'Police stop and search can save lives': Former gang member tells LBC how he could have been deterred from crime

2 December 2022, 13:05 | Updated: 2 December 2022, 13:07

Being part of a gang was a 'relief to the pain' this caller felt as a child.

Melissa Fleur Afshar

By Melissa Fleur Afshar

The former gang member told LBC that he feels sorry for his younger self, and that the adults around him should have helped.

"I feel sorry for my younger self, I don't believe that people noticed what was going on or that they could see that I was lost," said Paul.

The 43-year-old former gang member opened up to LBC about his troubled youth, how he managed to turn his life around, and how he could have been helped over 20 years ago.

Paul argued that if the adults around him, especially his school teachers, had taken notice of his behaviour and wellbeing then things could have turned out wildly different.

"I grew up in Hackney on a very rough council estate," said Paul.

"I was involved in gang culture when I was younger, I was in and out of young offender institutions, I came from a one-parent-family and I was lost."

Paul opened up to Nick Ferrari that he "started smoking at 8 years old" and that he spent time in Feltham Young Offenders Institution.

The former offender managed to change the trajectory his life in his early 20s and has since stayed away from crime and found happiness in Canterbury, where he lives with his family.

Now that his son has reached his early 20s, a pivotal period in Paul's own life, he has reflected on his complex youth and has told LBC that understands how young offenders feel and that he knows they could be kept away from crime.

"I fully understand what it's like to be a young person growing up in that kind of environment, you [suffer from] a lot of peer pressure," said Paul.

Paul continued that he was drawn to crime and to "being part of a gang and going round causing trouble", purely because he wanted something to relieve the "pain" that he was in.

According to Paul, many young offenders are enticed by crime "because they are already lost and have problems going on at home."

Paul then explained that for him another lurch towards criminal activity was "not having a present father", his mum not understanding his feelings, and being bullied at school.

"[When you are] being bullied at school by other kids, the only way to fight back is to then need to be feared, in order to get around that obstacle you need people to fear you, you almost become the bully," he summed up.

The pair then delved further into Paul's turbulent childhood, as he shared with Nick that he often "gravitated towards the wrong people" and that his mum had to accompany him to court when he was "really young."

After experiencing a serious car accident at 23 and moving out of London shortly after, Paul managed to rebuild his life and now lives and works in Kent.

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For many teenagers who get stuck in criminal gangs it can be hard to find a way out.

Paul shared that the language in some of the songs that dominate the charts often have darker connotations which could negatively influence children and their worldview.

"Don't be influenced by music or movies," said Paul.

"In a lot of the music children listen to, and they have more access to it nowadays due to social media, within rap music there are hidden words that the music industry and executives are not picking up on, it's words saying they're stabbing people, 'cheffing you' means to stab someone, there's a song in the charts that I hear all the time on the radio that has those lyrics and that's glorifying that, children are listening to that and they understand that language," he added.

He also went on to say that the adults around him could have made a difference if they noticed how he was feeling.

Paul then raised that while police stop and search protocol gets a bad rep, they are ultimately helpful and can prevent crime.

"The police's hands are tied, we mention a lot the statistics of people getting stabbed but do we ever mention the statistics of people getting saved by the police by them confiscating knives? When they stop and search people you see numerous videos of them taking knives away and they get abused while doing it," said Paul.

His positive view of the police force's stop and search protocol has come as recent polls show that many Brits have lost confidence or trust in the police.