Could your child be in a gang? Evidence suggests more youngsters across the UK are joining gang. a move which could lead them into illegal and dangerous activities. Reporter SOPHIE DOUGHTY reports on the situation in the North East and what's being done to help.
LAWLESS gangs of teenagers have been blamed for bringing terror to estates and cities across the UK.
But how many Tyne-side parents would know if their children had become part of a gang?
Today the Government has issued new guidelines to help people spot the early-warning signs.
And things like new nicknames, bizarre graffiti tags on school books, and unexplained stashes of cash are among the things parents, teenagers and youth workers are being urged to look out for.
Recent studies have revealed Tyneside does not have the same gang culture problems as other major cities.
However, the advice, published today by Children and Young People's Minister, Beverley Hughes, has been welcomed by police, councillors and youth workers in the region who hope it will help prevent our streets being plagued by gang warfare.
Nationally there is evidence showing that more and more young people, including girls, are becoming gang members, particularly when they have older siblings involved in gangs.
This can quickly lead to illegal and dangerous activities, such as carrying knives and guns or drug crime.
The new guidance urges parents and people that work with young people to look out for 16 signs that should ring alarm bells.
Minister for Children and Young People, Beverley Hughes said: "Involvement in gang activity is a very real and complex issue facing many children and young people, and this guidance aims to help early detection, intervention and support for those at risk.
"People working with young people are ideally placed to spot the signs, and to make sure identifying them becomes a routine part of their work.
"Lots of work is being done by those who work with young people and across Government to tackle the problem of gangs. Working together is the only way we can intervene early and help young people stay away from the harm caused by gang activity. "Gang warfare has been blamed for a growing number of violent incidents between young people, especially in London, Liverpool, Manchester and Birmingham.
Recent high profile incidents include the murder of schoolboy Rhys Jones. Teenage gang member Sean Mercer was jailed for life for the killing, which happened when 11-year-old Rhys was caught in crossfire. However, a recent report, commissioned amid concerns teen crime clans were taking hold in Newcastle, said there was no firm evidence that gangs were operating in the city.
The study found Newcastle is not facing the same problems as places like London, Birmingham and Manchester, where youngsters armed with guns are involved in pushing hard drugs.
Instead, most youth offending centres around booze-fuelled anti-social behaviour.
Coun Ian Graham, of Newcastle City Council said: "Newcastle has not been affected by the types of youth gangs seen in other parts of the country," he said. "Even so, we cannot be complacent.
"Although young people often gather in groups, which can intimidate older residents, this is overwhelmingly just friends socialising, and it is incredibly rare this leads to antisocial behaviour."
Working together is the only way we can intervene early and help young people stay away from the harm caused by gang activity
DETAILS: The Government has issued a list of early-warning signs that may reveal if a child is part of a gang
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|Publication:||Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)|
|Date:||Mar 19, 2009|
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