Knife crime has risen steeply and there’s been an increasing trend in the number of Serious Youth Violence Victims (with over 7,500 recorded in the last twelve months) in the capital. Aware that much of this activity is often linked to gangs, we asked our Safeguarding Manager, Daniel Jarrett, how to spot gang affiliation amongst young people and what can be done to prevent it, and to help young people escape gangs.
The following criteria are commonly used in classifying groups as gangs:
● The group has three or more members, generally aged 12–24
● Members share an identity, typically linked to a name, and often other symbols
● Members view themselves as a gang, and they are recognised by others as a gang
● The group has some permanence and a degree of organisation
● The group is involved in an elevated level of criminal activity
The Home Office also published guidance in June 2015 that defined gangs as having one or more characteristics that enable its members to be identified as a group by others.
Gang Intervention and Prevention:
● The more research that is undertaken by a practitioner about the climate of gangs in the area the better. Not only can this help make informed decisions, it will also encourage the young person who is at risk to be more open about discussing their affiliations if they see a practitioner has prior understanding and awareness.
● Schools and youth offending teams can often have information on the local area and an awareness of which gangs are associated with which areas. Discussing your concerns with these organisations is therefore important. It is also important to liaise with the school/teachers to advise them to be vigilant for the young person who is at risk.
● Understanding the reasons for a young person’s gang affiliation is an additional important step – is it due to their locality? Do they have friends who have encouraged them to join or are they being forced?
● Does the young person’s route home from school mean they go through areas where gangs are prevalent? Could there be a way to change their route home or engage them in extracurricular activities or a hobby after school?
● Parents should be looked at as one of the prime avenues of support in:
○ ensuring boundaries are put in place to curb possible aggressive behaviour at home
○ identifying if there is a history of gang affiliation within the family – does the young person have older siblings or relatives who are in gangs which may be contributing to their involvement in gangs?
○ advising on specific family members who may be able to act as a positive role model for the young person
● Is there criminal activity taking place that is known about? Can the police be involved to ensure the safety of the young person at risk? – This must be done with the young person’s safety in mind and it is important to discuss this with the young person to minimise the danger of retaliation by gang members for involving the police
● If a young person is at significant risk due to their gang affiliation, concerns will need to be discussed with police / children’s services for possible statutory intervention
● Gang prevention is a process which requires a collective contribution and effort. Practitioners, parents and other members of the community must work together to ensure the safety of the young person.
Resources and Useful Links:
Gangsline – https://www.gangsline.com/ – Mentoring Programmes; Parent Workshops; Advice
London Gang Exit - http://www.onlyconnect.london/our-work/london-gang-exit-service/ – Provides support to exit a gang for anyone who is involved or affiliated with a gang and aged 16-24
Catch 22 - https://www.catch-22.org.uk/offers/gangs/ – Catch22 works nationally to address the multiple and complex issues that can lead to gang involvement
NSPCC Gang Advice – http://bit.ly/2rfZT6D – Further advice / guidance on safeguarding children