The number of under-18s reported for offending through the children’s hearing system has more than halved over the past five years.
Just 6% of Glasgow’s youngsters were in trouble with the law at all in 2010-11 -- a still serious total of 1339 -- but that compares with 2918 as recently as 2006-2007, the last year of the Scottish Labour-Liberal Democrat administration’s “war on neds”.
For the past five years Glasgow has taken another path, combining tough policing with old-fashioned youth work designed to split hardcore troublemakers from kids on the brink of bother.
One of the architects of the new tactics is Detective Chief Superintendent John Carnochan, of the Scotland-wide but Glasgow-based Violence Reduction Unit.
He said the time has come to stop describing the young people of Glasgow as “feral”, a word usually used to describe wild animals.
DCS Carnochan said: “What is also notable is that 94% of young people in Glasgow did not offend at all in 2010-2011.
“Young people are not “feral”, as they have often been portrayed. The vast majority are decent, law-abiding citizens -- people just like us, who will grow up to be assets to their community.”
It isn’t only the number of kids in trouble that is down: the sheer volume of crime committed by youngsters is also falling.
Offence referrals -- a measure of the number of “offending episodes” to the children’s reporter --has fallen from 6501 in 2006-2007 to 2873 in 2010-2011, a drop of 56%. Crucially for DCS Carnochan and his colleagues, it is not only minor offences that are down.
Reductions over the past five years include:
a 55% drop in the possession of offensive weapons, knife carrying and drug offences
a 38% drop in crimes such as serious assault, robbery and attempted murder
a 42% drop in vandalism, malicious mischief and fire raising
DCS Carnochan said: He said: “These figures are a testament to all the good work that is being done to tackle youth crime in Glasgow, but we must not take our eye off the ball.
“Strong, effective partnership is key to tackling issues of youth violence in particular. Only by working together can we hope to achieve significant, long-term change.”
Glasgow’s success against youth offending and gang culture has been making international headlines, not least because it contrasts with the serious violence in London, Birmingham, Manchester and other English cities last year.
However, experts such as DCS Carnochan have always stressed that Scottish youth crime -- and the nature of Scottish gangs -- is very different from their English counterparts.
Gangfighting and youth disturbances may be down but Glasgow is still the most troubled area of Scotland.
And some areas of the city, such as Easterhouse, appear to be more successful than others
As the Evening Times reported earlier this year, its gangs have retreated after series of school reorganisations.
The East End housing scheme, as our Crime on Your Street series revealed, doesn’t even make it in to the top 10 for vandalism, an offence often associated with younger people.
But the eastern part of Scotstoun, in the West End, has failed to see similar drops in crimes usually blamed on youths or gangs.
Council bosses said today that the last financial year, 2010-2011, had been the most successful of the past five.
Youth offences were down by 32% and the number of offenders referred to the children’s panel fell 26%.
Matt Kerr, the Labour councillor responsible for social work on Glasgow’s executive committee, said this was a “remarkable achievement”’ for the city.
Mr Kerr said: “Across virtually every measure, we can see that youth crime in Glasgow is coming down.
“The figures for last year alone are undoubtedly impressive in themselves but, when you take a long-term view, you see youth offending has dropped by more than 50% in five years.
“We know that a huge percentage of our younger people are well-behaved and law-abiding. When there are problems, we can have confidence that Glasgow has an ever-evolving system in place that can help steer young people away from trouble.”
Mr Kerr and others reckon that early and effective intervention groups, comprised of police and social workers, which deal with kids who have come to the attention of the authorities, have played a big role in the success. Often, all that is needed is for a parent to be made aware of a problem.
But sometimes children are brought into a programme which includes restorative justice, when they have to meet their victims.
Crucially, police and other agencies now take care not to refer every youngster that comes on to their radar -- say for watching a gang fight rather than taking part -- to the children’s panel.
Basically, fewer children are being branded neds when they simply aren’t, leaving panels to focus on those who most need their help.
Superintendent Grant Manders, Strathclyde Police’s head of youth justice issues, said: “While the vast majority of young people don’t offend, a small proportion do, and over the next 12 months we will work with colleagues in social work and other agencies to co-ordinate our resources and interventions.”
Those who do offend -- especially seriously -- get more intensive “support” than ever before, including help with addiction and mental health issues.
Few get locked up and secure residential units are struggling.
Sean McKendrick, who leads the council’s youth justice strategy group, defends intensive community youth work for such child offenders. Methods damned by some as being soft appear to be bringing more practical dividends than the old “war on neds” punishments, he said.
“By diverting a number of low-risk children away from formal processes such as the Children’s Hearing System, we can devote more time to those children who need our input the most.
“We understand youth crime causes concern and there some offenders do need to be in secure care or custody.
“But our experience, backed by extensive research, shows that being in custody does not create the outcomes communities want. Managing a young offender in the community can be far more effective in the long run.”