Youth Crime

On this page we'll look at the following, simply click on the links below to be taken straight to the section.


thirteen knife crime
thirteen antisocial behaviour
thirteen drug running
thirteen radicalisation
thirteen gangs


Knife Crime

What exactly is knife crime?

Knife crime includes stabbing someone. But it's also illegal to:

  • carry a knife
  • threaten someone with a knife
  • commit a crime with the use of a weapon - like a robbery
  • commit a crime by pretending you have a real knife


What would happen if I got caught?

  • Some people carry weapons like knives to feel protected, because of peer pressure or to feel powerful. If you have a weapon you might not always plan to use it - whether you use the weapon or not, it is still illegal.
  • Police have the power to stop and search you if they think you or your friends have a weapon. You could be arrested or go to prison for carrying, buying or selling a weapon.
  • Situations involving weapons can get out of control very easily and you might not have time to think about your actions. You might feel safe by carrying a weapon, but it's very dangerous.
  • If you carry a weapon, you are putting your life and your future in danger. To get help and support, you could also speak to an adult you trust like a parent, youth worker or other family member.
  • If you or someone you know is in serious danger, you should dial 999 for urgent help.


If you carry a weapon, you are more likely to:

  • be attacked or threatened by other gangs who use weapons
  • be arrested by the police
  • kill or injure yourself badly with your weapon
  • hurt or kill others with your weapon
  • hurt innocent people if a fight happens
  • be charged with murder through joint enterprise if you're at a place where someone is killed, even if you weren't carrying the weapon.


Why do people carry knives?

Knives can cause serious injury or even death. People who carry knives may not ever plan to use them or hurt anyone but they may find themselves in a situation that gets out of control.

Someone might want to carry one because they:

  • are scared and worried about their safety or the safety of friends
  • want to show off and scare people
  • want respect from other people


How can I avoid knife crime?

  • You may feel pressure from other people at school.
  • You might want be in a gang.
  • You might feel like you have to protect yourself but carrying a knife is dangerous for you and other people.
  • It has been proven that if you carry a knife or weapon you are more likely to be targeted by people who want to hurt you and are more likely to be injured or even die because of this.
  • You shouldn't ever have to feel scared.


The Consequences

The effects of knife crime aren't always what you think - even when no-one gets injured.

If you get caught with a knife

Get caught and you face a prison sentence of up to five years. That's just for possessing a knife in a public place.

If you hurt someone there will be other charges to answer and you could go to prison for longer.

Your loved ones

No parent or grandparent wants to think that their child or grandchild is going to have to go to prison. For many, the only nightmare that's any worse is the thought of you getting injured or killed.

Any brothers and sisters you have will be devastated at the prospect of you not being around for months or even years. They could face lots of hassles at school and on the street too - and you won't be around to stick up for them.

Where you live

If you pull a knife on someone their mates could come looking for you at home. This could put your family in danger, as well as your friends.

Your future

If you get convicted for a knife crime you'll have a criminal record. Sentences over 30 months stay on your record for life.

People with criminal records - especially for violent behaviour - find it much more difficult to find employment.

You can also be barred from doing some jobs altogether, like working around children, young people or the elderly, or even being a bouncer in a pub or club.

Criminal records for violence also make it harder to get into college or university.

Your holidays and travel

Lots of countries don't let people in who have criminal records, like the USA, Canada and Australia - even just on holiday.


The Sharp Facts

  1. Possession of a knife carries a prison sentence of up to 5 years even if it's not used.
  2. If you are caught with a knife it doesn't matter if it was for your own protection or you were carrying it for someone else - you will be arrested and prosecuted. Self-protection is not a reasonable excuse for carrying an offensive weapon.
  3. The legal definition of an offensive weapon includes anything intended to be used to harm another person, like a sharpened comb. It's also illegal to carry a 'disguised knife' - anything with a concealed blade or sharp point that's made to look like an everyday object (like a pen, cigarette lighter or lipstick).
  4. There is no ‘safe place’ to stab someone. Get stabbed in the heart and you can lose all of your blood in one minute. But a wound in the arm or the leg can still kill and young people have died from wounds to the leg because an artery was severed.
  5. Knife crime can affect anyone, not just people in gangs. Innocent bystanders can get caught in the middle of other people's disputes and suffer trauma, serious injuries or worse.
  6. Police can - and do - stop and search anyone they think is carrying a weapon.
  7. It's illegal to carry a knife or offensive weapon in a public place without a reasonable excuse. Reasonable excuses include those who need them for work, like fishermen or carpet fitters, but this only applies while they're actually at work.
  8. If you stab somebody and they die, you may face a life sentence.
  9. Even if it's not you who does it, if someone is injured or killed by a knife in your presence you could be sent to prison for murder or attempted murder in what is referred to as ‘joint enterprise’.
  10. It's illegal for shops to sell knives to anyone under 18 and buying a knife under the age of 18 is an offence. This includes kitchen knives and even cutlery.
  11. By carrying a knife, you are much more likely to get stabbed yourself as situations involving weapons can quickly get out of control.
  12. Knives are the most common weapons used in killings of young people.
  13. If you have a criminal record you might not be accepted into a college or university, get a job, or travel to some countries, like the USA, Canada or Australia.



