Signals Criminals Use To Communicate With Other Criminals

Have you noticed that the global criminals rate has skyrocketed in the past few years? Just consider this: the Global Peace Index recently ranked Los Cabos, Mexico, as the most murderous place on earth. The statistics stand at a shocking 111 deaths for every 100,000 people. The same institution also ranked Afghanistan as the world’s least peaceful country. But they aren’t the only ones with some major crime issues. The United States has the highest recorded incarceration rate at 655 per 100,000 people.


Criminals have become highly creative, if not smart enough to not get caught. And for those who work with accomplices, their methods of communicating with one another have improved. Want to know some of their tricks? Here are 10 signals criminals use to communicate with other criminals.

Distinct House Markings

The idea of marking houses has been around since the olden days, mainly to differentiate tribes. Criminal gangs will, however, use them to further their goals. For example, criminals have secret signs engraved on their front doors to show their affiliation with a specific gang. If a rival gang passes by, they will, inevitably, notice the sign and keep off the property or the general area.

In areas like Detroit, Michigan, for instance, various gangs often put their insignia everywhere. Why? It helps to assert dominance and warn rival gangs against stepping into occupied turf. Additionally, many drug dealers have distinct but secret markings on their homes. This is a sign to drug buyers that there’s a ready stock of drugs available for disposal.

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Flashing Car Headlights / Different Lighting

Some criminal organizations usually have distinct preplanned “headlight flashing” routines. This helps them alert their counterparts. These signals are predefined to have different meanings for each variation of flashing. A criminal might flash twice to indicate police officers’ presence in the vicinity or do so continuously to signal rival gangs’ presence in the area.

Outsiders will never understand these signals since they have not been initiated into the gang and given the codes. This makes it quite challenging for law enforcement officers to decrypt the communication.

Another method of signaling is the use of different lighting on cars. Gang cars are often fitted with color-changing lights. These lights are then used to pass important messages to partners. Red might mean danger, while white might signify the presence of new rivals.

Gang Signs/ Colors /Tattoos

Different gangs use different marks or tattoos to identify each other. The Japanese Yakuza have distinct full-body tattoos to identify each other. Since Yakuza don’t need to hide their identity from law enforcement, they can have full-body tattoos, unlike other gangs who have to hide tattoos.

American biker gangs wear headbands or do-rags to distinguish themselves from the rest of the population. Similarly, members of The Russian Mafia have tattoos on their arms. Both Yakuza and the Russian mafia are known to heavily punish non-members who wear tattoos, merely to “teach them a lesson.”

Look out for these distinct symbols to identify the character of a possible criminal group. This is how you can help law enforcers.

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Personal Courier?

Sometimes, criminal organizations opt for the old school method of sending messages: a personal courier. Criminals use personal couriers for parcels that are too delicate, too important, or deliverables that are too expensive, such as money, bomb parts, or guns.

Criminal organizations particularly like this when they want to avoid leaving any digital trails. As you know, any messages sent over the internet are never really deleted. Anyone can recover them. The “human messenger system” really works well for extra secretive and sensitive criminal info.

However, the method isn’t foolproof. Authorities can track persons carrying such messages on mere suspicion and learn about their identities. Worse still, criminals typically need to have complete trust that the messenger is loyal and will not betray them to law enforcement. Of course, there’s simply no guarantee that the messenger won’t betray his boss.

Social Media / Chat Rooms / Gaming?

Leading social media sites ( like Facebook) have become a booming communication platform for criminal activities. Most recently, organized hate groups and conspiracy theorists such as Qanon used the Parler app to plan the infamous attack on the U.S. Capitol Hill building, causing unrest throughout the country.

However, due to the high risk of law enforcement catching them, criminals primarily use social sites as a platform to meet, interact, and network with other criminals. They never use it to execute the actual criminal business. With such connections, the groups will then proceed to conduct their business over more secure channels.

Notably, criminals take precautions to avoid authorities spying on them. They use secret passwords to enter chat rooms. Chat rooms like Telegram have become a favorite since they later self-delete, never to be recovered again. The heads of these chat rooms provide gang members with a secret codeword that only members know to get access. They may also ask security questions that only members would know. Here’s a typical example: “Where is the organization’s headquarters?” If you can’t answer, you can’t get in! Period.