If you suspect your son may be involved with crime.
This is one of the toughest things a parent may face, the acknowledgement that their son might be breaking the law. You might feel anger, shame, fear, responsibility, embarrassment, its’ normal to feel them all. The important thing is that you feel able to talk to your son and you know where to go for help. Please let the school know if you have any of these concerns and we may be able to offer advice and we can work together on a solution to help you both.
Why Children Commit Crime
There is generally no simple reason why children become involved in offending. Certain circumstances happening at the same time can cause children to commit crime such as:
- not doing well in school
- truanting from school
- difficult family relationships
- having friends who commit crime
- drug and alcohol misuse
- mental health issues, such as attention deficient and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
Parents are usually the most important people in their children’s lives. Their views and behaviours can have a good or bad influence on their children’s behaviour including offending behaviour.
Children are much less likely to get into trouble if their parents:
- have a good relationship with them and can talk openly with them
- can agree sensible clear rules and encourage them to stick to them as much as possible
- know where they are and what they are up to.
This doesn’t mean that a child from a loving home with a great relationship with their parents cannot be lead astray.
School and community
Children are also less likely to get into trouble if their parents have an interest in their school life and they have good relationships with their teachers.This all helps to encourage children to go to school as often as possible. Children are less likely to offend if their parents can help them to become involved in activities or interests in their local community. This can include youth clubs, sports clubs, uniformed groups and church groups.
What is a gang?
The word ‘gang’ means different things in different contexts, the government in their paper ‘Safeguarding children and young people who may be affected by gang activity’ distinguishes between peer groups, street gangs and organised criminal gangs.1
- Peer group
A relatively small and transient social grouping which may or may not describe themselves as a gang depending on the context.
- Street gang
“Groups of young people who see themselves (and are seen by others) as a discernible group for whom crime and violence is integral to the group's identity.”
- Organised criminal gangs
“A group of individuals for whom involvement in crime is for personal gain (financial or otherwise). For most crime is their 'occupation.”
It's not illegal for a young person to be in a gang – there are different types of ‘gang’ and not every ‘gang’ is criminal or dangerous. However, gang membership can be linked to illegal activity, particularly organised criminal gangs involved in trafficking, drug dealing and violent crime.
Young people join gangs for reasons which make sense to them, if not to adults. Some reasons why young people may join a gang are:
- Respect and status
- To gain friends
- A sense of belonging
- To find a substitute family
- Power Protection
- Peer pressure
Signs to look out for Gang Involvement
Gangs often leave signs of their presence and your child might adopt some of these signs; either as a member or as an associate of a gang. Any sudden changes in your child’s lifestyle should be discussed:
- Specific dress style
- Poor behaviour
- Talking differently – new slang or language with an aggressive tone
- Poor school results or skipping school
- Carrying weapons
- Unexplained injuries or sums of money/possessions
- Staying out unusually late
- Graffiti style tags on possessions
- Interest in music which glorifies weapons/gang culture
- Gangs will often have profiles on social or networking websites like Facebook or Twitter
What can you do?
There are things you can do to help stop your child from being involved in gangs.
- Talk to your child and listen
- Encourage them to get involved in positive activities and to think about their future employment
- Get involved in your child’s school activities
- Know your child’s friends and their families
- Always know where your child is and who they are with
- Help them to cope with pressure and how to deal with conflict without use of violence
- Speak to them about the serious consequences that occur from violent or illegal behaviour. Help them to understand the dangers of being in a gang and find constructive alternative ways to use their time
- Keep lines of communication open
- Be aware of what your child is doing on the internet
- Look for ways of disciplining children that do not involve harshness, anger or violence
- Work with other parents and schools to watch their behaviour
- Contact local voluntary organisations that provide mentoring and other support for young people
- Talk about your child’s behaviour with their school
What are County Lines?
County Lines is the police term for urban gangs exploiting young people into moving drugs from a hub, normally a large city, into other markets - suburban areas and market and coastal towns - using dedicated mobile phone lines or “deal lines”. Children as young as 12 years old have been exploited into carrying drugs for gangs. This can eventually involve children being trafficked away from their home area, staying in accommodation and selling and manufacturing drugs. This can include:
- Airbnb and short term private rental properties
- budget hotels
- the home of a drug user, or other vulnerable person, that is taken over by a criminal gang- this may be referred to as cuckooing.
How are young people recruited?
