National News

June 04, 2014 at 6:05 AM
A look at some tattoos that could mean the wearer committed crimes
By The Associated Press


Criminal justice experts say there are many tattoos that could signify the wearers committed murders and other crimes. Here are some examples:

— TEARDROPS: Have several possible meanings, including the number of people the wearer killed or the number of stints in prison they served. A clear teardrop can mean the wearer wants revenge for the killing of a loved one.

— SPIDER WEBS, CLOCKS WITH NO HANDS: Can mean the wearer served time in prison.

— STARS: They can be innocent designs. On some prison gang members, however, they can represent the number of people the wearer killed. The number of points on a star can correspond with the number of years served in prison.

— THREE DOTS. Often inked near an eye or on a hand, it can refer to the "vida loca," or crazy life, of a criminal.

— PENAL CODE NUMBERS: Some criminals get tattoos of the penal code numbers for the crimes they committed.

— CATS: Can refer to thieves, especially among Russian criminal groups.

— MASKS AND CLOWN FACES: These tattoos can represent a criminal's "play now, pay later" lifestyle.


Clairissa Breen, criminal justice professor, Cazenovia College, Cazenovia, New York; Kevin Waters, criminal justice professor, Northern Michigan University, Marquette, Michigan; Michael Phelan and Scott Hunt, University of Kentucky, 1998 article, "Prison Gang Members' Tattoos as Identity Work: The Visual Communication of Moral Careers."

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