The UK Government describes 3 different types of gangs:
- A peer group – A relatively small social group who may describe themselves as a gang depending on the context
- A street gang – A group of people who see themselves (and are seen by others) as a unit for which crime and violence is integral to their identity
- Organised Criminal Gangs – A group of people for whom involvement in crime is for personal gain (financial or otherwise). In this example, crime is the group’s occupation.
Young people are the demographic most susceptible to joining gangs because they can be seen to offer a protective group of older ‘cool’ kids. This group can also offer status, the feeling of power or respect, money, material things (for example, phones, game consoles or clothes) and even protection from other gangs. If a young person is experiencing bullying behaviour in school, a local gang can offer to help and give a young person a sense of community and belonging which they may not receive elsewhere in their life.
At first this might sound helpful but getting involved in a gang can seriously affect a young person’s future and, in the most extreme cases, end their life early. What at first might seem like a protective community can quickly change into doing things you don’t want or didn’t expect, for example, carrying a weapon (usually a knife), selling drugs and holding large amounts of cash. If a young person refuses, this can often lead to bullying behaviour, peer pressure and blackmail. Gang membership also greatly increases someone’s likelihood of being attacked by a rival gang, being arrested and feeling alienated from friends and family.
What to do if you or someone you know is in a gang:
- Try to stop spending time with other gang members and avoid places where they meet
- Stop answering their calls or texts and start spending more time with other friends and family
- Speak to an adult you trust like a parent, teacher, sports coach or youth worker
- Contact Gangsline and receive advice from people who managed to successfully leave a gang
Remember, not all groups are gangs. If you’re concerned about the people that you’re spending time with, just remember it’s up to you what you do and how you act. No one can tell you what to wear or where to go and if you see something you don’t like, tell someone. This type of controlling behaviour is often bullying behaviour and is unacceptable. Here are a few organisations you can speak to any time, any day:
Gangsline - 01375 483 239 & 07753 351 256
Childline – 0800 1111
Diana Award Crisis Messenger – Text ‘DA’ to 85258