According to the Metropolitan Police, there are:
- 171 gangs in London that claim a separate territory;
- 6% of 10-19-year-olds belong to a gang in England;
- 98% of gang members are male;
- 60% of shootings in the UK are linked to gangs.
Senior police officer, Nick Ephgrave, says that gangs are not an ‘epidemic’ but a ‘stubborn problem’ that shows no sign of going away. “There are many groups of young people who define themselves by their postcode and will only move to different areas with the protection of their groups.”
Gwenton Sloley, a former gang member who now works with young people in the London Borough of Hackney, says, “Gangs have been around for centuries. You’re not going to eradicate them.”
Having explored gang-related forums online I discovered that, when joining a gang, there is often an initiation that needs to be completed as proof that you are worthy. This initiation usually relates to committing an act of violence. When it is done, you become an official gang member.
In one story I read, a girl (Donna) was tricked into joining a gang (what she referred to as a ‘family’) who encouraged her to bunk off school and do illegal activities.
Donna was required to stab someone and commit other crimes, in order to get ‘reputation’ and prove her loyalty to the gang leader.
She mentioned how she had been arrested multiple times, and eventually got jailed for three years. Being in a cell for all that time, Donna realised who her real family was, as the gang members did not visit, did not send money or write any letters. Only her real family stood by her.
Donna wanted to leave the gang but she knew they would target her so she still has to be in contact with them. However, she refrains from committing any more crimes, and spends all her time with relatives or in school.
Donna has realised that the thrill of rebellion and proving her loyalty was not going to get her anywhere in life, and how her criminal record is going to make it so much harder for her to get a job.
Several former gang members have similar stories of being in a gang: “You’d either end up in hospital, or six foot under.”
Many young people are pressured into joining gangs by their older siblings, cousins or friends. There are many ways to prevent this. There websites below provide different forms of help.
See Exposure’s hard-hitting film about gangs: