Published in July 2012, Among the Hoods describes my three-year friendship with a teenage gang, and in particular the gang leader Tuggy Tug, which began when I was researching a report on why so many black Caribbean and white working class boys are failing.
It was an unlikely friendship. I am 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 I became more and more involved with the boys. All the issues I had read about – single mothers, absent fathers, lack of education and social mobility, the criminal justice system – suddenly took on new meaning as I encountered not just Tuggy Tug and his gang but their relatives and friends. I got to know their world and saw institutions through their eyes. It was a revelation.
The book describes a dramatic three years. By the end, 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. I describe how the friendship changed me and investigate the forces that turn potentially decent young men into misfits and criminals.
As Britain faces the first anniversary of the riots, this book should be required reading for us all. Two-thirds of the earnings from Among the Hoods will go to help rehabilitate disadvantaged boys like Tuggy Tug and their families.
Filmed for Harriet Sergeant’s CPS report – ‘Wasted’.
Tuggy and Friends
Tuggy Tug and other gang members fooling around in their estate off Knight’s Hill. Tuggy Tug is in the top with the white stripes.
Tuggy Tug and me after lunch at the Liberal Club with Bobby Cummines. Tuggy Tug is dressed in my son’s suit. ‘I have never been this smart – not even for the judge,’ he exclaimed.