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Reggie Yates: Teen Gangs

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Reggie Yates Reggie Yates | 12:45 UK time, Monday, 26 March 2012

Reggie Yates

I grew up in a single parent family on a tough council estate in North London where many people lived on benefits. Like many kids in my area I was offered the chance to get involved in gangs and make some fast money.

But I was lucky. I was also given the opportunity to take up acting, and eventually that led to a part in a TV series. Drama gave me a way out, and provided a different direction to my life. I've always known that I had been lucky in that respect, but making this film about teen gangs has really driven home to me just how fortunate I've been.

When I began working on Reggie Yates: Teen Gangs (Tuesday, 9pm) I had some pretty firm views. I started out thinking that people who become involved in gangs were just weak or foolish.  But the journey I’ve made over the last few months has opened my eyes.

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I've met young people up and down the country who really didn’t have much choice about whether or not to join up with a gang. Some did it for protection, others just to survive.

Take Darren, a bespectacled 22 year old from Manchester. He looked much more like the kind of bright young college student that you might find at lunchtimes in the library, but he'd spent time in prison as part of Manchester's notorious Gooch Gang, and had been involved in drug dealing, violence and carrying weapons.

I was shocked, because he looked such an unlikely gang member. But as I chatted to him it became apparent just why he'd joined up. He'd spent his early years being shunted around care homes – forty two of them in total - and had been bullied at school. He wanted to show that he wasn’t to be messed with, and for him the gang was like a surrogate family – a group that would protect him if he was threatened.

The other thing that surprised me on my journey is just how strong a part money plays in all of this. Time and again, I was told that people join gangs for easy money, and the prestige that goes with it.

Perhaps I shouldn't have been so surprised. In these consumer-driven times when people seem obsessed with gadgets and material possessions, money gives you status and power. It's a way of showing how successful you are; almost a way of keeping the score.

I wanted to be involved in this project because I felt I could relate to the people we were filming, but for me it’s been a learning experience. Perhaps the key lesson I take from it is just how difficult the lives of some young people are. Many have grown up without a stable family background and without any good role models in their lives.

Worse than that, some think that they don’t have any real prospects. They don't have a real stake in society, so why bother obeying society's rules? Others simply don’t expect to live beyond the age of 25.

Perhaps what most of them really need is a future that they believe is worth staying out of trouble for.

Reggie Yates: Teen Gangs is on Tuesday 27 March at 9pm.


  • Comment number 1.

    I grew up in Dorset and this whole subject is completely alien to me. I cannot and i'm not sure that I will ever be able to understand gang culture. Why are people in similar situations so against each other? And how does a gang decide who they like and who they don't like? And why does violence seem to be the only answer? Or is this something that the media has exaggerated?! Please open my mind! Thanks guys xxx

  • Comment number 2.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 3.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 4.

    Having got the practical, factual stuff out of the way in my previous post I would like to recount the experience of a young man who - in order to get his teaching qualifications in this country - worked for three weeks in an area rife with gang culture. One of his duties was to take a group of primary age children on a day trip outside the area. This involved a train journey. Many of the children had never been on a train and one of the children was so frightened she wet herself. I would like to see a one-week annual camping holiday in the country as part of the national curriculum. These children have little opportunity to expand their vision and I believe consequently become abnormally and aggressively defensive about "their" tiny territory. Just a thought.

  • Comment number 5.

    My previous post (removed for copyright reasons) quoted a report entitled 'Why do drug dealers live with their moms' which established that gang members made a pathetic amount of money from drug dealing and in fact could earn more working flipping burgers - an alternative legal profession with the distinct advantage of carrying very little risk of being harmed! Since this programme came to the conclusion that money is one of the main motivating factors for joining a gang perhaps the report should be widely circulated in areas where gang culture is seen as a desirable career choice. Gang culture isn't glamorous (as the name of the report implies), isn't lucrative, and - despite the name "gang" implying some kind of
    collective security - certainly isn't safe. That is the message which should be pressed home.

  • Comment number 6.

    The police are not doing their job these are the real criminals robbing the tax payer .
    We need a new police force and to get rid of the british monarchy they are all corrupt.

  • Comment number 7.

    Watching this program has made me reflect on some things ... where im still growing up their is this group whom has many of my old friends in it . They fight with everyone including my boyfriend , that was a very bad insodent , they cause trouble and wont leave anyone alone . Personly I think its their call if they are doing something like this but some people need help , most of my old freinds who are now in this group came from perfectly good familys , they have money , have a good chance in life but then other ones dont have anything . Its up to those people who want to go out and causing trouble leaving people to die on the streets . My community was fine till about 3 to 4 when this group had formed ... their has been fights , break ins , things like this need to stop ! My boyfreind got left to die and so did a few more other people that night all because of the same group of people , only because they come into a diffrent post code area they get beaten up . You here of people like Reggie going out and finding stuff about people in gangs like this but nothing gets done about things like this , its time things like this come to an end and these silly people get help !


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