Gangs and weapons

Gangs can just be a group of friends that hang round together, but some gangs can be involved in crime and often violence. Some reasons why young people may join a gang are:

  • Respect and status
  • To gain friends
  • A sense of belonging
  • Excitement
  • To find a substitute family
  • Power
  • Protection
  • Money
  • Peer pressure

Girls who are linked to gang members (sisters, girlfriends, friends, cousins, daughters) as well as female gang members themselves, are at risk of emotional, physical and sexual violence. Many girls who are involved with gangs may believe that what they are being pressured, forced or choosing to do is acceptable, even normal. They may not realise that what is happening to them is wrong; they may be afraid of what might happen if they tell anyone and/or they may think that no one will believe or protect them.

The NSPCC have a webpage which gives lots of information about gangs. It gives information on what gangs are, who and why young people might join them, and what to do if you are afraid.

Gun and knife crime can mean people carrying knives or even guns for any reason. Even if you are using them just to look hard or for self defence it is still a crime, and even pretending to have one can get you in trouble.  Guns and knifes are dangerous, even when you do not intend to hurt someone accidents can happen.

All schools must stop young people from carrying knives, guns and other items that could hurt someone, e.g a rock, broken bottle or firework, so that everyone can feel safe. If you are suspected of carrying a weapon you may be searched, and if you are found to be carrying or threaten to use a weapon at school/college, you will be permanently excluded.

What the law says

  • If you are part of a group or a gang, this may lead to a longer sentence.
  • If your presence or actions lead to a crime you could be charged with the same offence as the main offender. For example, if you provide support or encouragement to a fellow gang member who committed a robbery or injured someone, you too could be charged with the same offence. This is called joint enterprise
  • It is illegal to carry a knife in a in a public place, 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 – in public, even if you are carrying it for someone else
  • The maximum sentence for unlawful possession of a prohibited firearm is ten 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

Committing crime and ending up with a criminal record will affect the rest of your life. Having a criminal record can prevent a young person getting a job, going to university or college, or even travelling abroad.

Further contacts and advice

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

The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) – runs a wide range of services for both children and adults, including national helplines and local projects. In collaboration with the Home Office, they have extended the use of their helpline to provide information and advice to parents and others concerned about young people who may be involved, or affected by gang activity. Their helpline is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Freephone: 0808 800 5000. Email: 

You can also chat online to one of their support staff.

You can find more advice on gangs and weapons and other subjects in our links section

Here are some sites dedicated to the memory of young people who have tragically lost their lives as a result of others using weapons:

Taken from Advice to parents and carers on gangs (PDF) - Gov.UK

Information on Gangs and weapons