This is a tiny city. Leave the gangs and we can help. Stay in and we'll bust you
"YOU'RE at a pivotal point in your lives right now. It's time to change or end up like my homeboys – in the ground."
That was the stark message to young men who turned up at a US-style "call-in" of gang members in Derby.
It came from former American gangster Ashton DaCosta, who is now a youth worker in the UK.
The meeting was set up by the police, Derby City Council and Derbyshire Probation Trust following the success of the first UK call-ins in Glasgow and Enfield, in London.
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The police and various agencies have pledged to help the youngsters if they agree to turn away from their gangster lives.
At one stage during the hour-long event at Derby Crown Court, the eight young people who responded to the call-in, aged 15 to 25, some wearing caps and sunglasses, jolted as trauma surgeon Martin Griffiths banged on the dock glass, demanding they pay attention.
London-based Mr Griffiths, who operates on 700 patients a year who have been stabbed, shot or beaten, told them to turn away from their lives of crime or end up "dead or in a wheelchair".
He told them about a gang member he had unsuccessfully tried to save, who had been beaten so badly by friends he had upset that he had to be buried in a closed casket because his face was unrecognisable.
He said: "I know you think you're bad. It's OK, you don't need to prove it me, but you won't look great without a face."
Mr DaCosta told how he had moved to the UK to start a new life after seeing 10 of his "homeboys" killed and buried. He said one of them was shot as he sat next to him in the passenger seat of a car.
He said he had spent time in jail and seen gang members "cry themselves to sleep".
"Jail, it's not a good place," said the 25-year-old.
Superintendent Gary Parkin, head of operational policing in Derby, told the youngsters he was one of the officers who had looked at all the intelligence the force has on them.
He said: "We know who you are. We know where you're living and who you hang about with. It's not Birmingham or Manchester or London. Derby's a small place. You cannot hide anywhere.
"You may think in Derby you've got a big gang, but our gang is bigger."
Mr Parkin said that, every time a crime happened and one of them "got nicked", the others should be waiting for a knock at their door.
"We'll come around again and again," he said.
"You may be thinking 'I'm not bothered' but I bet your families are bothered."
He finished by urging them to walk away.
"Please do," he said.
John Augustin, chairman of Derby City Gangs Advisory Group, told the youngsters he used to live in Peckham, London, and had watched parents bury their children.
Mr Augustin, who set up Derby's street pastor service, told the youngsters that what they did on the streets affected their communities, their "grandparents, mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers and their own children".
He added: "We, as a community, cry inside at reports of somebody getting shot or stabbed. We feel the pain.
"Why? Because our grandparents came over in the 50s and 60s to make a better life for themselves. They struggled living in one room, eating basic food. They have done that to give you guys a better chance, to give you guys a better future.
"What example do you think you're setting for your brothers and sisters? You are setting them up for a fall."
He said they had a chance to change and could choose to accept help.
Gesturing to the people around him in the court room, Mr Augustin said: "These guys here will help you do that but you have to make the choice.
"You can do it. If you don't, this is your future, in front of the judge, busted by police and ending up in a box in the ground. Enough is enough."