Thousands of former California gang members have entered tattoo removal programs that cities began offering 15 years ago, reports the San Francisco Chronicle. The programs are seeing a steady increase in participants, officials say. That may not suggest a decline in gang membership but it offers hope that a once-unthinkable action for hardened gang members – erasing the marks of allegiance and loyalty – is becoming more acceptable.
It’s also sending a message to younger gangsters that the lifestyle does not have to be permanent. Toni Abraham of Social Advocates for Youth in Sonoma County said 65 people have entered the county’s tattoo removal program this year, up from about 30 in 2010. Most are eligible for the program after completing 25 hours of community service and paying a $50 fee.