Gang tattoos are used to identify and recruit members, show loyalty and respect for the gang, and identify names of neighborhoods or areas of the city that the members are from. Every member is usually required to get one after initiation to become part of the gang. The process is viewed as a rite of passage and creates a bond among the members. The type and placement of tattoos on the body can be intentional, whether it is displayed or hidden.
Some are placed to intimidate and inform rival gangs of the person's affiliation, while others are hidden to avoid detection by law enforcement, family members, or teachers. Gang tattoos are commonly placed on the face, neck, arms, hands, stomach, or back. Tattoos that are commonly used are gang names, three dots, spider webs, tear drops, crosses, rosaries, or crucifixes. Gang members also get tattoos of their nicknames or gang mottos.