A child or young person might be recruited into a gang because of where they live or because of who their family is. They might join because they don’t see another option or because they feel like they need protection. Children and young people may become involved in gangs for many reasons, including:
- peer pressure and wanting to fit in with their friends
- they feel respected and important
- they want to feel protected from other gangs, or 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
Organised criminal gangs groom children and young people because they’re less suspicious and are given lighter sentences than adults
It can be difficult to talk about drugs with your kids. Use these tips to help you talk openly with your child. It is important that you let the school know so we can take action too, to support you at home.
1. Do not panic
If you find out your child has tried drugs, your first reaction may be anger or panic.
Wait until you're calm before discussing it with them, and show them love and concern rather than anger.
2. Do your homework about drugs
Make sure you know enough about drugs to talk to your child in an informed way.
The national drugs website FRANK is a reliable source of information.
3. Pick a good time
Do no try to talk to your child about drugs when they're in a rush – for example, before they leave for school. If they're using drugs, do not confront them when they're high.
It may be easier to talk to your child about drugs when the subject comes up during TV programmes or in the news. Mealtimes can also be a good time for chatting.
It's often easier to have a conversation side-by-side, such as when you're driving in the car, washing up together or preparing food.
4. Let them know your values
It's important for your children to know where you stand on drug taking.
Be clear about your opinions on drugs and let them know your boundaries. For example, you may say that you do not want any drugs in the house.
5. Avoid scare tactics
Teenagers often know more about drugs than you do, so there's no point in saying, "Smoking cannabis will kill you". Pointing out that cannabis can cause mental health problems, especially if you start smoking it in your teens, may be more of a deterrent.
6. Know your child's friends
Get to know your child's friends. Invite them to your house and take an interest in what’s going on in their lives.
If you have good reason to think your child's friends are involved in drugs, you may need to support your child to find new friends.
7. Let them know you're always there for them
If your child knows you're there for them whatever, they're more likely to be honest with you. They are also less likely to just tell you what they think you want to hear.
8. Listen as well as talk
Do not preach or make assumptions about what your child does. Let them tell you about their experiences, and try to listen without judging.
9. Do not give up
Do not be put off talking if your child argues, gets embarrassed or storms off. Parents' opinions matter to their children. Go back to the subject when they're calmer.
10. Let them be responsible for their actions
You're trying to help your child make good choices in life about drugs. But only they can say no to drugs.
Make sure they know you support them, but that it's up to them to make positive decisions.
11. Be realistic
Lots of teenagers experiment with drugs. But only a small number of those who experiment will develop a drug problem.
Shoplifting and Support for Parents and Children
Watch For Warning Signs
While shoplifting is still a major crime, it’s important to remember to stay calm and examine your child’s thought process and approach them with caution. There can be a lot of pressure on your child to look a certain way or buy certain name brand clothes. Many times young teens justify stealing by blaming it on their parents or the thrill it brings them and their friends.
If you suspect your child is shoplifting, here are a few warning signs to look out for:
- You see your teen with expensive items that you have not purchased for them and when you confront them about the items they say it’s a friends
- Excessive amounts of tags and package wrapping in the trash from stores you didn’t purchase from or random items you don’t recognize
- Your teen has extra cash lying around and can’t explain how or where they got it. This could be a sign they’re stealing and reselling items
- Your teen leaves the house with large backpacks and empty bags or heavy coats in warm weather
- You notice their friends have similar behaviour patterns
Accountability is Key
According to the National Association for Shoplifting Prevention (NASP), as a parent you need to be a positive role model and set clear rules. Encourage them to participate in extracurricular activities such as sports or other group activities after school. Explain to them the severity of a repeat offense for shoplifting in the eyes of the law and encourage them to be a good example for their friend group. Most importantly, you will have to trust them and be understanding. Always talk to them and answer any questions they might have. Generally, when a teen feels remorse, they will seldom repeat the offense.
Terrorism and Radicalisation in Children
Keeping children and young people safe from radicalisation and extremism We all want our children to live in a safe and nurturing environment so that they can grow up to become happy, confident adults. You will already know that your children can be vulnerable to risks both inside and outside the home, and will have taken steps to protect them so they can grow, learn and develop to their fullest potential. Protecting your children from radicalisation and extremism is similar to protecting them from other forms of harm you may be more familiar with such as drugs, gangs and sexual exploitation.
What is extremism and terrorism in the UK?
The Government is determined to protect young people from extremism and terrorism. This includes all forms of extremism across the spectrum: violent and nonviolent, from Islamist Extremism to the Extreme Far Right.
What is Extremism?
“Extremism is the vocal or active opposition to our fundamental values, including democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and the mutual respect and tolerance of different faiths and beliefs. We also regard calls for the death of members of our armed forces as extremist.”
What is Terrorism?
