Thurrock has at least one local gang, as well as known gang members – 'nominals' – or affiliates from other boroughs, usually having been moved to local accommodation by London authorities.
The gang culture in Thurrock is different to that in Essex or London. It is important that parents, carers and those working with young people, know the signs and can get support if they feel a young person is involved, or at risk of becoming involved, with gangs.
How it begins – grooming
Young people are enticed initially by the offer of free drugs or cash, or even just friendship and acceptance into a circle. This can develop into the promise of more money or rewards if they do something in return – for example, taking a parcel or packet to a specific address, selling small amounts of cannabis to friends or holding weapons.
Young people can be approached in:
- the local park
- outside shops
- outside school or college
- at youth clubs
- in communal flats
Girls can be enticed into gang affiliation just as much as boys.
The promise of trust and respect follows. This could be:
- an increase in the amount of money handed over
- larger amounts of drugs being given on a promise of a cash return – with the chance to make extra money for themselves
- being asked to go into a different area for a few days or weeks, to a flat to sell drugs
- being asked to hold a weapon
- being asked commit violent or sexual acts on others as punishment or revenge
With an ever-increasing number of young people wanting to get involved, and a higher earning potential through the ranks, there is a desire among gang members to sustain their place or move to the top end of the chain.
Increasingly, young people can be persuaded or encouraged to out-perform their peers. This could result in them being more open and suggestible to taking greater risks, involving more danger and behaviour of more serious concern – criminal or otherwise.
Vulnerable adults or those with learning disabilities may also be groomed. Gang members may approach them to use or take over their flat as a base – known as 'cuckooing'. Vulnerable people in this situation are at risk, and can be being coerced into behaviour they don't want to be part of.