona Dept. of Corrections

Main activities of the AB are centered on drug trafficking, extortion, pressure rackets, and internal discipline.

The Aryan Brotherhood originated in 1967 in the San Quentin State Prison in California. Members display many white supremacists, neo-nazi characteristics and ideology and often incorporated it into tattoos with a series of symbols and letters.

The name “Aryan Brotherhood“ or “AB“ is among the gang identifiers often found on the tattoos of gang members.

Other identifiers include:

  • AB, heart, and swords
  • Shamrock cloverleaf
  • Initials "AB"
  • Swastikas
  • Double lighting bolts
  • The numbers "666" - a satanic symbol
  • The name of the state the member resides in.

Today the AB has spread to both federal and state prisons and is heavily involved inside and outside of prison in rackets, extortion, murder for hire, smuggling in weapons and distributing drugs.

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Aryan Brotherhood Use of Nazi Symbols

Aryan Brotherhood
Aryan Brotherhood. Arizona Dept. of Corrections

Other common symbols incorporated in Aryan Brotherhood tattoos are Nazi-influenced such as the SS Bolts which were originally used by the German special police, prison and concentration camp guards during WWII.

The other, called the Parteiadler (Nazi party eagle) could denote prison time served by the member or a family member that has committed a crime for the greater good of the movement.

Both symbols have been banned in Germany and may also be illegal in Austria, Hungary, Poland, Czech Republic, France, Brazil, Russia, and others.

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Aryan Brotherhood Tattoos

Aryan Brotherhood Tattoos
Spider Web Aryan Brotherhood Tattoos. Arizona Dept. of Corrections

Large tattoos or several multiple tattoos may symbolize a gang members’ level of devotion to their gang.

The spider web design, which can be seen here on the man's left upper shoulder, is often found on the arms or under the arms of racists who have spent time in jail. In some places, one apparently “earns” this tattoo by killing a minority.

The Celtic lettering spelling out Aryan Brotherhood across the man's shoulders makes it clear where his alliance lies.

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Border Brothers

Border Brothers
Mexican Nationals Border Brothers. Arizona Dept. of Corrections

The Border Brothers are often made up of illegal immigrants who come from the same Mexican region or who entered the US illegally at the same time.

Border Brothers gang tattoos will often incorporate an Aztec God symbol, enclosed within a sun with eight large flames and eight small flames with the letters "BB" (​an acronym for Border Brothers) or the numbers "22" which represent the acronym.

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Grandel Gang - Cardinal Tattoo

Grandel Gang
Grandel Gang. Arizona Dept. of Corrections

The Grandel gang is a small Security Threat Group in Glendale, Arizona made up of Mexican Americans. Tattoos for this gang often include the head of a cardinal.

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Grandel Gang Tattoo

Grandel Gang Tattoo
Mexican American Arizona Gang Grandel Gang Tattoo. Arizona Dept. of Corrections

In this photo of a Grandel member's tattoo, you can see the gang name in large letters displayed across his back, demonstrating his devotion to the gang.

Also, the cardinal with the acronym BB on the bird's body is an identifier that the man is a Grandel gang member.

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De Mau Mau Gang

De Mau Mau Gang
Security Threat Group De Mau Mau Gang. Arizona Dept. of Corrections

An example of a De Mau Mau tattoo.

De Mau Mau was founded by an ex-bodyguard to Malcolm X, Charles 37X Morris, who later changed his name to Charles Kenyatta. The African American gang ideology is influenced by the Black Panther Party, Black Guerilla Family, Black Gangster Disciples and Black Nationalism (B.L.A.)

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New Mexican Mafia Tattoos

New Mexican Mafia
New Mexican Mafia. Arizona Dept. of Corrections

Members of the New Mexican Mafia must incorporate a skull, double skull, double "MM" and flames around a circle into their tattoos.

The double M must curve downward and cross at the bottom. This signifies that the member has crossed over from the original Mexican Mafia to the New Mexican Mafia, if he was a member of the former.

The large flames are to lean counter-clockwise and be partially shaded. The small flames lean clockwise and are supposed to be completely shaded.

The rose signifies that the member has successfully completed an assault on his "enemies" and it is considered the highest honor a member can obtain.

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Lip Tattoo

Hiding Gang Tattoos
Hiding Gang Tattoos Hiding Gang Tattoos. FBI

A suspected gang member wears his tattoo discreetly. Hiding gang tattoos is becoming a popular trend as authorities continue to understand the meanings and identifiers behind the symbols.

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Finger Tattoos

Finger Tattoos
Finger Tattoos.

Words tell the story of a suspected gang member. The sale and distribution of drugs is the principal source of revenue for gang members.