Antisocial Behaviour

What is Antisocial Behaviour?

Antisocial behaviour (ASB) is defined in law as behaviour which causes, or is likely to cause, harassment, alarm or distress to others. Some examples of this behaviour include: noise nuisance, such as playing loud music or slamming doors. using or threatening violence.

Antisocial behaviour may include things such as:

  • Rowdy, noisy behaviour - such as playing loud music or slamming doors
  • Night time noise from houses or gardens
  • Abusive and/or intimidating language
  • Spitting in a public place
  • Threatening behaviour
  • Vandalism, graffiti and fly-posting
  • Dealing or buying drugs on the street
  • Litter and fly-tipping rubbish
  • Drinking alcohol in the street
  • Setting off fireworks late at night
  • Underage drinking of alcohol

Anti-social behaviour doesn’t just make life unpleasant, it can ruin lives and make the area feel unsafe.

Criminal Behaviour Orders (CBOs) are made by the criminal court following an application by the prosecutor, either on their own initiative, or following a request from the Police or Council. An application can be made following conviction for any criminal offence where the court is satisfied, beyond reasonable doubt, that the offender has engaged in behaviour which caused or was likely to cause harassment alarm or distress AND that the court considers that making the order will help prevent the offender from engaging in such behaviour in future. A CBO can be made against anyone aged 10 or above and can include positive requirements on the offender requiring them to address the underlying causes of their behaviour. For example this may include attendance at a drug or alcohol clinic or attendance at a job readiness course. Breach of a CBO is a criminal offence. For over 18’s, the maximum penalty is five years imprisonment and for a person aged under 18, the sentencing powers in the youth court apply.

Civil Injunctions can be sought in the County or High Court for over 18s and the Youth Court for under 18s on application by the Police, Council, Registered Social Landlord, Environment Agency or NHS Protect. Whilst Civil Injunctions are similar to CBOs in that they can include prohibitions and positive requirements, applications are generally made before any criminal conviction. The Civil Injunction is aimed at stopping individuals from engaging in anti-social behaviour quickly, nipping problems in the bud before they escalate. The Council and Police already use early intervention tools, such as Fairway letters and Acceptable Behaviour Contracts, successfully once we have evidence to prove that a person is behaving antisocially. However, Civil Injunctions will be considered if these do not address the behaviour or where there is an immediate need to obtain a civil injunction to protect members of the public or employees and contractors.

Acceptable Behaviour Contracts – provide an opportunity for individuals whose behaviour is not acceptable to enter into an agreement with the Council and the Police not to do specified things which it is alleged they have done in the past. During this time, perpetrators are provided with additional support to divert them away from their previous unacceptable behaviour. They last for a minimum of six months. If they are breached, this could result in an application to the Courts for a Civil Injunction.

Fairway letters are used as a way to inform parents/guardians that their child has been involved in antisocial behaviour. This gives parents a chance to deal with the behaviour within the family. Fairway letters can also be sent directly to adults where it is alleged they have engaged in antisocial behaviour.



Drug Running

What is it?

Urban gangs are sending junior members to market towns or coastal villages, where they run increasingly sophisticated drug dealing franchises. The gangs recruit local rural children to do the grunt work while senior gang members manage operations from their headquarters.

Senior gang members don’t choose just anyone to go into the country. They need a workforce that’s easily controlled – so it’s often the youngest members who are put on the train.

Children as young as 12 are known to be transporting and selling drugs for urban gangs.