“Terrorism is defined as action designed to influence the government, intimidate the public, and done for the purpose of advancing a political, religious or ideological cause – that endangers or causes serious violence or harm to people, property, or seriously disrupts or interferes with an electronic system.
What can I do to protect my child?
As a parent, keeping your children out of harm’s way is always your first priority. Keeping young and impressionable minds safe from the risk of extremism is no different. Of course, you know your own child best, but this guidance may help you. Talking to your child, openly and regularly, is the best way to help keep them safe. You might find it helpful to start with a family discussion to set boundaries and agree what’s appropriate. Or you might need a more specific conversation about something you are worried about.
How do I talk to my child about extremism?
You might find it difficult to talk to your child about extremism, especially if you’re concerned about them. But, whatever the subject, and however old the child is, there are lots of ways to make it easier and more useful for you both. Ultimately, it’s always going to be a case of using your judgment on the best way to address an issue with your child, but the following could give you a few pointers. This is based on NSPCC advice on talking to your child about any difficult issue.
Creating the right situation
Think about where and how to talk about extremism so that your children will listen. You might want to have the conversation in a relaxed and neutral place and you might want to consider having it at a time when siblings are not around to interrupt.
Starting the conversation
It’s never easy to start a serious conversation with a child. If you do it too forcefully they may well clam up. But if you take a too subtle approach you might find the chat gets derailed and you’re soon talking about something entirely different. It can be a good idea to try to make the conversation relevant in some way. For example, if you’re watching TV together and the on-screen content has something to do with extremism, you could kick things off by asking your child what they would do in the same situation. Another good way to get your child’s interest could be to say that a friend of yours needs some advice about a particular issue and to ask them if they have any ideas. It’s a really nice way to show that you value their opinions while also finding out how much they know about a subject.
Listening is important too
When you want to have a serious conversation with your child it can be easy to forget that it should be a two-way thing. Start by asking questions that do not just have “yes” or “no” answers. This is going to give your child the chance to tell you what they really think. Then give them as long as they need to answer without interrupting. They may be nervous or still working out what they really think and that could take a little time. Do not be afraid to let your child ask you questions too. Be honest with them about how you feel about extremism and talk about your own experiences of it, if you have any. It’s also really important to let them know that they can to you, other people they trust or organisations like ChildLine, when anything is worrying them.
Set ground rules and boundaries
It’s useful to agree on some ground rules together. These will depend on your child’s age and what you feel is right for them, but you might want to consider:
· the amount of time they can spend online
· when they can go online
· the websites they can visit or activities they can take part in
Use parental controls to filter, restrict, monitor or report content. You can set up parental controls to stop your child from seeing unsuitable or harmful content online:
· Internet Service Providers (ISPs), such as Virgin Media, TalkTalk, Sky or BT, provide controls to help you filter or restrict content.
· Laptops, phones, tablets, game consoles and other devices that connect to the internet have settings to activate parental controls.
· Software packages are available – some for free – that can help you filter, restrict or monitor what your child can see online.
Check they know how to use privacy settings and reporting tools Check the privacy settings on any internet accounts your child has, like Facebook or online games, and remind them to keep their personal information private. And talk to your child about what to do if they see content or are contacted by someone that worries or upsets them. Make sure they know how to use tools to report abuse.
Useful Links to Support families with Children and Crime
Gang Related Links
Terrorism and Radicalisation Links
Shoplifting/Drugs and Anti-Social behaviour Links
Neighbourhood Police – to find details of your local team and find out more about the work they are doing in your area, type your postcode at www.police.uk
Crimestoppers – a free, confidential service where you can report information about a crime anonymously. Freephone: 0800 555 111. Web: www.crimestoppers–uk.org
Local Authority/Council – Connect to your Local Authority and find out about local specialised work with gangs, parent groups and activities for young people in your area. They can also refer you to parenting support programmes. Web: www.gov.uk/find-your-local-council
Family Lives – gives advice on all aspects of the parenting role and is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Calls are free. Tel: 0808 800 2222. Web: www.familylives.org.uk
National Council for Voluntary Youth Services – network of over 280 national organisations and regional and local networks that work with and for young people. Web: www.ncvys.org.uk
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: firstname.lastname@example.org Web: www.nspcc.org.uk/gangs
Anti–Bullying Alliance – Advice on bullying. Web: www.anti-bullyingalliance.org.uk/
Victim Support – a national charity which helps people affected by crime. Web: www.victimsupport.org Also available for children: ChildLine – offers a free, confidential helpline and online service dedicated to children and young people. Tel: 0800 1111
You should call 101 to report crime and other concerns that do not require an emergency response. Call 999 in an emergency.