The number of complaints about disorder by young people across the west of Scotland has more than halved in the last three years -- and has dropped more than another fifth so far this year.
Strathclyde Police last night confirmed that over the last eight months it had has just 10,200 reports of youth disorder -- which can mean anything from ful-scale gang fighting to complaints about rowdy teenagers gathering on street corners.
That is nearly 20% fewer than in the same period of 2009 and continues a major new trend in dwindling complaints about antisocial behaviour by groups of children or young people.
There were 51,000 such reports in 2007/2008, 35,000 in 2008/2009 and just 26,000 in 2009/10.
Police chiefs today attributed the huge decline in complaints of gang disorder to a jump in the number of bobbies on the beat -- and to a major return to time-tested youth work.
Assistant Chief Constable Campbell Corrigan, who is in charge of territorial policing across Strathclyde, said: “We have listened to what people in communities told us about where and when trouble took place and put more of our officers out at those times and places.
“We have seen a dramatic increase in the number of community officers we have out on the beat.
“Nowadays people are more likely to see a police officer on foot than in a car.
“Communities are telling us where there is likely to be youth disorder -- in parks or on canalsides, say -- and we are mobilising our officers in line with that information.
“Strathclyde Police’s main priority is tackling violence and anti-social behaviour. And, I would stress, that is a single priority, because one can lead to another.”
Police are better aware than ever before of where and when trouble can break out, and mobilise more officers during traditional gang-fighting seasons, such as Easter and the long summer holidays.
But Mr Corrigan today stressed the decline in reports of youth disorder was not just down to policing.
He said: “We now work far more closely with our partners on diversionary activities than we ever did in the past.
“There really is a lot more for young people to do these days.”
Police and other agencies have been working hard to target the most troubled and troubling individual youngsters, especially in areas with a history of youth conflict.
The police-backed CIRV project, for example, has helped scores of hardened gang-fighters find a way back in to normal life.
Mr Corrigan, meanwhile, said young people themselves should take pride in the falling statistics.
He said: “This is brilliant news. The last thing we want to do is criminalise young people or announce that we have charged X amount of young people.
“We want to see public complaints of anti-social behaviour go down.”
The number of recorded offences carried out by people aged between eight and 17, meanwhile, also fell in Strathclyde last year, from around 32,000 to about 30,000.
Some senior officers, meanwhile, are worried that cutbacks could kill off some programmes helping youngsters on the edge of trouble and reduce police numbers. Jamie O’Neill, 24, who represents Glasgow Anniesland in the Scottish Youth Parliament, agreed.
He said: “It’s great to hear that crime has dropped.
“It shows that by providing youth services it really can make a difference to not only the lives of young people, but to the communities we live in.
“Youth services should continue to be supported and invested in.”
Politicians are also happy with falling reports of youth disorder -- a key complaint on the doorstep.
Stephen Curran, the Glasgow councillor who chairs Strathclyde Police Authority, said: “This is a significant and welcome reduction.
“Reducing youth crime is a key priority and the police authority would anticipate that this reduction will improve the feeling of safety in our communities.”