Sign of the times: West Midlands Police officer cracks gang codes
An observant West Midlands Police officer is helping to tackle gang crime after becoming an expert in cracking their slang and hand signs!
PC Gaz Evans from Force CID has spent time learning the language and interpreting the hand signals of suspected gang members across Birmingham.
His knowledge of phrases and hand signs means he can decipher messages between gang members and establish where their affiliations lie.
He regularly monitors social media − watching videos and viewing exchanges − to collate information that could prove vital to investigations or help police intervene to prevent violent clashes.
His evidence helped in getting a landmark court injunction against 18 men from two Birmingham gangs who were suspected of being involved in gun and drug offences, as well as securing long custodial sentences against several of the men.
The full injunctions mean the men, aged between 19 and 29, are forbidden from associating with each other and entering areas of Birmingham, including, Handsworth, Newtown, Winson Green and Lozells for the next two years.
Gaz, who is part of the Force CID Prevent Team, said: "Having worked within the Multi Agency Gang Unit (MAGU) from 2010 I came into contact with young people associated with inner city gangs; so started to pick up what the hand signs and phrases mean.
"Since then I have taken it upon myself to further research and build up a high level of knowledge around this and share any intelligence I can within the force.
"It can be difficult to know what is meant through hand signals and words which are not the traditional English as we know it."
Through his expertise Gaz is able to detect feuds between gangs so the force can take steps to intervene where a threat is identified.
He said: "Some hand signals can be inflammatory and threatening and some can represent a particular post code area - which can help us establish their affiliation.
"Being able to understand a message either verbally or through hand gestures can be used to prevent further violence.
“I am not opposed to young men and women using social media, quite the opposite, as long as there are no underlying threat that create community tension.
"We do see a link between firearms offences and gangs and this is something we as a force are striving to tackle. We are doing lot of work around diverting young people away from such a life and the consequences of being involved in serious crime.
"We will use all the tools we have at our disposal to catch those responsible in gang related violence!"