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A gang can be a group of mates who hang around together, but some gangs are involved in crime and violence, including fighting other gangs and knife crime. If you are being forced to join a gang you should tell someone about it, or call ChildLine.

Image of a hooded teenager breaking into a carWhat is a gang?

A gang can be a group of friends who live in the same area, or all go to the same school and who hang out together.

Being in a gang can make you feel part of something or that you belong.

There are some gangs who take part in criminal activity and who might try to get you involved with them. Being part of a gang like this can be dangerous. Sometimes you can be forced to commit a crime or do things that are unsafe.

If a gang carries knives or other weapons, they might get them out to show off and look hard. This can be very scary for other people, especially if they think the gang will use them.

I'm scared of gangs, what can I do?

Some people can feel intimidated and scared of gangs especially if they are involved in violence or crime.

You might feel worried about:

- being threatened or attacked
- bullying or being made to feel unsafe
- being robbed or crime
- physical abuse or sexual abuse
- racism and discrimination

If you have been affected by something involving a gang, you can talk to a ChildLine counsellor. They will support you and you can talk about anything.

  • I feel forced to join a gang, what can I do?

    No one has the right to force you into doing things that make you feel uncomfortable or put you in danger.

    You might be told that if you join a gang, you'll be looked after and receive protection, but this is not always true. Being in a gang that is involved in dangerous or illegal things could make you a target for some people or other gangs.

    If your friends are in a gang and want you to join, this can feel confusing especially if you're trying to fit in. If your friends are really your friends they should respect you and not make you do things that make you feel nervous or scared about. Find out how you can be assertive and say ‘no’ to people.

    If someone is trying to make you join a gang or become involved in illegal or violent activities, it is really important to tell someone you trust, like a parent or teacher. It's important they know what is happening so they can try to help you. If you don't have anyone to tell or feel that you can't talk about it, you can contact a ChildLine counsellor for help.

  • How can I leave a gang?

    How you leave a gang can depend on what your position is within the gang. It is not always easy, but it is possible to leave safely and without any problems.

    You might worry that:
    - other gangs might still see you as a rival and could try to harm you
    - the people in your gang won't allow you to leave or will make it hard for you
    - your family or friends could be targeted if you leave
    - you won't have any friends or fit in any more
    - you won't feel safe if you're not in the gang

    You may want to think about the positive things in your life and how you would like your future to be.

    Some tips to help you leave gang:
    1. Try to spend less time with the gang and find friends who are not in gangs.
    2. Try to avoid places where you know the gang will be.
    3. Speak to someone you trust like a family member, teacher or youth worker.
    4. You can contact Gangsline for free advice and support from ex-gang members. 
    5. You can call the police by dialling 999 for urgent help if you're in danger.
    6. Focus on things that you enjoy like sports, music, reading or find new hobbies.
    7. You can contact ChildLine and speak to a counsellor in confidence. We can help you find a way to get out.

    A tip from an ex-gang member: ''When I wanted to get out of a gang I stopped taking calls or replying to texts from people in the gang. I also made sure my family said I was not at home when they came looking for me. After a short while, they got the message and stopped contacting me.''

  • Why do people join gangs?

    Young people join gangs for lots of different reasons. Some of these include:

    - fitting in with friends and other gang members
    - sharing interests with others, like sports or music
    - feeling respected and important
    - to be protected from bullying or from other gangs
    - making money from crime or drugs
    - gaining status and feeling powerful

    If you hang out with your friends in a group this can be good way to get to know each other and share hobbies and interests. It can become unsafe or worrying if you join a gang that is involved in illegal or violent activities such as theft or gun and knife crime.

    You don't have to join a gang if you don't feel comfortable or sure about things. Find out about being assertive and standing up for yourself. 

  • I'm worried about violent and illegal things happening in a gang

    Some gangs are involved in crime, drugs, violence and other illegal activities. If you are part of a gang like this it can be dangerous.

    It can also mean being:
    -  controlled by older members of the gang
    -  given money or things you like but this could soon change you'll be treated differently
    -  threatened or forced to do things you don't want to do
    -  worried about your safety and the safety of your family or friends
    -  worried about fights with other gangs

    It is important to think about your future and how being in a gang can affect your life. For example, not being able to finish school or college, not being able to get a job and not being able to ever feel safe.

    If you want to report a crime or talk about something illegal that has happened, you can call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 or visit
    You can also talk to a ChildLine counsellor in confidence at any time.

  • How can I help someone who is in a gang?

    It can be really worrying if you know someone who is in a gang and you want to help them. You don't have to cope with things on your own, you can talk to a ChildLine counsellor in confidence and get help.

