Fear drives one teenager in six to join vigilante gangs

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The Independent Online

One in six teenagers are joining vigilante gangs in fear for their own safety, according to a study by a government-backed think tank. The report, the first into ethnic tensions among young people in the wake of 11 September, paints a startling picture of inner cities at breaking point.

One in six teenagers are joining vigilante gangs in fear for their own safety, according to a study by a government-backed think tank. The report, the first into ethnic tensions among young people in the wake of 11 September, paints a startling picture of inner cities at breaking point.

Researchers found that nine out of 10 Asian schoolchildren believed carrying a weapon for self-defence was "acceptable" because they had been attacked, bullied or insulted.

One in six of all teenagers surveyed have been driven to depression and suicidal thoughts because the police and schools are failing to protect them. Young people said they broke the law only because they felt at risk. They have lost faith in authority and do not believe the police can protect them.

The findings will be published tomorrow by the Foreign Policy Centre, whose patron is Tony Blair. They are based on interviews by a youth charity with more than 2,000 children, aged between 10 and 16, all living in one London borough.

The research calls into question the Government's drive to tackle truancy and youth crime, which has focused on young people as criminals, not victims. Almost half of the children interviewed did not believe their school had an anti-bullying policy despite the fact all schools are obliged to have one.

Earlier this year, the Youth Justice Board published a study which revealed that one in four schoolchildren admitted they have committed a crime in the past 12 months. The number admitting to carrying a weapon other than a gun rose from 50 per cent last year to 55 per cent this year.

Adrienne Katz, the author of the report, "Reconnecting Britishness", said the Home Office had "overlooked" the fact that many teenagers carried weapons out of fear. The Government's attempts to make people feel part of the community through citizenship classes were doomed while young people continued to feel unsafe.