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Staying Safe Around Others

Gangs

As your child gets older and becomes more independent they may start to go out with their friends more and meet new people. Most people are safe and good to be around,  and making new friends is a healthy part of growing up.

Just because your child hangs out in a group doesn't mean they are in a gang. Teens often find safety in numbers by staying with a particular group of friends, and usually they like to avoid trouble. Most young people don't want anything to do with gangs.

You may have noticed on the news there are more stories about gang activity and violence in Norfolk. Understandably, you may worry that your child might be pressured in to joining a gang. It is good to be aware and help protect your child by recognising the possible signs of being in a gang and getting further help and support if you need it.

Dive Deeper

Why Do Young People Join Gangs?

Young people may become involved in gangs for many reasons, including;

    • Wanting to fit in with friends.
    • To feel respected and important.
    • To feel protected from bullies.
    • They want to make money, and are promised rewards.
    • They want to gain status, and feel powerful.
    • They’ve been excluded from school and don’t feel they have a future.
    • They may be experiencing abuse and neglect at home.

Warning Signs

Be on the look-out for warning signs that suggest your child may be involved in a gang;

  • A rise in skipping school.
  • Multiple mobile phones.
  • Your child's friends may change suddenly.
  • They may be vague or secretive about what they are doing.
  • They may have more money than usual, usually in cash, or have expensive new clothes or trainers.
  • They may draw graffiti style tags on things they own.
  • They may drop afterschool activities such as sports.
  • Staying out late without permission.
  • Unexplained physical injuries.
  • Carrying a weapon.

If you are suspicious that your child is involved with a gang, it doesn't mean they are for certain. Make sure you have an open mind - ask questions and listen without accusing them directly. 

What is County Lines?

County Lines is a term used by the police to describe gangs who bring illegal drugs from bigger cities to other parts of the UK. In Norfolk, the bigger city is usually London. Most of the activity is arranged via mobile phone 'lines'.

Young people aged 14-17 are most likely to be targeted by criminal groups but there are reports of seven year olds being 'groomed' into county lines. 

Primary school children are seen as easy targets because they're less likely to get caught. The grooming might start with them being asked to 'keep watch' but it soon changes to them being forced to stash weapons, money, or to carry drugs. 

County Lines includes ‘Gang’ belonging that some young people find attractive. This can feel like being part of a family and the gang can give a false sense of importance and feeling of being a part of something.

It doesn’t matter where you’re from or your background, children from any community can be groomed into county lines. However, those from poor households, who often  skip school or have problems at home may be more at risk.

What Can You Do?

There are things you can do to help stop your child from getting involved in gangs;

    • Encourage them to get involved in positive after school/weekend activities. 
    • Get to know their friends. 
    • Always know where your child is and who they are with.
    • Speak to them about the serious consequences that can occur from crime.
    • Be aware of what your child is doing on the internet.
    • Talk about your child’s behaviour with their school.
    • Let them know that they can always talk to you, no matter what about.

If Your Child is Already Involved

If your child is involved with a gang they are probably frightened and they may find it difficult to talk about. Make it clear that you are here to listen and help them.

  • Make sure they know they have a choice. 
  • Try and remain calm with them, accusing and anger can make the situation worse.
  • Try to understand the situation from their point of view, try to understand why they have joined the gang.
  • Ask them what you can do to help. 
  • Seek help from local community organisations or youth services. They can offer specialist support and programmes to help them leave the gang. 

The NCPCC has a gangs helpline and information.

You may like to show your son or daughter the Childline website, which has a section on gangs aimed at young people.

If you’re really worried, you can contact Norfolk police on 101 for advice. 

Who can Help?

The NCPCC is a registered charity fighting to end criminal exploitation of children in the UK. They have advice on;

  • How you can keep children safe
  • Where to go for help
  • The latest news stories relating to child safety.

We all have a duty to protect children and young people from harm. If you have any concerns about a child or young person in Norfolk it is always best to share them.

If you think a child is in immediate danger contact the police on 999.

If a child is not in immediate danger but at risk of harm contact the Norfolk Children's Advice and Duty Service (CADS) on 0344 800 8020. Children's Services will listen to your call. They may act immediately to keep a child safe and they also work with families to offer support at difficult times.

You can also contact a member of the Healthy Child Programme by calling Just One Number on 0300 300 0123 or texting Parentline on 07520 631590. Our opening hours are 8am-6pm Monday-Friday (excluding bank holidays) and 9am-1pm on Saturdays.

If you are 11-19 you can text ChatHealth on 07480 635060 for confidential advice from one of our team. 

To speak to other Norfolk parents and carers, you can join our online community forum below.

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