WHAT IS A GANG?
Being in a gang can make you feel part of something or that you belong.
But some gangs take part in criminal activity and might try to get you involved with them. Being part of a gang like this can be dangerous. Sometimes you can be forced to commit a crime or do things that are unsafe.
If a gang carries knives or other weapons, they might get them out to show off or intimidate people. This can be very scary for other people, especially if they think the gang will use them.
Young people join gangs for lots of different reasons. Some of these include:
- fitting in with friends and other gang members
- having the same interests as other people, like sports or music
- feeling respected and important
- to be protected from bullying or from other gangs
- making money from crime or drugs
- gaining status and feeling powerful.
Hanging out with your friends can be a good way to get to know each other and share hobbies and interests. But it can become dangerous if you join a gang that does illegal things like theft or gun and knife crime.
You don’t have to join a gang if you don’t feel comfortable or sure about things.
Being in a gang isn’t against the law. But being involved with illegal activities (that some gangs do) could be an offence.
You could go to prison or end up with a criminal record if you’re involved with:
- gun and knife crime
- violence or harassment
- turf wars or postcode wars
- carrying, using or selling drugs
- theft or other illegal activities
- rape and sexual assault.
If you have a criminal record you might not be:
- accepted into a university, college or higher education
- able to get a job, internship or do work experience
- allowed to travel to some countries, like the USA.
It’s important to think about your future and how being in a gang can affect your life.
Some gangs are involved in crime, drugs, violence and other illegal activities. If you’re part of a gang like this it can be dangerous.
It can also mean being:
- controlled by older members of the gang
- given money or things you like but this could easily change and you might be treated differently
- threatened or forced to do things you don’t want to do
- worried about your safety and the safety of your family or friends
- worried about fights with other gangs.
It is important to think about your future and how being in a gang can affect your life. For example, not being able to finish school or college, not being able to get a job and not being able to ever feel safe.
How you leave a gang can depend on what your position is within the gang. It’s not always easy.
But it’s possible to leave safely and without any problems.
You might worry that:
- other gangs might still see you as a rival and could try to harm you
- the people in your gang won’t allow you to leave or will make it hard for you
- your family or friends could be targeted if you leave
- you won’t have any friends or fit in any more
- you won’t feel safe if you’re not in the gang.
You may want to think about the positive things in your life and want you want your future to be like.
Some tips to help you leave a gang:
- try to spend less time with the gang and find friends who are not in gangs
- try to avoid places where you know the gang will be
- speak to someone you trust like a family member, teacher or youth worker
- you can contact Gangsline for free advice and support from ex-gang members
- you can call the police by dialling 999 for urgent help if you’re in danger
- focus on things that you enjoy like sports, music, reading or find new hobbies.
It can be really worrying if you know someone who is in a gang and you want to help them. You don’t have to cope with things on your own, you can talk to a counsellor to get help.
You could also try:
- letting the person know how you feel
- encouraging the person to think about their safety and their future
- asking an adult for help, like a teacher or parent who you trust
- contacting Gangsline for free advice and support from ex-gang members
- encouraging the person to contact Childline
- calling 999 if you think the person is in danger and needs urgent help.
It’s fine to go out with a group of friends, but it’s important to think about what you look like to other people. If you aren’t doing anything wrong then you don’t need to worry. There are things you can do to make sure that people know you are not doing any harm:
- always let your parents or the person responsible for you know where you are and who you are with
- what you wear is up to you, but it’s worth remembering that if you are wearing hoodies or other clothes that cover your face, it can be worrying to other people, as this is associated with some gangs
- don’t go anywhere that you are not allowed to or trespass on private property
- respect other people’s property
- don’t shout out to people or do anything that might make them feel worried or intimidated
- if other people try to cause trouble or get you into a fight, walk away or tell someone responsible like an adult you trust.
The safety and welfare of children – or child protection – is everybody’s business.
You could be a neighbour, friend, parent, relative, child-minder, teacher, doctor or working for any organisation which has contact with children and young people.
In an emergency please dial 999.
Otherwise you can contact the Child Protection Team:
Monday to Friday (9am to 5pm) – 01708 433222
Out of hours/weekends – 01708 433999
Or use the document based referral form
- asking an adult for help, like a family member, youth worker or teacher
- calling Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 or giving information online. You will be asked questions about what has happened, but you don’t have to give your name
- calling Childline free on 0800 1111 or having 1-2-1 chat with a counsellor. It’s confidential and you can get in touch at any time. Calls are free, even from mobile phones
- contacting the police by dialling 101 to report something that already happened. If it’s an emergency or someone is injured or being threatened, you can call 999 for urgent help. The police are there to protect people and help stop crime.