Some tattoos that could signal wearers' crimes

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.''

What to Read Next