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16 November 2017, 08:49
A former gang member is visiting schools across Essex to warn youngsters of the dangers of being in a gang.
Gavin McKenna from London has now turned his life around - married with two children and running his own company "Reach Every Generation" which sees him travelling across the country talking to people about gang culture.
He told Heart he's using his past experiences - which almost cost him his life - to show young people here how they can be groomed by gangs with promises of loyalty and friendship.
He said "there's a little element of excitement" when he first turns up but then the seriousness hits home when he tells them things like "you could end up in prison, you could die, your family could be threatened and all of the real stuff that comes with gang involvement".
He added "there's a glamourised gang culture within Essex that I'm finding when I'm travelling around... They're excited by someone of race with a London accent and gold teeth... but when I start getting into the de-glamourisation of gangs... some kids get really fearful and all of them say I don't want to join a gang I didn't realise it was that bad."
Advising anyone who might be caught up in a gang already, Mr McKenna says "If someone older than you who you would not normally associate with tries to get you involved with things that make you feel uncomfortable - you need to say no... Speak to someone about it and do not get dragged into their activities and way of life."