A gang is a group of people who take part in bullying, risky and dangerous behaviour and criminal activity. Gangs can happen anywhere, they are not just a problem in the city, or in certain areas.
Being part of a gang like this is dangerous:
- Risk of being pressured into committing a crime, criminal record and arrest
- Risk of becoming a victim of crime, or being injured or hurt in other ways
- Risk of getting fixated on risky or dangerous behaviour, so missing out on things like education, opportunities and activities
It can also risk relationships with family and friends.
Crucial: Young people involved with gangs are also exposed to other problems like radicalisation, child sexual exploitation, abuse, substance misuse, drugs and more
Why do people join gangs?
Young people take more risks than older people. For this reason, they may be groomed by older people into joining in risky, illegal activities.
This is called Criminal Exploitation.
Adults who work with children, like Social Workers, Youth Workers and Teachers are aware of this and can help if this is happening to you.
Some young children also try and join gangs, because they want money or for other reasons, like difficulties in their lives. These young people may take lots of risks.
Take Action: If you are worried about a friend, or about your own behaviour, then you can take action. Talk to an adult at your school, or another adult like a social worker or youth worker. If you are not ready to tell someone you know, you can contact Childine.
Criminal Exploitation happens when someone is drawn away from their life and encouraged to take part in illegal activities. Small amounts of money may be offered, but adults may also use threats of violence or "pay" young people in other things, like cigarettes or phone credit.
These adults encourage the young person to feel unhappy with their life, and leave or drive away their friends and family. They may also encourage the young person to stop study and schooling. They may also make the young person encourage other young people to join in the criminal activity.
Criminal Exploitation is abuse. If you, or anyone you know, is being targeted by anyone else in this way, either by an adult or another young person, either in person or online, then you should take action to protect yourself and your friends.
Crucial: Criminal exploitation gangs target vulnerable adults as well as children. You can find out more, and read case studies about young people who have been exploited, in this booklet: Criminal Exploitation of Children and Vulnerable Adults.
Why do some people join gangs?
Most children and young people do not join gangs. For the very small numbers that do, there is usually a problem they are trying to solve, like:
- Unhappiness at home
- A lack of money, not knowing how to get a job
- Being angry or sad
These are common feelings when you are a teenager. But some people feel them more strongly than others.
How to get help
You can talk to lots of different people who can help you if you or someone you know is having trouble with gangs, such as:
- Your parents, carer or another relative you trust
- A trusted adult like a sports coach, youth worker or teacher
- Your school health nurse or GP (doctor)
You can also make a confidential call to Childline on 0800 111
Take Action: You can make an anonymous report to Fearless and find out lots of information about all sorts of different kinds of crime.
Gangs and relationships
People who are going out with or friends with people in gangs may be asked to do illegal things such as hide or carry drugs or weapons.
Girls and boys in gangs are also at risk of emotional, physical and sexual violence.
Crucial: If someone you are in a relationship is asking or insisting you to do something risky, scary or that you don't want to so, then this is abuse.
Gangs and problems at home
Young people in gangs often have problems at home. These can happen because of how the young person's behaviour changes. Anyone can be targeted for criminal exploitation. But some things make a young person more at risk:
- Having been targeted before
- Truanting, missing lessons or dropping out
- Having learning difficulties
For some young people, falling out with their family or running away makes them more at risk. But some young people may be trying to help their parents, or support their family.
Crucial: If adults who try to involve children in criminal activity of any kind, this is abuse. Find about more about trouble at home, staying out of trouble, and abuse.
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