How to break free from crime

It might feel hard now, but fast forward five years and you’ll be glad you did. Here’s how to break free from a life of crime…

teen guy with hood up sitting on pavement

There is more to life than crime.

What’s wrong with what I’m doing?

Lots of people start dealing drugs or get into crime because they think they’ve got nothing to lose.

But if the police catch you, you might end up with a criminal record and have to spend time away from your family and friends in a Young Offender Institution. It can be tough to get your life back on track after this.

You’ve got a lot to lose, and you should believe you can do better. Tamsin Gregory from St Giles Trust, which works with young people involved with crime, says: “The reality is we are always better than we think we are. We might as well aim high and go for it. The friends you have and the choices you make will define you. Choose wisely.”

But I’m not unhappy – what’s the problem?

Easy money, respect, being part of a group – crime can be tempting.

But most people who have experienced this lifestyle say things change very quickly. They:

  • feel trapped
  • don’t get the money they are promised
  • have to do difficult and scary things
  • get addicted and end up spending the money they make on more drugs
  • find things are getting out of their control (for example lots of people they don’t know have their number and keep calling them)
  • end up getting hurt, caught or set up

But my gang needs me. This is where I belong.

It might feel as if people have chosen you because they like you or think you have the right skills. That’s a great feeling. But have you considered maybe they’re using you?

Tamsin says: “We all want to dream big, earn big money, gain love and respect, have protection, and feel like we are the boss of our lives. But some people use this to get us to do things they don’t want to do alone”

Ex- dealers and ex- gang members say that crime, drug dealing and gang life isn’t glamorous. It can hurt you and people you care about.

How can I say no?

People might try and persuade you to do things and make you feel as if you owe them. You don’t.

  • Make up some good excuses. Tamsin says: “Practice the excuse, keep it simple, don’t go into detail and end the conversation as soon as possible”.
  • Don’t stay silent – talk to people around you. Criminals don’t want you to tell other people what’s going on. But they don’t really have that power over you.
  • Avoid people who might persuade you. Don’t reply to messages and, if you can, get your family to spread the word you’re not involved in crime anymore.

But these people are my friends – do I have to give them up?

Do your mates really want the best for you? Or do they just bring you into criminal or violent situations because they don’t want to go it alone?

If they encourage you to do bad things or only hang around because you have drugs, try to cut them loose. It’s your life and you only get one shot at it.

If I stop, I won’t have any money. Do I really have a choice?

If you ARE getting money from crime, it’s harder to stop. But remember that you’ll be more likely to get a job with good money in the future if you give up now. Think about new goals and plans and find people to help you.

This is pretty scary. Can anyone help me?

There are lots of local places that can help you to break free from crime, give up drugs, find other things to do and meet new people. Use our tool to find your nearest local services or download our free StepFinder app.

Gangsline provide support to young people involved in gang culture. Call their free and confidential helpline on 0800 032 9538.

St Giles Trust support ex-offenders in a number of ways. Explore their website or use their free and online Peer Assist service.

You can always call Childline for free if you’re under 18 on 0800 1111, or use our free support services here at The Mix.

Next Steps

  • Addaction helps people recover from drug and alcohol addictions.
  • Gangsline offers support to young people involved in gang culture. Call their free helpline on 0800 032 9538.
  • Chat about this subject on our Discussion Boards.



By Clare Foster

Updated on 15-Feb-2017