SAN ANTONIO -- There are plenty iconic symbols of the Alamo City, and while many people would never think those symbols could be misrepresented, some say area gangs are doing just that.
Anthony Rodriguez is a gang officer at the Bexar County Detention Center. He said it’s not uncommon for gang members to have iconic San Antonio symbols tattooed on their body.
“Something like the Alamo -- that's a Texas shrine. That's something we should all cherish and love and remember," Rodriguez said. "Yet they use that to mean something completely different, which is a huge disgrace to anybody from Texas.”
Rodriguez has spent years researching and identifying tattoos worn by gang members behind bars, so he knows how to interpret most tattoos worn by inmates.
“Currently, we have documented well over 27 different gangs in the Bexar County Jail,” Rodriguez said.
One of those gangs is the Tango Orejon.
“'Orejenos' means we're from San Antonio, like we get the first scoop of everything that comes into the system,” said a current inmate named C.A. who claims to be a member of the Orejon gang.
Rodriguez said one way Orejon members identify themselves is with a tattoo similar to the San Antonio Spurs logo.
“Well, basically, if you have a Spur, they know you're from San Antonio -- you're running with the Orejon,” C.A. said.
Orejon members use other symbols to identify themselves, like bunny ears or even the 210 area code. Using iconic symbols of cities is a common practice used by other gangs as well.
“A lot of people identify me quick when they see, ‘Oh, that’s C.A. We know him 'cause of his tattoos," C.A. said.
However, what about those who want to represent themselves with similar symbols, but not because they're a gang member?
That's where experts like Rodriguez say people need to be careful.
“Some of these kids, they just see these tattoos and think it’s cool," Rodriguez said. "They put it on their body and they're completely unaware of its other meaning and they completely forget there's a subculture in the city, and they could potentially be in danger in putting these symbols on them."
However, if your teenager or loved one is adamant about getting such a tattoo, that sometimes can also serve as a red flag for you, experts say.
“We do get phone calls from school police asking, ‘I see a lot of kids walking around with Spurs symbols. Is there something we should know?’ And the answer is yes, they could very well be a member of a gang,” Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez said it’s important to note most of the concern comes from tattoos and not clothing. He also said not everyone with such tattoos is a gang member.