They can spend weeks at a time in the countryside, returning only when their supply is sold out. Orders from local customers are relayed to them via a dedicated phone line – the so-called ‘country line’ - which is usually manned by higher-ranking gang members back in London.

When an order comes in, the runners go out to deliver it.

Although it is not illegal to be a member of a gang much of the activity that criminal street gangs get caught up in is. If caught committing an offence you could end up with a longer sentence just for being part of a gang.

There are many different and complex reasons as to why people join gangs. It could be for status, to feel a sense of belonging, to make money, to earn respect or for protection from other gangs.

Status is a key factor that influences members of criminal street gangs. Having access to weapons provides a gang with an immediate status – as other rival gangs will be fearful. This is why many gangs pose with photos of guns and knives on their social networking sites - to ‘show off’ how easily they can access weapons.

It is illegal to carry a weapon and if caught they will face time in prison.

Many street gangs are involved with the supply and dealing of drugs. This can be a way that gangs make money. Dealing in drugs, like running a business has many different roles and levels of people controlling the entire operation. One emerging operation is negatively impacting the lives of thousands of young people is known as 'county lines'.

County Lines

Gang members are moving into drugs markets outside their local area’s where they usually live and operate, particularly coastal towns, market towns, or commuter towns close to large cities because they are unknown to the local police, there is less competition locally from rival gangs, and non-metropolitan police forces tend to have less experience of addressing this type of activity. The exploitation of vulnerable people is central to county lines. For example, young people are groomed and/or coerced into moving or selling drugs, and the homes of vulnerable adults can be taken over as a base from which drugs are sold.


Cuckooing is a type of crime whereby a drug dealer befriends a vulnerable individual who lives on his or her own. The drug dealer then moves in, takes over the property, and turns it into a drug den.

Exploitation of Children as 'Runners'

A commonly recurring theme in county lines is the exploitation of children and young people. County lines operators often groom and use young people as ‘runners’, making them carry drugs or money to and from the areas where the operation has been established. This is often via train but also by car and coaches.

Children are also often made to stay over at the location (known as ‘the trap’ or ‘trap house’) and made to distribute the drugs in the area.

Some criminal gangs, usually as part of gang initiation, are involved in sex crimes and there has been a significant increase in cases of gang rape in the UK over the past 5 years. The role and relationship of girls in criminal street gangs is very complex. Girls affiliated with gangs are often used by multiple gang members to establish status, seek revenge and even used to lure rival gang members in honey traps.

Although criminal street gangs are predominately male only, there are some girl only street gangs operating in the UK too.

If involved with a criminal street gang it can be very difficult for members to leave. There are many organisations that can help and support young people with gang exit strategies.




What is Radicalisation?

Radicalisation is when someone starts to believe or support extreme views. They could be pressured to do things illegal by someone else or they might change their behaviour and beliefs.

This could happen if they feel:

  • isolated and lonely or wanting to belong
  • unhappy about themselves and what others might think of them
  • embarrassed or judged about their culture, gender, religion or race
  • stressed or depressed
  • fed up of being bullied or treated badly by other people or by society
  • angry at other people or the government
  • confused about what they are doing
  • pressured to stand up for other people who are being oppressed

Someone who has been radicalised might believe that sexual, religious or racial violence is OK. They may be influenced by what they see online and they might have links to extreme groups that preach hate (like Nazi groups or Islamic extremists like Daesh also known as ISIS or IS).

Having extreme views can be dangerous and this can often lead to harmful and illegal activities involving violence, attacks, discrimination or hate - which you could be arrested or sent to prison for. This can affect you and your future.

Is someone I know being radicalised?

You might be unsure if something is wrong or not so it can help to think about the person you’re worried about. Ask yourself how well you know them? How do they usually behave? What kind of things do they usually do? And are you noticing anything different?

If someone is at risk of being radicalised they might:

  • talk positively about dangerous groups or people who promote hate, or make it seem like these groups are OK
  • spend time with people or on websites that promote violence, hate, racism, homophobia or islamophobia
  • become secretive and not want to talk to anyone about where they spend time or what they’re doing online
  • refuse to talk to people from a certain country or who have a different sexuality or belief
  • be rude, aggressive or violent towards a particular group of people, for example, Jewish, Muslim or gay people or someone who supports a certain political party.

If you’re worried about someone, it’s always better to get support, even if you aren’t sure.

What is terrorism?

