By: Sarah Snyder
ECTOR COUNTY - They walk every school hallway, sit next to your kids in class and may even live right on your street. Gangs are growing on a daily basis and it's taking school police, city officials and Crimestoppers units working together to crack their codes.
This is a problem Ector County ISD police officers say they deal with every day. They're finding it everywhere from high schools to elementary campuses, but a program partnered with Odessa Crimestoppers is aimed at making sure your kids are safe in class.
"We see gang related activity every day," Officer Scott McKown with the ECISD Police Department, said. "We have training on what to look for as far as colors, numbers, signs and symbols."
Officer McKown with Ector County ISD police tells NewsWest 9 most often, parents have no idea.
"Most of the time when we talk to parents, they are unaware of the situation, but sometimes they know what their children are doing and they don't want to believe it," McKown said.
Hand signals, body language, and refusing to wear specific colors are all indicators.
"They all communicate with signals or signs," Susan Rogers with Odessa Crimestoppers, said. "It's all nonverbal. You've got to know what you're looking for when they're doing it or you don't have a clue what's going on."
School district police, city officials and Crimestoppers decided they needed more education about what to watch for. So with a grant from the U.S. Attorney's office, everybody with a badge took a course on gangs. And they've all joined forces for "Project Safe Neighborhood" helping to identify and deal with gang activity.
"The things we learned when you go back to those old gangs, they're doing the same things," Rogers said. "If they wore red in the 60's, they're wearing red today. If that gang leaned to the right, they lean to the right today. It's one of those things that generation after generation, it stays the same."
School district police want families to know: they're working closely with local and state law enforcement to make sure your kids are safe in class.
"The more we're educated on it, the better handle we can get on it and I think it's benefiting our district a lot," McKown said.