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Wednesday, 3 October 2023

Gangs and gang crime: the facts

A gang is a group of people who may be involved in crime and violence. Many young people will not realise they are in a gang, they will just think they are in a group of friends. Being in a gang is not illegal - only the criminal offences committed are illegal.

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Why do young people join street gangs?

Young people can join gangs for a number of reasons. They can join to get:

  • recognition
  • excitement
  • friends
  • acceptance
  • a sense of belonging
  • power over other people
  • money from crime
  • protection
  • territory
  • respect

Being in a gang - the fantasy and reality

Children may think that being in a gang will give them a glamorous lifestyle, but the reality is very different. Being in a gang puts children and young people at more risk of:

  • committing crime
  • dealing or taking drugs
  • ending up in prison
  • being a victim of violence or even death

Gangs and the law

Although there are no laws banning gangs or gang membership, there are laws to prevent the criminal activity of gangs. These laws include the following:

  • in court, if an offender is part of a gang, it could lead to a longer sentence
  • drugs like cannabis, cocaine and ecstasy are illegal to have, or carry
  • it is illegal to carry or keep a gun without a licence, including fake or replica guns
  • police and school staff can search young people for weapons at school

The law is also very strict on knife possession. It is illegal to carry a knife in public without a reasonable explanation. In the eyes of the law, a reasonable explanation does not include:

  • carrying a knife for someone else
  • carrying a knife for protection
  • carrying a knife with no intention of using it

Carrying a gun or a knife could mean being arrested, going to court and ending up with a criminal record that will affect the rest of that person’s life. Having a criminal record can prevent people from getting a job, going to university or college, or even travelling abroad.

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