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Gangs or Dangerous Situations

Spotting signs that a child might be involved with a gang

A young person may exhibit just some or all of these signs if they’ve started becoming involved in a gang, although some changes in behaviour (such as their taste in music or fashion style) are typical of many teenagers, so view them in the wider context of a child’s general behaviour.

  • They may change to a specific style of dressing and you notice that their friends all dress in the same way.
  • They could start getting into trouble at school and/or at home and begin to talk differently, using new slang or language with an aggressive tone.
  • The child may have money and possessions you didn’t give to them and they can’t, or won’t, explain where they’re from.
  • You may notice they have unexplained injuries and are staying out unusually late or have graffiti-style tags on their possessions.
  • They could develop an interest in music that glorifies weapons or gang culture, or even have weapons themselves.
  • You may also find evidence of them accessing gang profiles on social networks or watching gang videos on YouTube.
  • If a child is involved in a gang they may be scared and not want to talk about it. 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 about gangs, knife crime and carrying a weapon

The law focuses on criminal behaviour. If an offender is part of a group or a gang, this may lead to a longer sentence.

  • If a 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 offence. This is called joint enterprise.
  • It is illegal to carry a knife in a public place (including school), even if it belongs to someone else.
  • It is also illegal to carry a folding pocketknife if the edge of the blade exceeds 3 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 firearm – in public, even if you are carrying it for someone else.
  • The maximum sentence for unlawful possession of a prohibited firearm is 10 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.

You should call 101 to report crime and other concerns that do not require an emergency response. Call 999 in an emergency.

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Get Help Now

Here are a list of services that can help with gangs or dangerous situations. The icons below tell you the type of support available.

  • In person In person


City and County

age Under 18

  • In person In person

Violence Reduction Unit

City and County

age Under 30

  • In person In person

Switch Up – The Marcellus Baz Group


age Under 25

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Which services can I access?

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