Teen gang members are taking weapons into schools for their own protection and some young crew members in the county are even carrying guns, a high ranking Northamptonshire policeman has revealed.
Inspector Daryl Lyon for Wellingborough and East Northants Neighbourhoods team has served in the force for 11 years and is the lead for a social media campaign tackling gang crime in the county.
The #gangsruinlives campaign is using social media and flyers to help people to recognise if someone they know might be getting involved in gang culture.
The campaign aims to reach people through Instagram, Facebook and Twitter and is currently targeting people in areas including the east of Northampton.
Insp Lyon has revealed some youths are getting their hands on guns.
He said: “Yes, well we are seeing firearms, we took 15 firearms off the streets within gangs.
“People will readily carry knives and other forms of weapons and they can spill over into school.
“They can be carried for protection, or for by those who are fearful of others.
“They are then immediately kicked out of school and are set onto a path of difficulties.”
The social media campaign has resulted in more than 1,500 hits to Northamptonshire Police and Crimestoppers’ websites and Northamptonshire Police monitor trends through what links readers click on.
On asking him whether estates such as those seen in the east of Northampton can be a breeding ground for gangs, he said: “Yes, estates are where there are lots of people they know and lots of people interested in getting involved in gangs.
“Put yourself in the shoe of a young 14-year-old who has perhaps had some difficulties at school and his aspirations are fairly low.
“Gangs give them all the things they want very quickly.
“For example, instant gratification and instant recognition and they have some degree of a hierarchy in the structure within a gang.
“Members get money and cash really easily and quickly.
“Part of our message is to say there isn’t just this aspect of gangs.
“Gang life isn’t about all the good stuff that you might be able to see today, there are actually all these other things, the violence that comes with it.
“You’ll be stepping on other gang members’ toes and that will cause an issue for you.”
Inspector Lyon said that youngest gang member he has known was 12-years-old and the main violence the force saw last year involved teens around 14, 15, or 16 years of age.
On asking why he believes youths drift into gang life, he said poor interaction with school can be to blame.
He said: “If you keep people in school that’s the best place they can be.”
Information can be found at http://northants.police.uk/page/gang-related-crime and anyone concerned about the gang-related activity can call 101 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.
Always call 999 if a crime is in progress or someone is in immediate danger.