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  1. ITV Report

'It's either kill or be killed': Teen shows off machete as he reveals shocking reality of gang life

ITV News has glimpsed the brutal reality of Britain's violent gangs as the government unveils its new multi-million pound crime strategy.

One young man openly showed off the machete he keeps hidden in his tracksuit and said the need to be armed was "simple".

"It's either kill or be killed," he told ITV News. "If somebody backs out a knife to me, I'm going to have something bigger.

"It's not just for show, I'm prepared to use it. If someone's willing to take my life, I'm willing to take theirs first."

  • The police: 'It's not ideal when someone's running around with a machete...'

ITV News also joined the people trying to tackle machete gangs as under-staffed West Midlands Police officers went on patrol on Saturday night.

A squad of 35 officers, seven fewer than the level deemed safe, cover two areas of Birmingham with a population of 1.5 million people.

Inspector Matt Minton and his team faced violence as they attended to residential calls involving armed men.

As he told ITV News: "It's not ideal when someone's running around with a machete..."

  • The gang members: 'Everyone's gonna say 'RIP' but you're still dead.'

The teen who spoke to ITV News, and whose identity we have kept anonymous, said many young people in his area have little choice but to arm themselves in order to survive. Without the weapons, he says, they would be killed.

"You've gotta survive for yourself," he said. "If not, you're just gonna die like the rest of them.

"Everyone's gonna say 'RIP' but that's it, you're still dead. If you don't fight, you're dying. Simple."

These gangs know they could end up in prison because of their actions, but it doesn't put them off. They say they have to take the risk in order to survive.

Teens in Birmingham say their reality is to kill or be killed. Credit: ITV News

Many gang members say they are born into the situation, with the anonymous teen telling us it is a generational problem that is nearly impossible to escape.

He said: "Most people are born into it from their parents. So you've got a problem with other children, problems between everyone.

"You can't get out of it, it's your area. If you're in this area and someone else is from a different area and they come to you, you can't get out of it. That's where you live, that's your area. You're stuck."

So how can the violence be stopped?

One suggestion has been police increasing the use of stop and search, something the teen said would put him off carrying a weapon, but not using it.

"It would just have to be hidden somewhere," he said. "If anything happened, we'd just have to go there and get it, you can't be walking around with that knowing that feds are gonna be doing that."

  • The victims: 'This will keep going and keep going'

Alison Cope lost her 18-year-old son Joshua to a knife attack in 2013, and to this day maintains his room as it was the day he died.

Joshua Ribera, an up-and-coming rapper known as Depzman, was stabbed through the heart by another teen outside a Birmingham nightclub.

Alison now tours schools across the region to warn teenagers of the dangers of knife crime.

"This will keep going and keep going as long as we are allowing these young people to be brainwashed by all the influences without any reality of the crime being educated to them," she told ITV News.

"What I do is very important, but we need that on a national scale, day-in day-out, until these young people wake up and realise what they're actually doing."

  • The government response?
Police in Birmingham face violent crime on a nightly basis. Credit: ITV News

Home Secretary Amber Rudd vowed to do "whatever it takes" to make Britain's streets safe when she unveiled plans to combat violent crime on Monday.

The Serious Violence Strategy is led by a new Offensive Weapons Bill that aims to make it particularly hard for young criminals to arm themselves.