Quick Exit

The Barnet Safeguarding Children Partnership

Gangs and serious youth violence

If a child is in immediate danger please call 999

Why do young people join gangs?

Young people join gangs for reasons which make sense to them, if not to adults. Some reasons why young people may join a gang are:

  • Respect and status
  • To gain friends
  • A sense of belonging
  • Excitement
  • To find a substitute family
  • Power
  • Protection
  • Money
  • Peer pressure.

What you can do

There are many things you can do to help stop your child from being involved in gangs, they are:

  • Talk to your child and listen
  • Encourage them to get involved in positive activities and to think about their future employment
  • Get involved in your child’s school activities
  • Know your child’s friends and their families
  • Always know where your child is and who they are with
  • Help them to cope with pressure and how to deal with conflict without use of violence
  • Speak to them about the serious consequences that occur from violent or illegal behaviour
  • Help them to understand the dangers of being in a gang and find constructive alternative ways to use their time
  • Keep lines of communication open
  • Be aware of what your child is doing on the internet
  • Look for ways of disciplining children that do not involve harshness, anger or violence
  • Work with other parents and schools to watch their behaviour
  • Contact local voluntary organisations that provide mentoring and other support for young people
  • Talk about your child’s behaviour with their school and other parents.

What to do If your child is already involved

  • If your child is already involved in a gang, they may not want to talk about it or be scared. It is important that they know you want to listen and support them. Make sure they know they have a choice
  • Stay calm
  • Ask questions, but listen too
  • Don’t be afraid of confrontation, but try not to approach them with anger and accusations
  • Try to understand the situation from their point of view and why they have joined the gang
  • Ask them what you can do to help
  • Try to agree about what they should do next
  • Work with them to find solutions and choices
  • Seek help from local community organisations or youth services, they can offer specialist support and programmes to help them leave the gang
  • Contact local support networks such as faith groups or neighbourhood police officers connected to your local school.

What the law says

  • The law focuses on criminal behaviour. If an offender was part of a group or a gang, this may lead to a longer sentence
  • If your child’s presence or actions lead to a crime they could be charged with the same offence as the main offender. For example, if they provided support or encouragement to a fellow gang member who committed a robbery or injured someone, they too could be charged with the same offence. This is called joint enterprise
  • It is illegal to carry a knife in a in a public place, even if it belongs to someone else
  • It is also illegal to carry a folding pocketknife if the edge of the blade exceeds three inches
  • It is illegal to carry a pocketknife if the blade can be locked
  • It is illegal to carry any knife, including folding knives, if there is intent to use it as a weapon, even if it belongs to someone else
  • The maximum sentence for possessing a knife in a public place without a good excuse has been increased from two to four years for 16-17 year olds and adults
  • It is illegal to keep any prohibited firearm, or to carry any firearm – including an imitation – in public, even if you are carrying it for someone else
  • The maximum sentence for unlawful possession of a prohibited firearm is ten years. The minimum sentence is three years for 16-17 year olds and five years for adults
  • Police can and will search someone if they believe they are carrying a gun, knife or other weapon
  • Police and school staff can also search young people for weapons at school.

Useful contacts

Metropolitan Police – to find details of your local team and find out more about the work they are doing in your area, type in your postcode. 

Crimestoppers – a free, confidential service where you can report information about a crime anonymously. Freephone: 0800 555 111. 

Family Lives – gives advice on all aspects of the parenting role and is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Calls are free. Tel: 0808 800 2222.

National Council for Voluntary Youth Services – network of over 280 national organisations and regional and local networks that work with and for young people. 

The NSPCC run a wide range of services for both children and adults, including national helplines and local projects. In collaboration with the Home Office, they have extended the use of their helpline to provide information and advice to parents and others concerned about young people who may be involved, or affected by gang activity. Their helpline is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Freephone: 0808 800 5000 or email help@nspcc.org.uk

Anti-Bullying Alliance – advice on bullying. 

Victim Support – a national charity which helps people affected by crime. 


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