A targeted campaign, as part of an operation aimed at tackling gang and gun crime, is already showing signs of success, Northamptonshire Police says.
The #gangsruinlives campaign is using social media, as well as printed handouts, to raise awareness and offer advice to teenagers and those around them in how to recognise that someone they know might be getting involved in gang culture and what they can do to report it and get support.
Chief Inspector Lara Alexander-Lloyd said: “Early intervention is vital and our social media campaign has been developed to reach teenagers and their families by using platforms such as Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.
"This is currently being targeted to people in areas including Wellingborough, Rushden and eastern district of Northampton as well as across the county through our social media and web pages. The visuals are thought-provoking and signpost people to our website where they can find out how to notice the signs someone they know has become involved in a gang, how to report it and other helpful advice and links.
"The charity Crimestoppers is also running a concurrent campaign for us to encourage anonymous reporting which helps build our intelligence profile around gang leaders. It’s highly promising that we are already seeing its effectiveness since launching it on March 13.
The campaign has resulted in more than 1,500 hits to Northamptonshire Police and Crimestoppers’ websites.
“Gang culture can appear glamorous and enticing to young people but the reality is the opposite. Being part of a gang can ruin the lives of those involved and those around them. Gang culture can and does, lead to violence and serious injury. It can also lead to getting a criminal record and a long prison sentence. A criminal record can affect people for the rest of their lives – their chances of getting a job, further education and travelling to certain countries," she adds.
“We want to make people aware of the facts to prevent their involvement in the first place and offer them support to get out of a downward spiral if they have started to become involved.
“The creation of our dedicated team in 2015 to tackle gang-related crime has resulted in nearly 100 years of prison sentences, 29 convictions and there are 17 people currently charged and awaiting trial. This success is a result of the excellent work of officers and staff in various roles including the dedicated investigation teams, community policing and safeguarding as well as working with partner agencies and community groups.”
Chief Constable Simon Edens also backs the campaign and is encouraging people to retweet and share using the hashtag #gangsruinlives.
He said: “Gangs and guns are words people normally associate with big inner cities, not counties such as Northamptonshire, but gang culture, unfortunately, is now a widespread issue across the country.
“Social media is an excellent way to both reach very specific groups of people and as a way of spreading the message, starting a conversation and getting people thinking. We are dedicated to protecting people from harm and I will be taking an active part in tweeting about it.”
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.