Gangs

  • ‘Gang’ means different things to different people
  • There’s nothing to stop you being part of a gang, but if you get involved in criminal activity, you could end up in trouble with the police
  • If you’ve been targeted by a gang, the best thing you can do is tell someone

Being part of a gang might seem tempting if things aren’t going well at school or at home, but if the gang is involved in breaking the law, you can quickly get into trouble with the police. Although you can join a gang if you want to, you should also be able to leave a gang. This can often be difficult for people who feel scared about what will happen if they try to get out. If you’re targeted by a gang and are worried about what might happen, telling someone, like the police, is better than staying silent.

What is a gang?

The word ‘gang’ means different things to different people. In this part of the website, we’re talking about gangs that are involved in breaking the law, often hurting other people and damaging property. This kind of gang is a group of people that are often together in public and see themselves as a group. Other people also recognise them as a specific group. The gang often break the law and will be involved in violence. They are often based in a particular area, and might use violence to try and control an area. A gang is often in conflict with other gangs.

Can I be in a gang?

It is not illegal to be in a gang. You have a right in the UNCRC to meet with others and to join clubs and associations. While a ‘gang’ might not be what the United Nations was thinking about when it wrote Article 15, it would include being part of a gang. You are only allowed to meet up and associate with others if it doesn’t stop other people enjoying their rights – and lots of things that these kind of gangs do are harmful to other people’s rights. If you have to break the law to be in the gang, or to stay in the gang, this is when you can get into trouble with the police.

Do I have to be in a gang?

Your right in Article 15 UNCRC means that you shouldn’t have to join a gang if you don’t want to. In reality it might be more difficult. Lots of gangs operate by threatening people, or their families, to make them join. If things are hard at home, being in a gang can be somewhere where you feel welcome even if it does mean involve doing things that you know aren’t right. Some people think being in a gang will make them feel safer, or that it will make them money. If you’re feeling under pressure to be in a gang but you don’t want to be, you could tell the police, especially if you or your family are being threatened.

Why is being in a gang a problem?

Being in a gang is not a problem, but the gangs we’re talking about in this section of the website will want you to be involved in violence and other criminal activity – it’s part of the culture. This means you’re more likely to get in trouble with the police and end up with a criminal record which can cause big problems as you look for work.

You can get in trouble with the police if someone else in the gang uses violence or is carrying a weapon, even if you aren’t directly involved. If you knew about it, then you can be arrested and taken to court for being part of a ‘joint enterprise’.

You may find yourself under pressure to have sex with people you don’t want to, and even made to have sex with other people for money. You may also end up under pressure to drink and take drugs which can have a damaging effect on your health.

Can I leave a gang?

Your right under Article 15 UNCRC means that if you don’t want to be part of a group – or a gang – you don’t have to be, but it can be difficult to leave, especially if you don’t have much support at home, and feel like you have no alternative. If you end up in trouble with the police and spend time somewhere like a Young Offender Institution, a Secure Training Centre or Secure Children’s Home, you may be able to get help and support to feel confident enough that you won’t go back to the gang when you get out.

How can I be protected from a gang?
If you are being threatened by a gang either to join them, or because the gang has decided to target you for some reason, the best thing you can do is tell the police. You might feel like you can’t or shouldn’t tell anyone, or that you will be attacked if you do report what has happened. If you don’t tell anyone what has happened, nothing will change. If you do tell the police, they can help you and protect you from any more violence.