    You could also try:
    - letting the person know how you feel
    - encouraging the person to think about their safety and their future
    - asking an adult for help, like a teacher or parent who you trust
    - contacting Gangsline for free advice and support from ex-gang members
    - encouraging the person to contact ChildLine
    - calling 999 if you think the person is in danger and needs urgent help

    Find out more about helping a friend

  • Is it illegal to be in a gang?

    Being in a gang is not against the law but being involved with illegal activities that some gangs do could be an offence.

    You could go to prison or end up with a criminal record if you're involved with:

    - gun and knife crime
    - violence or harassment
    - turf wars or postcode wars
    - carrying, using or selling drugs
    - theft or other illegal activities
    - rape and sexual assault

    If you have a criminal record you might not be:

    - accepted into a university, college or higher education
    - able to get a job, internship or do work experience
    - allowed to travel to some countries, like the United States of America

    It is important to think about your future and how being in a gang can affect your life.

    If you want to report a crime or talk about something illegal that has happened, you can call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 or visit
    You can also contact a ChildLine counsellor at any time.

  • What would happen if I got caught with a weapon?

    Some people carry weapons like knives and guns to feel protected, because of peer pressure or to feel powerful.  If you have a weapon you might not always plan to use it - whether you use the weapon or not, it is still illegal.

    Police have the power to stop and search you if they think you or your friends have a weapon. You could be arrested or go to prison for carrying, buying or selling a weapon.

    Situations involving weapons can get out of control very easily and you might not have time to think about your actions. You might feel safe by carrying a weapon but it is very dangerous.

    If you carry a weapon, you are more likely to:

    - get stabbed yourself if you're carrying a knife
    - kill or injure yourself badly if you fire your gun
    - hurt or kill others with your weapon
    - hurt innocent people if a fight happens
    - be attacked or threatened by other gangs who use weapons
    - be arrested by the police
    - be charged with murder through joint enterprise, if you're at a place where someone is killed, even if you were not carrying the weapon

    If you carry a weapon, you are putting your life and your future in danger. To get help and support, you can contact ChildLine in confidence at any time. You could also speak to an adult you trust like a parent, youth worker or other family member.

    If you or someone you know is in serious danger, you should dial 999 for urgent help.

  • I'm worried about reporting something that happened in a gang

    If you have seen or been involved in something in a gang, reporting it can feel scary and confusing. You might worry about getting into trouble or making things worse. It's important to think about your future, your safety and what feels right for you. You don't have to deal with this on your own. Here are some ways of reporting things:

    - Asking an adult for help, like a family member, youth worker or teacher
    - Calling Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 or giving information online. You will be asked questions about what has happened but you don't have to give your name.
    - C
    alling ChildLine free on 0800 1111 or having a 1-2-1 chat with a counsellor. It's confidential and you can get in touch at any time. Calls are free, even from mobiles.
    - Contacting the police by dialling 101 to report something that already happened.
    If it's an emergency or someone is injured or being threatened, you can call 999 for urgent help. The police are there to protect people and help stop crime.
    Find out more about police in your area.

    You can get free legal advice from Children's Legal Centre or talk to a ChildLine counsellor for support. ChildLine can help you find a way to report things.

  • I hang out with my mates but we don't do anything wrong. What can I do to make sure people don't think we are scary?

    It's fine to go out with a group or gang of friends, but it's important to be aware of what you look like to other people. If you aren't doing anything wrong then you don't need to worry. There are things you can do to make sure that people know you are not doing any harm.

    1. Always let your parents or the person responsible for you know where you are and who you are with.
    2. What you wear is up to you, but it's worth remembering that if you are wearing hoodies or other clothes that cover your face, it can be worrying to other people, as this is associated with some gangs.
    3. Don't go anywhere that you are not allowed to or trespass on private property.
    4. Respect other people's property.
    5. Don't shout out to people or do anything that might make them feel worried or intimidated.
    6. If other people try to cause trouble or get you into a fight, walk away or tell someone responsible like an adult you trust

Other sites that can help

Find out about different crimes and the law and report a crime anonymously online.

Call Gangsline for free advice and support from ex-gang members on 0800 032 9538 or 07753 351 256.

Find out more about gangs, group violence and the law.

Feel the need to carry a weapon? You're putting yourself in danger. Find out how to get help with
Why carry a weapon? (

Find out about your rights if you are stopped and searched by the police.
Stop and search (SAFE)

Check out The Victim's Code to learn about what support you should get if you have experienced crime.
The Victim's Code

Online chat

Chat to a ChildLine counsellor online in a 1-2-1 session any time you want. Sign up to start talking.

Online chat

Ask Sam

Ask Sam whatever you want. Write a message to Sam or look at what other people have asked.

Go to Ask Sam

Anything missing?

Is there anything else about gangs that you'd like to see added to this page?



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