Terrorism is when someone or a group of people use violence and fear to try to scare other people.

A person who does this is called a terrorist. A terrorist can look like anyone. They could be male or female, young or old and from any race or religion. They might use politics, religion or culture to make it seem like violence and hate are OK.

Any kind of terrorism is wrong.

What is extremism?

When people have very strong opinions, these could become extreme.

People who have certain beliefs about politics or religions which are hateful, dangerous or against the law are often known as extremists. This harmful behaviour is called extremism.

Extremists might use violence and damage to express their views. Extremist racial or religious groups might use hate, fear or violence to control and influence people. You may have heard different groups mentioned, like Daesh, also known as ISIS or IS but there are other groups like Combat 18 who are also considered to be extremists.




What is a gang?

Young people join gangs for lots of different reasons. Some of these include:

  • fitting in with friends and other gang members
  • having the same interests as other people, like sports or music
  • feeling respected and important
  • to be protected from bullying or from other gangs
  • making money from crime or drugs
  • gaining status and feeling powerful

Hanging out with your friends can be a good way to get to know each other and share hobbies and interests but it can become dangerous if you join a gang that does illegal things like theft or gun and knife crime.

You don't have to join a gang if you don't feel comfortable or sure about things.

Is it illegal to be in a gang?

Being in a gang isn't against the law but being involved with illegal activities (that some gangs do) could be an offence.

You could go to prison or end up with a criminal record if you're involved with:

  • gun and knife crime
  • violence or harassment
  • turf wars or postcode wars
  • carrying, using or selling drugs
  • theft or other illegal activities
  • rape and sexual assault

If you have a criminal record you might not be:

  • accepted into a university, college or higher education
  • able to get a job, internship or do work experience
  • allowed to travel to some countries, like the USA

It's important to think about your future and how being in a gang can affect your life.

Worried about violence and illegal things?

Some gangs are involved in crime, drugs, violence and other illegal activities. If you're part of a gang like this it can be dangerous.

It can also mean being:

  • controlled by older members of the gang
  • given money or things you like but this could easily change and you might be treated differently
  • threatened or forced to do things you don't want to do
  • worried about your safety and the safety of your family or friends
  • worried about fights with other gangs

It is important to think about your future and how being in a gang can affect your life. For example, not being able to finish school or college, not being able to get a job and not being able to ever feel safe.

How can I leave a gang?

How you leave a gang can depend on what your position is within the gang. It’s not always easy.

But it’s possible to leave safely and without any problems.

You might worry that:

  • other gangs might still see you as a rival and could try to harm you
  • the people in your gang won't allow you to leave or will make it hard for you
  • your family or friends could be targeted if you leave
  • you won't have any friends or fit in any more
  • you won't feel safe if you're not in the gang

You may want to think about the positive things in your life and want you want your future to be like.

Some tips to help you leave a gang:

  • try to spend less time with the gang and find friends who are not in gangs
  • try to avoid places where you know the gang will be
  • speak to someone you trust like a family member, teacher or youth worker
  • you can call the police by dialling 999 for urgent help if you're in danger
  • focus on things that you enjoy like sports, music, reading or find new hobbies

How can I help someone in a gang?

It can be really worrying if you know someone who is in a gang and you want to help them. You don't have to cope with things on your own, you can talk to someone you trust to get help.

You could also try:

  • letting the person know how you feel
  • encouraging the person to think about their safety and their future
  • asking an adult for help, like a teacher or parent who you trust
  • encouraging the person to contact Childline
  • calling 999 if you think the person is in danger and needs urgent help

How do I report something?

If you have seen or been involved in something in a gang reporting it can feel scary and confusing. You might worry about getting into trouble or making things worse. It's important to think about your future, your safety and what feels right for you. You don't have to deal with this on your own.

Here are some ways of reporting things:

  • asking an adult for help, like a family member, youth worker or teacher
  • calling Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 or giving information online. You will be asked questions about what has happened, but you don't have to give your name
  • calling Childline free on 0800 1111 or having 1-2-1 chat with a counsellor. It's confidential and you can get in touch at any time. Calls are free, even from mobile phones
  • contacting the police by dialling 101 to report something that already happened. If it's an emergency or someone is injured or being threatened, you can call 999 for urgent help. The police are there to protect people and help stop crime.




Knife Crime

Knife Crime

Anti-social Behaviour

Anti-social Behaviour

Drugs & Drug Running