Grace Robinson has researched gangs and child exploitation for her PHD at Edge Hill University. Her research involved children and young adults in the Preston and Merseyside areas, predominantly males.
She said: “All young people have different backgrounds, but the people I have come into contact with all have experienced a significant lack of love.
“They will say they join a gang to make money, but when you read between the lines, it’s about a sense of belonging.
“Drug dealing is usually low-level, they’re not making enough money to move out of the area.
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“But cannabis is a big factor, it’s one of the biggest things in all this. They get it from a drug dealer, who puts their arms around these young people.”
Grace believes money or social status is not a key factor in gang membership, explaining why knife-crime incidents are being seen across the social spectrum and across areas.
>>>Read about Penwortham knife attack: https://www.lep.co.uk/news/crime/penwortham-knife-attack-here-is-everything-we-know-so-far-1-9674269She said: “Children from financially well-off backgrounds are still drawn into gangs, because there’s something missing from home - a lack of attention or affection.
“I have seen it in Formby, which is an affluent area, where the parents both had good jobs, and their son went to Toxteth to join a gang with people who he felt a connection to.”
She added: “The very nature of gangs is territorial, and they want to protect the area they’re in.
“It’s chaotic and violent, and most of the young people carry knives because other young people are, and they have the capability to use them.
“They don’t feel safe, there is a lack of trust in the police, and it’s about personal protection.
“I don’t think they’re going around with the intention of using the knives, but they don’t want to be the only ones caught without one.”
From her research, Grace believes physical distance - being jailed or a family being moved away from an area - is the only way that breaks a connection with gangs.
>>>Read about Lancashire's knife criminals walking free from jail: https://www.lep.co.uk/your-lancashire/lancashire-s-knife-criminals-walking-free-from-court-1-9659888