A gang can be a group of mates who hang around together. But some gangs are involved in crime. Sometimes gangs are violent and might fight other gangs or carry weapons. If you’re being forced to join a gang you should tell someone about it, or call Childline.

WHat is a gang?

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

But some gangs take part in criminal activity and 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 or intimidate people. This can be very scary for other people, especially if they think the gang will use them.

If you're feeling pressured to be in a gang:

  • remember no one has the right to pressure you
  • spend more time with friends who aren't involved in the gang, or places where you know they won't be
  • you can talk to a trusted adult or to our counsellors if you're being forced into a gang.

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
  • having the same interests as other people, 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.

Hanging out with your friends can be a good way to get to know each other and share hobbies and interests. But it can become dangerous if you join a gang that does illegal things like theft or gun and knife crime

You don't have to join a gang if you don't feel comfortable or sure about things.

Gangs and the law

How can I leave a gang?

How you leave a gang can depend on what your position is within the gang. It’s not always easy.

But it’s 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 want you want your future to be like.

Some tips to help you leave a gang:

  • try to spend less time with the gang and find friends who are not in gangs
  • try to avoid places where you know the gang will be
  • speak to someone you trust like a family member, teacher or youth worker
  • you can contact Gangsline for free advice and support from ex-gang members
  • you can call the police by dialling 999 for urgent help if you're in danger
  • focus on things that you enjoy like sports, music, reading or find new hobbies.

How can I help someone 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 counsellor to 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.

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.

Ex-gang member

Are all groups gangs?

It's fine to go out with a group of friends, but it's important to think about 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:

  • always let your parents or the person responsible for you know where you are and who you are with
  • 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
  • don't go anywhere that you are not allowed to or trespass on private property
  • respect other people's property
  • don't shout out to people or do anything that might make them feel worried or intimidated
  • if other people try to cause trouble or get you into a fight, walk away or tell someone responsible like an adult you trust.

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

Some people can feel intimidated and scared of gangs especially if the gang is involved in violence or crime.

You might feel worried about:

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