Boris Johnson has launched London’s first city-wide programme to help vulnerable young people to turn their backs on gangs.

From Tuesday (January 2), under the new £1.5million London Gang Exit programme, any young Londoner identified as either a gang member or vulnerable to being exploited or recruited by gangs could be referred to receive intensive specialist support from trained mentors.

The mayor says this could range from professional mental health or substance misuse support, to help in finding a job, or a new home.

Young people can be referred by teachers, police officers, care workers, and bodies such as the prison and probation services.

In a recent survey, almost half of young Londoners said gangs, or groups of people hanging around , is what makes them feel the most unsafe in the city, with 11% saying they feel under pressure to join a gang.

Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, said: “I want every young Londoner to be able to feel safe on our city’s streets, and since 2012, we've made huge progress in driving down gang crime.

“But there is still more to be done and this new London-wide service will give young people involved in or at risk from gangs the chance to turn their backs on violence and crime and transform their lives.”

READ MORE: Harrow to benefit from new approach to tackling gang violence .

'Help young people build positive futures'

For Temi Lateef, a former gang member in his twenties, a spell in prison gave him the opportunity to access these services and turn his life around.

He was referred to the criminal justice charity Only Connect, a partner in the London Gang Exit service.

His rehabilitation led to him wanting to help others in the same way, and he now works with Only Connect as a Frontline Co-ordinator in the same London communities that he grew up in.

Temi says: “For many of the young people growing up in London, gangs offer networks and an opportunity to earn money.

“It’s important that any services working with these young people offer a positive alternative; a supportive community and pathways to legitimate employment.

“Only Connect helped me to become a success, and now the London Gang Exit service will help young people all over our city build positive futures for themselves.”