Do you want to be in my gang?

Joining in

It's human nature to want to be part of a social group and identify with something bigger than yourself. Time was, teenagers were satisfied with following fashion, supporting a football team, joining a fan club or wearing something which identified them as part of something bigger.

What happened which let gangs get such a  big deal?

Gangs are often just disaffected, bored and frustrated young people with nothing better to do who live in less than ideal circumstances and don't see much prospects for their lives to improve. They are also often based on cultural or racial identity. But what is for sure is that they are not harmless little "clubs". The potential for crime and violence is ever present and at times almost obligatory, and depending on where you live and who you know, it might be very difficult to ignore gang activity.

Face facts - gangs go armed and ready for trouble whoever starts it. They are ready for a fight. Sooner or later, someone is going to get hurt or even killed, and someone is going to get locked up, maybe for a long time. Do you want this to be you?

So we think you might want to think about a few things like why people join gangs, how to avoid joining one, what to do if you're already in one and want to get out, and what you can do instead.

Peer pressure means you may feel unable to be different and under pressure to fit in with any kind of group including a gang.

Bullying might be the first step to violence and criminal activity if you join in with a group or gang. Wise up to what's against the law, and we don't mean petty stuff like how old you should be to smoke.

Cultural differences might be your reason for getting involved. You can see how young Somali boys take to gang activity on that GTRT page. But whatever your background and however much you feel alienated from the rest of society in the UK thare are loads of better ways to share an identity, take part in activities and hang out with people like you. Checkout your local cultural centres for youth groups and activities. If you are Muslim you can talk to someone on the Muslim Youth Helpline where they will listen without judging.

GTRT's criminal behaviour page talks about what you might get involved in, including guns and knives. Drop the Weapons.org is a site which doesn't mess about with the facts and suggests ways to quit carrying guns and knives. You may not be part of a gang but you may know it's going on. And any gang you're in will almost certainly carry weapons.

Fearless lets you report or give information about a crime which has happened or you know will be committed, or you can call Crimestoppers free. You don't have to give your name and your number can't be identified. Who you are isn't important, only the information you can give. 

This video from Fearless talks about the importance of young people speaking out about crime:

GTRT makes jokes about taking notice of your mum, since that's pretty much your last choice most of the time, but take notice of these mums - Mothers Against Gangs have all had kids in trouble with the law through gang activity and know what they are talking about. They can help your mum if she doesn't know where to turn and is worried about you, and they want to help you as well.

Mums against Gangs has sensible advice for how to ease your way out without attracting unwelcome attention from your gang. It suggests you:

  • don’t tell other gang members you want out
  • begin to spend more of your time doing other things and less time with the gang
  • invent excuses why you can’t be with the gang and have them ready
  • find new activities away from your gang area
  • avoid wearing distinctive gang clothing or colours
  • ask other people in your house to tell gang members you are not there
  • speak to other people in your house, make them aware what is happening and get their support

They also understand that you may feel threatened or in danger for wanting to leave. You can ask for advice from them or any of the other general help organisations we tell you about.

Find other things to do with your life, join groups who won't get you into trouble with the law and where you can learn or employ your skills in a more rewarding way.

The YMCA traditionally tries to help disaffected young men and boys. See if it has any sporting activities in your area. The Ormiston Trust is aware of young people at risk of turning to crime without help. It's not about being a sissy, it's being sensible to avoid trouble. Being loyal only goes so far before you are the one in trouble - and on your own.

Get more to life encourages you to get fit and feel better, have fun and do something useful. Even if it's only to keep you out of trouble.  

 

 

The page was last updated on 18 June 2014 by andrea.bateman.

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