Tattoos could signal wearers' crimes

Wednesday, June 4, 2014 12:17 PM
Last updated 7:32 PM
  • Follow Crime & courts

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

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Former New England Patriots NFL football player Aaron Hernandez's tattooed hands are secured with handcuffs as he arrives for his court appearance at Superior Court in Fall River, Mass. Hernandez is accused of three slayings in Massachusetts. Investigators have appealed for information from tattoo artists who inked his right forearm, but won't say which of Hernandez’s many tattoos prompted their appeal.

• 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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Dixieman 06/04/14 - 02:08 pm
Anyone with a tattoo

is a potential criminal (and very close to realizing his or her potential) IMHO.

jaymai 06/04/14 - 02:23 pm
Well I just knew sooner or

Well I just knew sooner or later they'd be coming after our tattoos. Next thing you know the gubment will have a database with who got what tattoo. Well, I'll tell you right now, anybody who tries to take my tattoo from me will have to burn it off my cold, dead skin! I'm exercising my Constitutional 1st amendment rights to free speech and I can have as many tattoos as I want and nobody can do anything about it! I don't care who feels threatened by me having my openly displayed or my concealed tattoo out in public, even in church! So what if there are some bad guys with tattoos? Don't y'all know, the only way you can stop a bad guy with a tattoo, is with a good guy with a tattoo!

The Mick
The Mick 06/04/14 - 02:40 pm
Well played jaymai.

Well played jaymai.

happychimer 06/04/14 - 04:17 pm
my 3kids

All 3 of my adult kids have tattoos and none are criminals.Tattoos don't make people criminals.

anotherlook 06/04/14 - 07:10 pm
Hold your horses folks...

Let's remember the words "many," could," and "some" in the article referring to the tattoos. "Criminal justice experts say there are many tattoos that could signify the wearers committed murders and other crimes. Here are some examples:" Skin art has a history that is thousands of years old. None of the experts stated that all tattoos were indicators of the person's tendency to criminality. I do believe this article conveys the idea that some criminals have chosen tattoos as a means of communicating certain statuses or events in their lives. Just because some malefactors have appropriated this art form for their own purposes doesn't invalidate it as an art form of which many people choose to avail themselves.

paladin5 06/05/14 - 02:14 am

Some local Law Enforcement Agencies have established policies prohibiting visible tattoos. Personnel who are already employed are required to cover existing tattoos or have them removed at their own expense if they want to wear summer uniform. Otherwise they are required to wear long sleeve shirts with a tie.

New Recruits with tattoos are not interviewed regardless of their experience or qualifications.

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