Among the hoods

My years with a teenage gang

Publisher: Faber

Review

Harriet Sergeant's three year friendship with a teenage gang, and in particular the gang leader, Tuggy Tug began when she was researching a report on why so many black Caribbean and white working class boys are failing. It was an unlikely friendship. She is a middle class, middle-aged white woman who writes for the right-wing press and a right of centre think tank. Gangs like Tuggy Tug's are responsible for the majority of crime in our inner cities. During the riots of August 2011, they were the young men setting our streets ablaze.

Over the next three years she got more and more involved with the boys. All the issues she had read about - single mothers, absent fathers, lack of education and social mobility, the criminal justice system - suddenly took on new meaning as she encountered not just Tuggy Tug and his gang but their relatives and friends. She enters their world and sees institutions through their eyes. It is a revelation. She describes a dramatic three years. By the end of the book Tuggy Tug was found guilty of committing over a hundred street robberies. He and two other gang members are in prison, one is in mental hospital and one appears to be a successful criminal.

In a remarkable, often funny and moving book, Harriet Sergeant describes how the friendship changed her and investigates the forces that turn potentially decent young men into misfits and criminals.

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