Why the number of children in gangs is rising

Pain: In the UK, 420,000 crimes are committed against children every year. Over half involve violence.

How can we stop the spread of gangs? New research has found that over 30,000 youngsters in England and Wales belong to a gang. Once they are in, there is often no way out.

What’s happening

The UK’s gangs are getting younger. It is thought that 70,000 youths belong to one, says Anne Longfield, the children’s commissioner. Half are aged 10-15, almost all of them boys. Many are recruited to carry hard drugs, which seem to be getting more popular. This is happening all across the country.

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Gang membership is not the only sign of the problem. Knife and gun crimes are rising across the UK. There have been 77 murders in London this year, most of them stabbings.

The blame is often put on the government for cutting police numbers. A leaked document showed that the government accepts this as a reason for the rise in violence.

Longfield points out other reasons. Many kids in gangs come from poor families; many have been excluded from school. Often, they do not have much of a family life. Meanwhile, the government has cut funding for youth services.

Kids join gangs because they are bored or want money, or for other reasons. Once they are in, leaders make it hard for them to leave, and they enter a downward spiral of violence.

What can be done?

Some say…

It is time to crack down hard on gangs. Since 2010, more than 20,000 police officers have been taken off the streets. We need to bring them back, and increase punishments for violent crimes. Gangs have no respect for society, so we should have none for them. By showing them that we mean business, we will stop them from ruining people’s lives.

Others think…

No! People turn to crime partly because they have lost trust in the police. A crackdown will only make things worse. Gangs appeal to kids who feel that life has nothing better to offer them. What they really need are jobs, money and things to do. Instead of paying for more police, the government could start by relaunching youth services.

You Decide

  1. Should children be blamed for joining a gang?

Activities

  1. In pairs, design a poster that encourages people to stay away from (or quit) gangs. Include some facts.

Some People Say...

“Even gang members imagine a future that doesn’t include gangs.”

Greg Boyle

What do you think?

Word Watch

Children’s commissioner
The official in charge of protecting children’s rights in the UK.
Leaked
“Leaking” happens when someone makes secret information public, usually because they think people should know about it.
Youth services
Programmes designed to support young people and give them things to do outside of school. Examples include sports clubs and counselling sessions.

Subjects

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