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gangs; graffiti; friends; illegal; group;


What is a gang?

Were you in a gang when you were a little kid?

  • Maybe you had a big enough family to be a gang of your own!
  • Maybe you and some other kids became a gang because you all liked doing the same sort of thing, went to the same school or lived in the same street.
  • Maybe you were the 'sand pit' gang, the 'cubby house' gang or the 'skipping rope' gang.
  • You might have tried to wear the same sort of clothes, have the same type of bikes or toys.
  • You might have had 'rules' for your gang or a special password like the kids in stories you liked.
  • You may have had a special place to leave notes or meet up.

It was fun to belong to the group, do the same sort of things and feel like you belonged.

But not all gangs are as safe and innocent as these.

As you get older you may come into contact with other kinds of gangs.

These gangs may have a special gang name, special gang symbols, like graffiti tags, a 'territory' that the gang thinks of as their own area and sometimes gang activities which could be illegal.

Why people join gangs

People join gangs for many reasons:

So that they can be part of something. They:

  • like the feeling of belonging
  • like to feel special
  • like to feel important
  • like to feel appreciated
  • may like to feel powerful
  • may even like to feel people are afraid of them
  • like the feeling of excitement
  • like being part of a larger group
  • like the feeling of supporting others and being supported
  • like the buzz of being in something which could be a bit risky
  • may be afraid of what may happen to them if they don't join the gang.

Joining a sports team, a club or other group can have the same effect without the possible dangers of being in a gang.

Some gangs can change your life

As you get towards teenage years it is natural to want to spend more time with your friends than with your family. You may feel really grown up and flattered that some older and tougher kids want you to join their gang.

  • Take care that you don't get influenced into joining the kind of gang that can lead to you getting into trouble and may even put your family at risk.
  • Some gangs insist that once you join you cannot leave and other members may threaten you and your family if you try to.
  • Some gangs insist on an initiation ceremony, which may be asking you to do something illegal or dangerous to show that you 'have the guts' to join.
  • Some gangs act like thugs and scare people in shopping centres, hang outside local shops, graffiti walls and threaten others who come into 'their' territory.
  • Some gangs go breaking into houses or vandalizing buildings.
  • You may be given expensive things by older gang members, but you could be expected to steal or do something illegal in return.
  • The more you do with the gang, the more you are under their influence and in their power.
    peer pressure in the group

If you are already in a gang and want to get out then you need to talk to a trusted adult about it and get help.

When gangs can be dangerous 


  • Being recognized as being with a gang could mean you are attacked by a rival gang.
  • Your life could be taken over by the gang.
  • You may start missing school and losing interest in other things.
  • It could upset your family and other friends.
  • You could be involved in crime.
  •  You could be in trouble with the police.
  • You could be put into secure care.
  • You could get a police record.
  • You could become a victim of the gang and be pressured, threatened and physically harmed if you do not do as they say.

Dr Kim says:

Dr KimIf you hang around with a gang in public places then you may be moved on by the police. It is quite natural for groups of kids to want to hang out together. But big groups of kids hanging around can seem scary to others and another gang could come along and start something that will get you into trouble.

Getting involved with some gangs known to the police, can lead to problems with drugs, alcohol, criminal activities and being afraid all your life that you or your family will never be safe.

If you are worried about being in a gang or afraid of others who are in a gang, talk to trusted adults like family, a school counsellor, or a doctor, or ring the Kids Helpline 1800 55 1800.

Other people who can help you or your friend in South Australia are:

  • South Australian Police Assistance 131 444
  • Teacher or school counsellor.

If you don't live in South Australia you can find help from your local health centre, school counsellors or the nearest helpline, or look for Youth services online for ones near to you.

If you mix with the wrong gangs
You may end up in fights
You may end up in trouble on dark nights.
If you try to look good. You really should
Consider changing your personality
And get with reality.
Because you're the one who's going to get caught.
You're the one who needs to be taught.

Make the right choices and live a good life!


belonging to a gang

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We've provided this information to help you to understand important things about staying healthy and happy. However, if you feel sick or unhappy, it is important to tell your mum or dad, a teacher or another grown-up.


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